Short Story #35: Side Bet by Will F. Jenkins
Title: Side Bet
Author: Will F. Jenkins
Short Story # out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 2/2/2014
Source: Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur. You can also find it here in Colliers Weekly from 1937.
The nameless man finds himself shipwrecked on a very small island with very little food and an unexpected companion, a rat. He discovers the rat when said rat digs into his food storage, thus decreasing his chances of survival. Over the days, the two struggle with one another trying to out survive with another. Slowly, as each becomes increasingly weaker they become more desperate and eye each other more hatefully. In a last ditch effort to scare away the rat, the man creates a fire that keeps the rat at bay. As luck would have it, a ship sees the fire and comes to rescue the man. Barely alive and practically mad at this point, the man orders the crew to leave large heaps of food for the rat to eat, feeling that he didn't want to cheat the rat as the "side-bet" was who would outlive the other and dine upon the other for survival.
ReflectionThe story was a few slow paragraphs to start but then pulls you in as rat and human face off. I didn't expect the human to live given the story's tone, but was surprised by the end. That the man is as nameless and faceless as the rat was a good touch for the story. Also, this line was the clincher to get you involved in the tale: "Also, there was the rat, with which the man played a game with rather high stakes, a game in which life was a side bet." That line more than anything else compels you to keep reading to discover what that could actually mean.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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