I believe this one is from the 1980s, but I'm not entirely sure.

The setting for this is NYC or some other large American metropolis. The protagonist lives in a high-rise apartment complex. The man receives a knock at the door, and someone or something offers him the chance to have three wishes. I'm sketchy on this point. I think it's an imp or something like that telling him Hell is offering people a free trial for people who might want to sell their souls down the line, but that could also be from another, much more serious, wish-themed short story.

In any case, the one catch to the wishes is that whatever the man wishes for himself, his worst enemy gets double that wish. The imp tells the protagonist the name of his worst enemy. As it turns out, it is actually his best friend, who lives down the hall. The protagonist is incredulous that this could be his worst enemy. He accepts the proposal, and begins planning his wishes.

The man first asks for a sum of money ($1000, IIRC). He is overjoyed at the winnings, and is able to brag about it for a time. He soon hears about his best friend getting twice as much, and all his good fortune. This creates jealousy in the protagonist, and sets the stages for a growing enmity towards his best friend.

The second wish is the "impulsive wish" trope. The protagonist suddenly wishes for 50 pounds of chopped liver. It arrives at the door, and the man happily takes his share, gives some to friends, and sells the rest for a tidy little sum. Of course, when his friend gets 100 pounds of chopped liver and makes even more friends and money from it, he is furious.

The man spends the remainder of the story thinking of how to use his final wish that will really stick it to his now worst enemy. He comes up with this in the final paragraphs. The protagonist decides he's been a bachelor too long, and wants a wife. Not just any woman will do, though. He lists out details of physical attractiveness, education, intelligence, and so on. The final detail is that she must be the absolute limit he can physically endure in "intimate matters." The story ends with the a tapping at the door and the protagonist reveling in the knowledge that his friend/enemy now has to deal with twice that challenge.

  • 16
    This is a pretty common joke setup (other common punchlines for the third wish are wishing be frightened half to death or to be struck blind in one eye).
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 3:56
  • 2
    I've heard a version about loosing one testicle...
    – Yasskier
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:38
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    Why would that matter? Just wish big money, your enemy get twice money? who matters, just leave town and go away from your enemy.
    – user42298
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 9:07
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    If this was written in the 80s I have serious concerns about the author. Loving chicken liver and wishing for only $1000 sounds like the 30s or 40s to me. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


This is Robert Sheckley's "The Same To You Doubled." He also has an anthology of stories titled by that name.

The first line sets it in New York:

In New York, it never fails, the doorbell rings just when you've plopped down onto the couch for a well-deserved snooze.

Hell's less-than-malevolent nature:

Edelstein thought it over. "Then you're really not here to take me to hell?"

"Hell, no!" Sitwell said. "I told you, our waiting list is longer than for Peter Cooper Village; we hardly have any room left in limbo."

"Well . . . Then why are you here?"

Sitwell crossed his legs and leaned forward earnestly. "Mr. Edelstein, you have to understand that hell is very much like U.S. Steel or ITT. We're a big outfit and we're more or less a monopoly. But, like any really big corporation, we are imbued with the ideal of public service and we like to be well thought of."

"Makes sense," Edelstein said.

I won't quote the fact that his enemy gets doubled because it's the whole premise for the story... it's even in the title!

But as you can see, the other elements match quite closely.

Money wish:

He surprised himself by standing up abruptly and saying, in a loud, firm voice, "I want twenty thousand dollars and I want it right now."

He felt a gentle tug at his right buttock. He pulled out his wallet. Inside it, he found a certified check made out to him for $20,000.

Chopped Liver:

He stood up. He shouted, "I want six hundred pounds of chopped chicken liver and I want it at once!"

The caterers began to arrive within five minutes.

Edelstein ate several giant portions of chopped chicken liver, stored two pounds of it in his refrigerator and sold most of the rest to a caterer at half price, making over $700 on the deal. The janitor had to take away seventy-five pounds that had been overlooked. Edelstein had a good laugh at the thought of Manowitz standing in his apartment up to his neck in chopped chicken liver.


The final detail is that she must be the absolute limit he can physically endure in "intimate matters."

As you can see:

"And especially," he added, "she should be—I don't know quite how to put this—she should be the most, the maximum, that I want and can handle, speaking now in a purely sexual sense. You understand what I mean, Sitwell? Delicacy forbids that I should spell it out more specifically than that, but if the matter must be explained to you . . ."

  • That's the one! Thanks so much!
    – Helbent IV
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 4:19
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    I always liked to imagine that it turns out the other guy can cope with just about exactly twice what the protagonist can... Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 9:49
  • @Gareth McCaughan: oh that’s a subtle one. So instead of “the maximum, that I want and can handle” he should have said “the maximum, that her mate want and can handle”…
    – Holger
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 10:04
  • Well, I don't know. I'd want to know what was in the diabolical small print, and actually I would guess that your version is what it would mean all along. But it is possible that we're overthinking this :-). Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 10:15
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    Why wouldn't the enemy end up with two wives? Regardless of his stamina, that sounds like too much to handle. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 13:12

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