Once More Up the Beanstalk
Jack had barely sat back down when he heard the all too familiar knock at the door that was quickly becoming banging with every beat. Heaving a long suffering sigh, he got up from his half-crouched state and went to the door of the farm house as he gripped the handle and debated whether to pretend he wasn’t home or not, no matter how childish it was. Deciding there was nothing else he could do, he opened his mother’s door for the fifth time that day to behold another of their neighbors standing there.
His arm raised in mid swing as an irate Mr. Corman dropped the fist while his mouth opened, most likely to argue or complain. Jack didn’t give him a chance to continue and find out for himself as he reached for the desk beside the door and fished out an egg from the basket atop it. As he brought it around, sunlight glinted off the 24 carat egg as Mr. Corman’s mouth continued opening to gape. Not wasting a moment, Jack shoved the golden egg into his hands that quickly tightened over the egg and pulled it in as his eyes were drawn to what he held.
“This isn’t an installment plan for compensation. You take the egg and never come back, talking about how there’s a beanstalk in your yard or that the earthquake put your cows off their milk.”
Mr. Corman’s mouth shut with a grimace as he looked ready to say something in response. Somehow, the egg clutched at his midriff slowed him down as he turned away and left their porch while looking furtively around the neighborhood. Jack watched Mr. Corman all but race back to his home and slam his own door behind him while Jack closed their door more leisurely, only to turn around and behold his mother. Suddenly feeling a headache coming on, Jack felt like slamming the door he had just closed while his mother started in on him.
Mrs. Lore waved the fan she had recently bought against herself, more for the look than because of heat or an aroma.
“Jack, you need to do something about the carcass in the back. Its beginning to smell and the neighbors are starting to talk.”
Jack crossed his arms as he stood ready to stand against his mother on this.
“The only people nearby capable of doing that are our neighbors, and I’ll be damned before I ask anything from them.”
Mrs. Lore snapped the fan shut to berate her son, but wasn’t given the chance.
“Don’t mother. I remember when our father died trying to make our land yield the simplest of crops, and they couldn’t spare a speck of grain when we were starving. Now they show up at our door and demand handouts for claimed damages.”
Mrs. Lore closed her eyes and shook her head as she started shaking the fan at him.
“Don’t let your pride be the end of you. Remember, ‘Pride goeth before a fall.”
“How appropriate mother,” and Jack stormed off into the house. He headed for his room and remembered to not slam the door despite his mood as he walked from sunlight into shaded candlelight. He turned towards Harp as she had never given any other name and found her eating daintily from a silver bowl of fruit while a glass decanter of wine and crystal goblet lay nearby.
“Hello Jack. Neighbors again?”
Jack heaved himself into a chair and sighed as he started rubbing his temples.
“Like you wouldn’t believe.”
Harp put down the cherry she was nibbling at and sipped at the goblet before putting that down as well.
“Let me sing to sooth your nerves.”
She began singing a soft melody that seemed to massage Jack’s whole body as he slumped into his chair and his head lolled to the side while a smile spread across his face. His fingers swayed to the notes as a foot tapped out the beat until Harp was done.
“Thanks, I needed that.”
“If we took me on the road, we wouldn’t have to deal with those neighbors.”
Jack’s eyes shot open as he quickly sat up and glared down at the coy Harp.
“Not this again.”
Harp’s hand’s nestled on her hips despite a lack of legs as she pouted.
“My voice was once the talk of the kingdoms, and with you as my manager, we could be living the high life away from your bossy mom and nosy neighbors.”
Jack felt his headache returning as he gripped his forehead that threatened to start creasing.
“Not right now Harp. Just please let me have a moment of peace.”
A glint of anger and possibly even desperation flit over Harp’s face as she refused to give up.
“Think how peaceful your life will be when you’re sought out by kings and queens for my services.”
Jack stared back at her until Harp dropped her gaze.
“If what I’m facing now is because my mother couldn’t keep from blabbing to everyone about our new goose, I dread what it’ll be like when the nobility come after me about you. I’m beginning to regret ever getting those beans, much less going up that stalk.”
Harp knew the conversation was over as Jack made himself more comfortable in his chair and she began lulling him to sleep while her expression in no way matched her music.
* * *
Jack started awake to Harp’s screaming and the roar of wood tearing apart as he opened his eyes and mouth to a shower of dust and twigs from the thatch roof that was being ripped from the walls. While coughing and crying his way to clarity, he heard a voice booming through the air in a depth he remembered all too well, “Find the suspect.”
Scrambling around, Jack tried to orient himself towards the door as Harp continued to scream while hopping towards any sort of cover. Torn between going back for her and making his own escape, Jack suddenly lost all contact with the ground as he felt there wasn’t enough air in his lungs. He discovered he was grasped in a meaty hand that engulfed his body and left only his right arm to uselessly pound against the fingers. There was little tension in the enormous paw that Jack could feel, but even lightly holding a human, the giant was squeezing the life from him as he started to gasp.
