Without, the night was cold and wet, but in a small shop off Laburnum Avenue, the ticking of the radiator kept the dank away. Stuart rarely came to this part of downtown, but he was desperate. Violet's birthday was tomorrow, and he had yet to buy her a proper gift. And although he couldn't read Hindi, he knew that something in this shop would suit Vi's eclectic tastes.
The shop had a comfortable and exotic smell to it: curry, old books and Brylcreem. Boxes stacked in heaps crowded the aisles. A large copper birdcage, replete with a pondrous black bird, dominated the far corner. The beturbaned man behind the counter tried his best to help, but he seemed almost as clueless about a trendy young woman's tastes as Stuart was. Discouraged, Stuart began to point randomly to the small boxes stacked precariously on the shelves above the counter.
"Is that a butt-plug?" Stuart asked.
"No no," answered the Sikh man, who identified himself as Gurdeep, "It's a tool used to enrage baboons into a homicidal frenzy. It's an antique..."
"That's alright, a little too suspect for my needs."
"Have you seen this mummified paw? It has a very interesting past," offered Gurdeep. He handed the paw across the counter.
"Ack! It moved! I wish you hadn't given that to me!" Stuart threw up his arms, and the paw disappeared, presumably into an empty box somewhere.
"What were we talking about? Ah yes, a present for your wife..."
"Oh yes, girlfriend."
"What's in that green velvet box? No, up there," Stuart pointed to the box in question. Regardless of its contents, he figured that the box's simple beauty would be an adequate present for his newfound love. "That's the one."
Apprehensively, Gurdeep took the box down and placed it on the counter. It was about four inches square and two deep. It had the image of a pair of peahens inlaid on the lid in colored glass and beads. "it's beautiful," remarked Stuart. He looked at the price tag, and seemed shocked. "Fifteen dollars? Is that correct? I'll take it."
"Wouldn't you like to know what lies inside, good sir?" asked the Sikh. He flipped open the lid to reveal three small, white gelatinous cubes arranged in slots. Six other slots were arrayed beside them, completing a 3x3 grid.
"Not just soy, my friend. Magical soy. They had a spell put on them by an old Fakir, who tainted their manufacture with the blood of a rabid gibbon. It is said that three men could get three wishes each, but only at a great cost.
"Nevermore!" shrieked the raven from the corner.
"I demand your silence, Ralph! Your silence!" Gurdeep glared at the now-admonished bird in the corner. "Where were we... Yes, to make your wish, hold the soy cube in your right hand, state your wish and eat the soy cube."
"And what happened to the last man to own the box? Did he get his wishes? Is he okay? Why soy?"
"He's now coaching the Cincinnati Bengals. Would you like your complimentary frogurt now?"
As the brightness of the wintery sun streamed over the breakfast table the next morning, Stuart laughed at his fears. Soy or no soy, Vi would love the box. Stuart carefully wrapped the box, taking care not to damage the frail beadwork. That afternoon, he would present his find to Violet, all the while praying that he didn't let her down.
"Oooh! What should I wish for?" she squealed. Stuart was relieved at Violet's reaction when she unwrapped the box, but he wasn't prepared for how her eyes widened when he related Gurdeep's story.
"You may NOT eat those soy cubes, if that's what they really are!" he yelled, grabbing the box from the table. He darted around the table, pursued by the maligned Violet, armed with an antimacassar she grabbed from an old chair.
"If you give me the box, then I'll let you play with Herbert tonight." Herbert, as Stuart had learned the previous week, was Vi's 'Magic Beaver' vibrator. He hadn't seen it yet, let alone wield it.
"You do not fight fair!" Against his better judgment, Stuart handed the box over. "Don't blame me if you wind up as the Los Angeles Clippers' equipment manager, though."
"I wish for two hundred dollars." With that, Violet popped the cube in her mouth and swallowed.
In the huge new cemetary, some two miles distant, the old people buried their dead. Across the street from the cemetary was a wonderful deli, where mournful old people ate corned beef sandwiches.
One of the booths at the deli was occupied by Violet and Stuart. It was the day after Violet's birthday.
"Do you remember that wish I made yesterday? The two hundred dollars?"
"Um, yeah. I had nightmares about zombies breaking down your door and horrific industrial accidents. What about it?"
"Look at this." Violet pushed an envelope across the table.
Stuart read aloud:
"Dear Ms. Lopes,
Due to an unfortunate mistake on our part, an important tax credit for self-sufficient college students was not applied to your return. You should receive an adjustment check for the amount of 198.33 in the next two to four weeks. We regret this mistake, and hope to retain your business.
H&R Block Financial Services
"No job offers from the Clippers?"
"No job offers from the Clippers."
That evening, Stuart returned to the shop on Laburnum Ave. to pay Gurdeep a visit. The shop was in a slightly better state, as some of the piles of boxes had disappeared to some hidden storeroom.
"Mr. Pradesh, I know you said that evil would befall men who wished upon the monkey's blood soy cubes, but what about women?"
"Oh, I should have told you about that. Their wishes come true, and they are blessed with eternal happiness. I always forget that part. Do you want to buy a raven?"
Submitted as part of Everything Quests: Scary Stories, with many apologies to W. W. Jacobs, author of The Tale of the Monkey's Paw.