Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fractured Fairy Tales: Jack and the Beanstalk 2 (the Giant Killer)

Read part one here.

The bailiffs had me in my seat as the rest of the courtroom fills. Yesterday, the judge had broken session for the day wanting the next part of my testimony to be fresh in the jurors’ minds. I see Ma enter, her handkerchief clutched in trembling fingers, as she throws the smallest smile my way. She takes a seat at the very back of the room in case she breaks down crying again.

She’s trying to keep the faith. Yet the occasional tremble of her frame betrays her agitation for the worst happening.

“Ah, Ma. Hang on in there. I’ma coming home after all this. Don’t worry your pretty little head about that,” I whisper. A bailiff turns his face and frowns at me. I stare right back, challenging him with my glare, fighting to the end.

Someone has to. My lawyer seems to have already sided with the prosecution as both come waltzing in laughing about something. His face turns serious when reaching his table. I promise myself that when this trial is over and the attorney’s bill comes in, I’m paying him with beans - and not the magical kind.

Once everyone settles in their seats, I continue where I had left off. The beanstalk.

“Whys I climbed that beanstalk, hand over hand and foot over foot, taking a breather midway to gander far out over the countryside, ‘fore finally making it up where the stalk had punched a hole through the clouds like they were something solid. Saw a big castle in the distance. Cat’s curiosity set its claws into my mind. I ventured on over, seeing how gigantic it was. No longer felt like a cat, or even a mouse. I was a doggone flea in how small I felt to how big that castle was.”

“What did you do then, Jack?” My attorney lifts his hand, stifling a yawn.

Beans, man. I’m paying your bill with beans. “I shimmied on under the crack in the door. Found myself in the kitchen. Saw this gigantic man, bigger than a mountain, sitting at a table counting gold coins. Over by the cooking pot stood the giant’s wife. Not as big as him, but still big enough.”

My attorney strides forward. “Can you identify the giant’s wife in this courtroom?”

My finger lifts and points over the prosecutor’s shoulder. Two rows of seating had been taken out to place a large chair. The giant’s wife sat in silence, a good 20 feet tall. The court staff had to make special arrangements to take out several of the large glass windows along the courtroom wall to allow her to climb inside. It was a good thing the building had vaulted ceilings, yet she still had to slouch a bit even while sitting.

With her eyes only giving me occasional glances, she kept an even expression on her face although lips twitched now and again. Most people in the room would think she was trying to hold back her grief for her dead husband.

I knew otherwise.

“Why didn’t you leave the castle then?” my attorney asks. For a moment he forgets he is working for the defense, not playing prosecution.

“Whys I was plumb rigid from shock,” I explain. “Not every day you walk around spotting giants in the land. Whens I gained what little sense I had, I gone turned around to take to my heels. But a bird flew down on the other side of the door. Sounded right like a giant dragon beating its wings. It saw me there and, thinking I was a tasty bug, tried to peck at me through the door crack. I was trapped inside. I turned 'round and ran toward the wood stove. Yet ‘fore I got there, the giant’s wife did see me. All surprised, she didn’t make a peep like I was some scurrying country mouse - as to this is how I felt. Instead, she made a shooing gesture toward the woodpile and placed a finger to her lips. That’s when her husband goes rock still at the kitchen table. Forgetting his coins, he goes snorting at the air before bellowing...

I smell the blood of an Englishman?
Be he live, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”

My statement draws gasps from the jury. A blue fellow in the front row, who had been eating baked goods, looks strangely at his cookie before placing it back into the jar, untouched. The prosecutor shifts restlessly in his chair but doesn’t object to the judge concerning my words.

My attorney smiles slightly. There is a sparkle of hope in his eyes. Finally. Maybe he would start seeing things my way. “So you were trapped inside the giant’s house, unable to leave without being eaten by a bird, but hearing the giant say that he likes feasting on countrymen. Is that what you are saying, Jack?”

“Yup. Now the giant’s wife, she doesn’t let on that I was there under the wood. Instead, she huffs and tells her husband that he must be still smelling the leftover shepherds pie she baked yesterday. Her husband starts drooling, big ol’ drops of spit like a waterfall, and goes to their icebox. He takes the pie and heads out the room. The giant’s wife, she goes on hurrying to the woodpile. She tries to coax me into her hand, and I had no other choice but to mosey on out. She could just kick the pile ‘round and grab me if she wanted. She carries me over to the table, all whisper quiet asking me questions, and I’s tells her the truth because everyone knows that how you’re suppose to be talking all respectful like to the missus of any house.”

I take a moment for a sip of water from the cup sitting on the witness stand. Once my throat feels like less of the Sahara desert, I continue on with my testimony. “When hearing my tale about how me and my Ma ain’t got much at home, she goes handing me the bag of coins. This thing be huge in her fingers, but when I touch it, the bag goes on shrinking until it’s small enough for me to carry - like magic. She shoos the bird away from the door still waiting for this bug as a snack and carries me back to the stalk. She waves as I scurry down with the gold coins. I gets home and tells Ma about whats happened. Instead of my Ma be happy that we’ve got coins to buy food, she goes all wailing over how scared she was when she didn’t know where I had gone. She tells me not to go climbing up that beanstalk again and instead to cut it down in the morn.”

My attorney sighs. “Did you do that, Jack?”

I shook my head. “All that night, I couldn’t sleep. I kept having dreams of that castle in the clouds. I knew the bag of gold coins might help us out for a good long time, with the tax collectors and such. But... what then after that? Ma and me will be right back where we’d be again: poor and hungry.”

“So what did you do, Jack?”

I sniffle and rub my nose, the shackles jingling to signify my coming shame. “That blasted cat called Curiosity went sinking its claws into my thoughts again. I hads to know what else be in that castle. I got out of bed, stuck on my clothes, and climbed back up that beanstalk.”


  1. Oh sure, leave the story right there. Dang cliffhanger.

    Seriously though, this is awesome stuff Michelle - as usual. Nice job.

  2. Eric: I didn't realize how long the post was becoming. I had no other choice but to end it there. I had planned to wrap it up for this one, until I realized just how many other things I have to touch upon to make this a well-rounded story.

  3. Okay... curiosity's sunk her cat's claws into my mind now! Looking forward to a big finish!

  4. Woo-Hoo! Part Two!

    [*does happy dance*]

    Aiyee! Part THREE?!?

    [*bangs head against wall*]

  5. Oh, you've created such an amazing voice for Jack!! I LOVE him!!! He's got such spunk...and I do feel such empathy for him...I hope the guy in the front row with a preference for baked goods gives Jack some slack :-) You are so terrific, Michelle! I just love all of your writing! ~Janine XO

  6. "That dang cat called curiosity went sinking it's claws into my thoughts again.." (Clapping my hands in delight) I love the way he talks, I can see the whole courtroom playing out before my eyes, and that was a great aside, the cookie monster losing his appetite (grin). You are such an engaging writer, Michelle, and I simply adore your humour.


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