Read Part 1 & Part 2
“Once you reached the giant’s castle and went inside, what did you see Jack?” My attorney walks over toward the jurors’ box and stares strangely at the large mammoth-like creature with the huge eyebrows.
I shift uncomfortably in my seat, also unnerved by the creature even more than being on trial for murder. I clear my throat, the noise affronting the silence in the courtroom. The judge restlessly taps a fingernail against his gavel, anxious for the rest of my story. It seems like everyone there was. The multitude of faces fixed on mine.
“Whys I saw the giant and his wife in the kitchen again, almost like they never moved from the time I left it the other day. She be cooking and he be at the kitchen table, playing card games. I scuttled myself over toward the pantry, just peeping ‘round at the shelves. Figured perhaps a few dropped pieces of food be all right to take. Just be sharing with the house mice and the crumbs the giant’s wife be dropping could feed me and Ma for a month. Yet ‘fore I even took my next step, the man of the house be bellowing again.”
I smell the blood of an Englishman?
Be he live, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.
I pause to lock eyes on the giant’s wife. She stares right back this time. Her eyes are as blue like ice. Cold inside. Her nostrils flare a bit, daring me to go on with my story. Too bad for her that she doesn’t know I love playing dares, whether the other farm boys challenge me to sneak into ol’ King Cole’s wine cellar to swipe a nip of his moonshine or to mess around unstringing the Cat’s fiddle so he can’t play his annoying ‘Hey, diddle-diddle’ song. Nobody has ever had to double dog dare this person to get me to accept any challenge.
I lean forward in my seat, more addressing her than anyone else in the courtroom. “That giant’s wife, she goes struck still as if a big ol’ rattler snake had come up from a crack at her feet. She takes a gander at her wristwatch, then at the woodpile, then she goes on mumbling to herself that ‘He’d be a bit early than I wanted.’ Her husband goes all turning his head, big frown on his face, and asking her what she meant by that. ‘A-who’s coming over early?’ The giant’s wife, she jumps in place like she surprised by something. Now that rattler seemed to be all up in her bloomers, she’s dashing ‘round the kitchen. She tells her husband that she be expecting the neighbor Uma bringing over a plate of ladyfinger cookies for the ladies’ auxiliary club meeting Sunday night. That was what he was smelling. Not Englishmen. The baked Englishwomen.”
There are loud gulps in the jurors’ box. The green fellow next to the pig looks a tad greener now. Everyone in the room looks uneasily at the giant’s wife, who shrugs her shoulders. “People eat what they eat and sometimes it’s different from what other people consider. Chocolate-covered grasshoppers, squid, there are even people who see rats and dogs as a culinary delight. My husband just likes eating English people and I always wash them off good before cooking.”
Well, she did have a basis of argument there. Nobody could refute that fact. We all knew giants had to eat to survive too. This may have put a wrinkle in my court case though. Having giants eat people, especially thieves caught breaking into their homes, might actually seem like a justice in the eyes of the court. One less rotten apple plaguing society, and with a few spices that rotten apple is pleasing to the palate.
I sigh. Nothing now but to keep going with my testimony. “The giant’s wife, she goes on reaching up to the shelf above the fireplace mantel. She takes down a hen and sets it on the table. Biggest blooming chicken I’ve ever seen, even bigger than the bird that gone tried to eat me. She speaks some magic phrases, and the hen plops down and starts laying eggs. A good eight before the changing of the hour. And not just any eggs. These be golden eggs. Solid, as one rolled off the table and thunked on the cement floor without cracking. She hands the eggs to her husband and tells him to go buy a few things from the market for dinner. When he’s gone, she looks at the woodpile, all huge smile on her face as she sets the chicken on the floor. Then she calls out that she plans on taken a nice hot bath and hopes the chicken don’t get out, but if it does she hopes it finds someone who be needing its eggs to survive. In hurried steps, she heads up the stairs.”
My hands grip together as I glare sourly at them. “Shoulda left without the blasted bird. Wasn’t thinking straight though. And what she’d said, it seemed like she knew I was there and wanted me to have it. I ran toward the chicken when its back was turned. I touched its leg and . . . wouldn’t you know it? The bird shrank just like the bag of gold. I stowed it in the crook of my arm and ran on back home. But just like that bag of coins, the hen just didn’t seem enough. I had no idea how old be the bird. What if something happens and it dies? We won’t have anything after that. Before Ma could stop me, I went right back climbing that stalk the next night. Got back to that castle. Could hear the giant all cussing and fuming about his missing hen. The wife, she just goes on about her business all happy-like without a care in the world. She keeps an eye on her watch, nods, and goes opening up a lockbox. She takes out this harp, the front piece in the shape of a woman, as it starts singing whenever anyone strums a string.”
My attorney walks over to the evidence table. At the very center sits a musical instrument, a harp in the shape of a singing woman. He reaches out, but doesn’t touch it. “Is this the harp in question, Jack?”
Yes, dammit! Pull on the strings! I scream inside my mind. On the outside, I nod my head. I know not to make a fuss in the courtroom. When the officers were arresting me on the day of the giant’s death, I had babbled about the harp, telling them to play her strings and listen to her. Everyone pegged me crazy then, thinking it was some type of trick.
It was, sort of.
“What happened to the giant as his wife played the harp?”
