The Short End of the Stick

Submitted into Contest #194 in response to: Write a story inspired by the phrase “The short end of the stick.”... view prompt


Fiction Friendship Funny

           Benny has just handed his lottery ticket to the cashier of the local grocery store, hoping that he will hear the magic word ‘gagnant’ signifying that he has won. Instead he hears the more usual and woeful ‘pas de cadeau,’ telling him that he has lost yet again..

           I am standing behind him in line, and when he turns to face me, I know what I am going to hear. “No surprise. Again I have been handed the short end of the stick. It happens every time I buy a lottery ticket.” I refrain from suggesting that maybe he shouldn’t buy lottery tickets.

           I have known Benny from when we were both in grade seven until now, with us both being 28 years old. He has quite literally used that nonsense statement ‘short end of the stick’ hundreds, maybe thousands of times within my hearing over the years. Benny has no idea how grandmotherly it sounds, how he is avoiding a more meaningful and accurate word than ‘short’ that he could be saying.  It is like saying “I couldn’t give a short.” And as I am a writer, who believes that people should say exactly what they mean, I have never liked his use of the phrase. But we are otherwise good friends, so I have put up with it for decades. And he has to put up with me too, with my constant correction of what is written on signs, most recently “The store will close on Easter Monday.” “Why” I said to Benny, “are they moving the store to a new location?”

           I suspect that he will not change his use of the phrase if I point out its failings directly, so I will have to use some clever punning way to convince him of his foolishness. As a writer, I am a word person, so I should be able to say what I am thinking in a creative way.

First Strategy

           It’s Halloween, and we are going to a party held by mutual friends. I have developed a plan that will maybe cause Benny to see how silly he is being with his ‘short end of the stick’. I am dressed as a ghost. I am carrying a concealed weapon. He is attired as his usual vampire.

As he approaches to greet me, I take my concealed weapon, and, without totally revealing what it is, I stick a few inches away from his face, with the accompanying phrase, “This time, you got the sheet-y end of the stick.” He does not laugh, even when I show him the stick. He is clearly not amused. Well, I tried. I am determined not to give up.

Second Strategy

           Benny is coming to visit me to watch the hockey game. We are both big Toronto Maple Leaf fans so there will be no animosity expressed between us. We will just be insulting the linesmen, and the moronic announcers with their bad jokes, and their long boring recitation of the detailed and not-wanted (by Leaf fans) facts they spew about the life history of opposing players.

           As the Leafs are likely to win this game (although it is never a sure thing), I decided to employ the new strategy I had thought up the night before. I have my instrument of instruction ready, hidden behind the big chair in the living room..

           He is a little late in arriving. Perhaps he had to explain to his most recent girlfriend why he simply has to watch the hockey game with his friend. She is not a sports fan. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for me, just as he enters through the door, the opposing team scores a goal. Okay, here it comes.

“I always get the short end of the stick. I walk into the room and the opposition scores a goal.”

           I walk towards the big chair, and pick up the stick with the Maple Leaf t-shirt impaled on one end. I thrust it at him, and say, “No, you got the shirt-y end of the stick.”  He is silent, and I begin cheering when the Leafs get a shot on the net. Peace between us is restored once more. I silently vow that I will not give up without trying at least one more time.

A Winning Strategy  

           I go outside into the backyard with a stick in my hand. I look for a place where my dog Ross had recently been. A short time ago I made sure that he had a very big meal. It did not take long to find what I was looking for. There it was, a series of tubular dirt-coloured objects close together lying between the two exposed roots of a birch tree. I made sure that one end of the stick was covered, the other end being smeared.. I placed the clean end of the stick on a chair in the kitchen, a page from the local newspaper placed strategically on the floor under the dirty end of the stick.  Benny would soon be coming over to my place after work. His most recent girlfriend (of about three months) had just broken up with him, so I knew that he was going to say his favorite expression, the one I had long hated for its lack of reality, and its way-too-serious cutie-pie avoidance.

           Sure enough, there was what I would call a sad knocking on my door, even though it was unlocked, and Benny knew he was always welcome to just walk right in. We had been friends that long. I yelled ‘Come in Benny’.

           When he opened the door and walked in, Benny’s face hung low, sagging like a sack of potatoes. He right away announced his sadness. “I guess you know that Barbara just broke up with me. She said that I am too boring to live with. “Why do I always get the short end of the stick George? Why?”

           “I’ve got something just for you Benny. I’ll just go to the kitchen to fetch it.” He gives me a look of surprise.

           So I scramble into the kitchen, pick up the stick by the clean end, and cover the other end with a brown paper shopping bag. Benny stares at me for a few seconds in wonderment when I walk back into the living room. 

           Then I withdraw the shopping bag and reveal the true nature of the end that I was pointing at Benny. He sees and smells it at about the same time.

           “Here you go, Benny. This is the end of the stick that you are always talking about. It is definitely not a ‘short end’.  Another adjective that sounds similar is more appropriate.

            His left hand went straight to covering his nose in an attempt to prevent it from fully receiving the impact of the bad smell. He greatly surprised me shortly thereafter by giggling in a very unmanly way. Then he said what I have wanted him to say for years of our acquaintance. “You are right, George.  There never is no such thing as the short end of a stick. That is just my coward’s way of avoiding swearing. If you will permit me, I will truly speak my mind.”

April 18, 2023 10:54

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Lily Finch
17:01 Apr 19, 2023

John, as always, you have written an interesting take on the prompt and a comical approach too. Nicely done. LF6.


John Steckley
21:41 Apr 19, 2023

Thanks again Lily for your comments. At first I thought that the prompts this last week were so cliched that I wouldn't be able to create a story from them. Then the comical approach appeared in my minds.


Lily Finch
22:26 Apr 19, 2023

Nailed it! LF6.


John Steckley
12:04 Apr 20, 2023

Thanks again.


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