When a young and impressionable high school student I read W. W. Jacobs short story The Monkey's Paw. Seldom have I been so taken by a few words, which for all of you that have not read it, is available on line to read at the link American Literature link. In short the story is about wishes that go wrong, and being very careful what you ask for.
I had at the time a very difficult life. Mom had undergone breast cancer surgery which in the early sixties was a black and brutal thing indeed. My father, who deeply loved my mother, was not coping very well at all. My brother, who was over attached to Mom, was useless. And I had a kid sister that seemed abandoned by everyone but me who was having a difficult time with me. And as if that was not enough my art teacher decided to become abusive and the school administration's only answer was to take me out of the one activity of the day that produced any sort of calm. I teetered on the edge of a total nervous breakdown.
Looking back I now know I was in the midst of my first deep depression. In those days we were told to pick ourselves up and move on. And as luck would have it (mine was not good just then) I had a few friends that were children of fundamentalist Christians. I hauled off to church and told to pray for what I wanted and all would be well if I just appealed to Jesus. Oh, an mend my ways because obviously I had done something bad to merit all this bad luck.
And then there was The Monkey's Paw which warned of wishing for things and not being precise about what you wanted. I became paralysed; unable to even form a desire. My English teacher, Mr. Mealy, recognized my emotional dilemma and set me to writing fiction stories and designing covers and art for the school literary magazine. His study hall became my refuge from the storm.
Mom lived for another thirty plus years. She and Dad stayed married until death do them part. My sister and I bonded deeply and that bond is still there. I don't attend churches that preach solutions. I have learned to deal with cyclic bouts of depression by setting myself tasks and putting one foot in front of another even on days I want to curl up and die. I will never forget Mr. Mealy and the ability of one individual to help another.
And I always remember the three wishes in The Monkey's Paw, and now only pray for guidance and strength.