“I’ve secured the suspect.”
Jack was swung upwards so fast he felt his head spinning as he tried to hear over the boom that had been the giant’s voice.
“Very Good. Take him for processing while we secure any evidence and witnesses.”
The shaking finally stopped as Jack managed to free his other arm and could finally breathe more normally. He started to look around as he saw the farm overrun with giants. Wincing past the glaring beams of hand lanterns, Jack could see the dead giant was being arranged across a stretcher that was attached to ropes that hung from the clouds overhead as he cricked his neck trying to follow their length.
Many such ropes lay listless as not even the wind could shift them while Jack’s giant pounded over to one. With only one hand as the other kept Jack secure, they ascended to the heavens while Jack watched the stretcher be hoisted up beside them as the giants on the farm were soon reduced to the size of ants. Turning to his own giant, hoping for some sort of explanation, Jack muttered, “What the hell’s going on?”
Despite his size that should have made his voice less than a whisper, the giant must have heard him as the giant replied, “You’re under arrest for the charges of first degree murder and two counts of second degree larceny.”
That shut up Jack as he finished his ascent into the heavens and passed the clouds that had taken on the consistency of earth. From here, he made his own personal descent into hell as he was once again in Giant Land. He found them in a courtyard of some kind as the giant immediately headed through a door and into the stone structure around them that looked nothing like the castle he had once been in.
The twisting passageways finally ended with another door as Jack entered a pretty non-descript room and was dropped rather unceremoniously in a what he had to assume was a bird cage. He was then hoisted to the ceiling and left there as he quickly found no opportunity to escape. He was left to his own devices while the giant left him alone with his thoughts. To try and pass the time, he tried futilely to find some avenue of escape as he searched the bird cage.
Jack soon tired of this as he curled up on some straw that had been left, most likely for the former occupant while nibbling on what had to have been bird seed as a rather poor last meal. He finally fell asleep and only awoke to an earthquake he identified as the cage being shaken by another giant entering the room. He hadn’t seen much of the giants last night with the glaring lights and shadows, and with the casual pants and jerkin of the previous giant he had killed, this one was dressed much better with a somber uniform.
“Wake up prisoner. Your time at court has been decided.”
Wanting to gulp, but finding his mouth dry, Jack tried to keep himself from scurrying around the cage as the giant reached in and grabbed him. He was dragged out and carried once again through the halls until they came to a single door and walked through, going from torchlight to sunlight as he squinted over the glare as details solidified. The giant hadn’t been kidding as he found himself in a courtroom complete with jury and spectators. There were two tables as he was set down on one and left there under the glare of his guard as Jack tried to orient himself.
He saw a giant to his left who stood in black robes and was consulting papers the size of sails with three cages settled on his table. Jack’s attention was soon diverted to some sort of thunder in the air that he soon identified as a giantess sobbing into a handkerchief that looked more like a cloud. She was surrounded by many who tried to comfort her while glaring murderous looks towards him as he found no respite when turning to the jury as he felt this trial would be a short one. The giantess’s thunder was soon muffled by the roar of the Bailiff.
“All rise for the Honorable Judge Crag presiding over the Giants vs. Jack the Giant Murderer.”
If it weren’t for the courtroom setting, Jack knew the air would be filled with boos and probably thrown junk that was likely to kill him by accident as design. He tried to rise over the hurricane that was the bailiff’s voice as a coifed giant in crimson robes ascended the dais in front of them. He somberly sat down and raised his gavel that sent shock waves through the room as he brought it down while Jack stumbled back onto the table.
“This court is now in session. Read the charges.”
Bailiff unrolled a scroll that had been tucked at his side as he began.
“Jack the human is charged with one count of first degree murder, two counts of second degree larceny and one count of third degree breaking and entering.”
Crag pointed his gavel at Jack who felt it looked more like a javelin as he was asked, “How do you plead?”
Either giant hearing was exceptional, or there was some magic at work to make him heard as Crag continued with, “You case counselor.”
The giant to Jack’s left stepped around the table and swirled around with a flourish as he began to orate.
“Giants and giantesses, I am here, not to prove this hu-man guilty, but to see justice served, and justice will be served when this human worm’s head is on a platter as I will show beyond the shadow of a doubt his crimes against us.”
Apparently his claim of ‘not guilty’ was his introduction as the lawyer immediately called on his first witness.
“I call forth Undertaker Gruff.”
A giant who seemed to slink out of the shadow of the lawyer took the stand as he stood ready to give his testimony.
