[All apologies to W. W. Jacobs, author of the 1902 classic "The Monkey's Paw."]
Outside, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlor in London, the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Mr. and Mrs. White, gardeners by profession, had just returned from a trip to America and were greeted by their son, Herbert.
Though their son was of a mature age and generous girth, he frequently exhibited the behavior of a creature beneath his years. "What did you get me?! What did you get me?!" he cried to his parents upon their entry, tossing aside his vat of fudge.
"Nice to see you, too, Herbert," replied Mrs. White, closing the door behind her.
Mr. White placed his trunk on the table and dug through its contents. He pulled out a small box and handed it to Herbert. "I picked this up in a magic shop in Orlando."
Herbert grabbed at the box, flipped off the lid, and raised a shriveled mass to the light. Tufts of hair protruded from the pear-shaped glob.
Mrs. White shrieked. "Blimy! You brought a rat back from America?"
"It's not a rat," replied Mr. White. "It's a monkey's paw."
"Oh, that's better. I'd hate to think you went to the trouble of bringing an entire dead animal 4,000 miles across the ocean."
"The man at the magic shop said it's a good-luck charm. He said every lad in America has one."
Herbert sniffed the paw, then put it in his mouth.
"Herbert!" cried Mrs. White. "Spit that out! It might have Mad Paw disease!"
Herbert reluctantly removed the appendage from his mouth and examined it closely. The talisman began to twitch. Then, its fingers opened, dropping a note.
"Ah," said Mr. White. "Those must be the instructions. What do they say, Herbert?"
Herbert thoroughly licked the piece of paper, then read aloud:
WARNING: This paw grants the bearer three wishes, but be careful of what you wish for; you might receive it. Past results are not indicative of future returns. Not valid in South Dakota or American Samoa. No animals were killed to create this novelty item, though there's a monkey somewhere that has trouble clapping. And remember: Buy Disney.
"Oh, hogwash," said Herbert, as he prepared to take a bite out of the hand. However, the hand suddenly sprung out of his grasp, landing on the floor. It began contorting in all sorts of curious formations.
"Now look what you've done, Herbert," said Mr. White. "You've broken it. That probably means seven years of bad luck... or something."
Mrs. White shrieked in horror. "I think... I think the hand is trying to communicate with us." She grabbed her husband's arm and leaned closer to the convulsing talisman. "I think it knows sign language."
"How would you know?" asked Herbert, pulling a hair from his teeth.
"I used to tour with the Rolling Stones," said Mrs. White. "I would sign the lyrics for their deaf fans."
"I think all their fans are deaf," mumbled Mr. White. "What's it trying to say?"
Mrs. White shook her head. "I'm not sure. I'm a bit rusty." She continued to watch, and it was clear to Herbert and Mr. White that the hand was repeating the same pattern.
"I think I'm getting it," said Mrs. White. "It's saying 'Put... Put me... Put me in....'" She paused, then stood up and looked at the other two. "It's saying 'Put me in your mouth again, and I'll pinch your tongue off.'"
Herbert covered his mouth.
"That's not what you'd expect a good-luck charm to say, now, is it?" asked Mr. White.
Herbert reached down and grabbed the hand. "Well, if I can't eat it," he said, "I might as well get my three wishes. I'm short of funds, so I wish for 5,000 pounds."
The paw sprung from Herbert's hand. The ground shook, and the walls shimmered. There was a sound of stretching, then tearing. To his parents' horror, Herbert was expanding. His clothes -- already of large proportion -- were unable to contain his swelling torso, and ripped under the strain. By the time he stopped growing, Herbert filled the entire parlor, and part of the foyer.
"Of course, it's an American monkey paw -- it equates pounds with weight!"
Mrs. White shrieked, "Oh, why didn't they adopt the metric system?!"
Herbert, his flesh filling every crevice of the room, looked around for his vat of fudge.
"Where's that wretched paw?" asked Mrs. White.
"I believe I've expanded over it. Something is tickling my arse," said Herbert.
Mrs. White struggled to lift the bulbous folds of her naked, gargantuan son. She found the paw (which was frantically performing the sign language for "Help!") under one of Herbert's 500-pound thighs.
She raised the paw -- now signing, "Thank you! Thank you! Buy Disney!" -- and said, "I wish for my son's body to return to its normal weight."
Once again, the house quaked. Plates in the kitchen broke. Herbert's body shrank back to its original size, but his appendages remained huge. His head alone weighed more than 400 pounds. "Why, I've never met such a literal primate extremity," said Mrs. White. She began to hold up the paw again, preparing to make another wish.
"Hold it," interrupted Mr. White. "We have just one wish left. Perhaps we should think about this a bit."
"And leave Herbert like that -- a monster with arms five times the size of his torso?"
"Well, we could make a mint on the freak-show circuit," said Mr. White. "Perhaps we should wish for money after all -- instead of pounds, perhaps we should ask for a million farthings."
"The paw wouldn't know what those are, either. With our luck, we'd wish for all those farthings and have to air out the house for a year. Let's wish our entire son back to normal, then get rich the old-fashioned way." Mrs. White held up the paw and said, "I wish for my son to be the way he was right before we returned from our trip, and no more monkey business."
A loud sucking noise accompanied the contraction of Herbert's dangly parts. A force swooped him back into his chair, the vat of fudge back into his lap. Mrs. White threw the monkey's paw into the fire. The appendage burned to a crisp, but not before signing, "Eisner will pay for this...."
"Well, we've learned our lesson. We were fools to think we could get rich quick and easy. From now on, we're going to stick to gardening, and gradually accumulate wealth by living below our means, maintaining an emergency fund, and investing our money," said Mrs. White.
Mr. White added, "Surely, there is some way to spread this message across the World Wide Web. But what would we call this website?"
And that's the story of how two gardeners founded "The Monkey Fool," which came to be known by another name due to a spell-checking snafu.
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