I sigh, “She said the words, ‘husband-nap,’ while the music played. The notes go on filling the kitchen, and it goes all relaxing him until the giant nods off to sleep. She sets the harp on the floor and strolls into the other room, all grinning and happy again and staring at the woodpile while passing it by. When she was gone, I ran from the crack of the door and touched the harp. It went shrinking until I could carry it away. I only took two steps when the giant’s wife comes back into the kitchen. She lets out this banshee shriek and runs to her husband. She goes on shaking his shoulder until he wakes up. Then she points a finger at me, saying there’s an English boy in the house stealing their harp. He must have been the one who stole the hen and the bag of coins too.”
The pout lurks in my words. I swallow the betrayed feeling while blinking my eyes and rubbing my runny nose. In sulkiness, I push out the rest of the story. “I goes hightailing it back to the beanstalk hearing the giant rattling at the door trying to unlock it to come a-chasing. I starts climbing down, watching the clouds and the big thumps of his feet, the whole fluffy floor of the sky bouncing at his steps. I’ma grabbing leaves and sliding down and barely making it to the ground without falling and splitting my skull. Then the beanstalk starts shaking. I knows it's probably the giant getting ready to climb down. I runs to the shed, grabbing the axe. I hurries back as I pull my arms ‘round to start chopping at the base.”
“So you cut the beanstalk while the giant was climbing down.” My attorney goes back to his chair but doesn’t take a seat. He knows this is the part that will see me as a free lad or guarantee a long reservation in the county prison. “You cut it down in fear that the giant would hurt you and your mother, right, Jack? You were afraid that he would eat the both of you.”
“OBJECTION, your honor. The defense is leading the witness.” The prosecutor stands with sternness wrinkling his features.
The judge nods. “Sustained. You can’t put words in your client’s mouth.”
“Sorry, your honor. I’ll rephrase my question.” My attorney turns back toward me, his eyes seeking sympathy, trying to convey the feeling that he had tried to help. “Jack, what happened as you were cutting down the beanstalk?”
I huff, “That be it. I never got a chance. Over my head came this roaring scream. I’s looks up and see the beanstalk coming down, the tail end gripped in the giant’s hand as he comes tumbling. In the moon’s glow, there’s this shiny object in his back, like a bit of lightning had struck him. It took me a moment to realize it be an enormous butcher’s knife. The giant slams into the ground where the well be, smashing it into nothing, as the beanstalk breaks at the base from the strain. When the dying giant rolls over, the knife starts twinkling. Then it vanishes, like magic, just leaving the jagged slice in the back with the well’s beams stuck there like those had gone caused the wound. From up in the clouds, I hear cackling and hooting and laughter. The celebration be coming from the giant’s wife.”
Gasps erupt throughout the courtroom. Talk buzzes among the jurors as they all eye the giant’s wife. Before the judge can grab his gavel to restore the peace, the giant’s wife takes out her handkerchief and rubs at her eyes. Her voice murmurs in teary accusation. “Of course the thief blames the victim for his own crime. I tried to do good for the young lad, giving charitably while knowing my husband would be upset, and then the boy blames me for his own crimes. I didn’t tell him to sneak into our castle in the first place. I didn’t give him permission to take our hen and harp. I didn’t hand him the beans. And I didn’t kill my husband, my one and only true love, with a vanishing knife.”
Grumbles mutter from the entire court, all aimed at my story. The prosecution picks up a stack of papers while amused with the turning of events, seeing this will be an easy cross-examination. My attorney takes a seat. He shakes his head and wishes his client had pled the insanity route.
I ignore both attorneys. I ignore the strange muppet jurors. I ignore everyone in the courtroom except the one person who I knew would trust in me no matter what I did in this life. My pleading sight skips over the rows until reaching the back seat. I fix my eyes on Ma, on her trembling body, on her sad face. She gazes at me, wanting to believe while wishing her boy had just gone to the market with the cow Blue like she had asked him to those many weeks ago.
My tongue runs over dry lips. I mouth two words while my chained arms lift and point toward the evidence table.
“Ma . . . help.”
Her chest rises and falls rapidly. The tears dry up from her face. Her body stops trembling. She gives one nod and stands. Her feet dash along the aisle, headed toward the harp.
Yet the giant’s wife also reads my silent plea. She hears the rapid stomping of feet. Her arm stretches out, clotheslining my Ma in the chest before Ma can make it to the front of the courtroom. My Ma falls to the floor, dazed. The giant’s wife cries out. “Look! Mrs. Spriggins tried to attack me. Their whole family is crazy, assaulting me like my life means nothing at all because I am a giant. I deserve to live. My husband deserved to live also. We shouldn’t be preyed upon like this by poor, deranged people.” The giant’s wife covers her face. Her shoulders shake as if in weeping.
The room erupts in chaos. Both bailiffs rush forward to check on my Ma. The jurors babble in their high-pitched phrases and strange animal noises. The judge continues rapping his gavel in the effort to restore order to his courtroom.
Nobody pays attention to me as I quietly slip out my chair. Half-running, half-hopping, I stagger toward the evidence table. When the one bailiff finally turns, he notices me almost there. The lawman rushes forward and tackles me. But not before I dive forward, the nail of my pinkie finger catching a harp string. As we hit the floor together, the air bursts from my lungs in a coughing bellow.
The harp begins singing.