“Please restate for the court your name and any evidence you might provide.”
“My name is Gruff the Undertaker, and upon examination of Snag Giant’s remains, despite its state of decay, I was able to determine he died from the great fall from our land to the world below that broke every bone in his body and caused his ribs to puncture his heart and lungs, killing him almost instantly.”
“Do wish to cross examine Defendant Jack?”
Jack gave a terse “No” as he knew everything Gruff said was true, and he felt if he tried to get him to somehow lie, the Giants would know. Judge Crag let him leave with, “You may stand down; next witness.”
“I call forth Gol Goose.”
The lawyer brought forth one of the cages from the table to the stand and placed it on the rail of the stand as he opened the door and out stepped a feathered figure he recognized all too well as the same question was answered.
“My name is Gol Goose, a rare breed of Golden Goose, and I am here to testify that I was cruelly stolen from my rightful master and treated like a common fowl by this human.”
Jack stared in shock at the traitorous goose, wondering why it had never said a word up till now; or why the Harp hadn’t said a word about its gift of speech at all. Anger soon overcame surprise as he remembered the goose refusing all but the choicest of foods and clearest of water to sate itself as most of what few eggs he gained were sent out to feed it along with constructing it a coop made by the finest artisans in the kingdom. His growing silence must have been taken as acquiescence as the goose was taken down and replaced by the next witness, “Holly Harp.”
“My name is Holly Harp, and this human dared to put his hands on me and demanded I sing for him till my voice turned hoarse.”
Her melodious voice reached out across the room as Jack himself felt his rage to strangle her lessened by her angelic tones as he felt the glares of recrimination burn into his back. His growing silence allowed another witness to escape cross-examination as the final cage was brought up and revealed his mother.
“I am Mrs. Corman, Jack’s mother, and ever since his father, my husband died, he proved uncontrollable as I was stretched between trying to control him and tending the farm. Sending him out for the simple task of selling the cow for food, he came back with useless beans, and when he started up the beanstalk that grew from them, I called out to him to come back.”
Jack’s rage had turned cold as he knew just what he was going to say, but wasn’t going to give his mother the pleasure of knowing her betrayal got to him. He remembered all to well her wallowing in grief as he had tended the farm as best he could after his father’s death. He was snapped out of his musings with the lawyer’s words of, “No more witnesses your honor.”
“Does the human Jack have anything to say in his defense before this court passes judgment?”
His statement seemed to take everyone aback as Jack’s guard carried him to the stand and he stood there, ready to tell them the truth none of them wanted to hear.
“My name is Jack, and while my mother was laying a bed, sobbing her heart out, I was tending our meager land as best I could when she told me to get rid of the one cow we had because the milk went sour one time. Also, this giant you all seem to be accusing me with his murder wasn’t a saint. He threatened to eat me, so it was in self defense that I killed him while he chased me back to my home, which was an accident anyways. I was cutting down the beanstalk before he was even halfway down, but rather than retreat to the safety of his home, he continued down and the falling beanstalk took him with it. Also, it was Miss Holly Harp who begged to take her away from her wicked master who had stolen her from her human master before Snag Giant. She even went so far as to facilitate our escape by lulling the giant to sleep, which makes her an accomplice to this murder and larceny. And though Gol Goose did nothing to indicate his desire to be taken or leave, he made not a peep when I took him, making him an accomplice by inaction. It was only through my own clumsiness that I awoke the giant up at all. And without that strange old man giving me those beans, I would never have come up here in the first place.”
“What strange old man?”
Jack’s harangue halted as he stared up at Crag and meekly replied.
“He had grey hair and a lined face, leaned on a blackened staff and wore tattered maroon robes.”
“Did he happen to give a name?”
“I believe it was something like Nicholas, Nico…”
Jack continued to stare at Crag as recognition crossed over the giant’s features and a hush swept over the courtroom with the faint buzz of muffled conversation. Crag banged his gavel for silence as Jack stumbled for balance. Crag swept the gavel towards the lawyer’s three witnesses and asked in a voice of steel, “Is there any truth to his words.”
All three of them looked like they would rather not answer, but lying seemed impossible for them as they shakily nodded their agreement. Crag turned back to Jack and leaned down to stage whisper to him, ‘I believe we might come up with some sort of arrangement to settle this misunderstanding.”
Jack smiled, thanking his lucky stars he had mentioned this Nicodemus, even by accident in his rage to vindicate himself as the courtroom was swept of the jury and spectators, leaving only him, the lawyer, the bailiff, Crag and the two magical witnesses as Jack’s guard carried his mother out. Jack smirked towards his former charges, not caring if his thoughts were evil as they deserved whatever they got coming to them as he was glad that he was going free with his life, or at least he hoped so as the bargaining began.
April 24, 2010