JACK ON THE BEAN: A FRACTURED FAIRY
mom, tell me a story."
Hal, here goes."
Once upon a time there was a poor little boy named Jack who lived with
his old mother in an old house in the Old Country. One day they had
nothing left to eat. Jack's mother told him to take their only cow to
market and sell it for something to eat. Jack said, "Sure, Ma!"
I'll go right away and bring us back two Big Macs from MacDonald's and
Shamrock shakes -- what do you want for dessert, Ma? A hot cherry pie
or a hot apple pie?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Jack. We're not going to eat any junk food.
Just get you butt out of here now and bring me the cash -- and you can't
use the change for gumballs."
Jack tied a rope to the cow and led her down the dusty road to market.
She mooed petulantly, but Jack paid no attention.
"Hey, Ma! What does 'petulantly' mean," my son interrupted.
"Well, Hal, it means the old cow mooed like a pet, because, after
all, it was Jack's pet cow he was taking to market."
Well, he did not get too far before he met an old man going in the opposite
direction who carried a bag in his hand. "Hey, old man," said
Jack, "got some marbles in that bag of yours?"
"No, lad. I got something better in this sack. You want to take
a peek? What'll you give me if I let you take a peek?"
Knowing a dull-witted lad when he saw one, the crafty old codger
said, "I'll tell you what. I'll make a deal with you. What will
you give me if I let you take a peek:?" he repeated.
ain't got nothing. But I sure would like to see what you got in that
"I'll tell you what. You look like a likely lad, so I'll
let you look for free." The man reached into his bag and drew
out some brightly colored beans.
are magic beans, son. The only ones of their kind. The person who has
these beans owns a fortune."
"Golly, gee!" said Jack. "I sure wish I had some
beans like that. But I only have this pet cow I'm taking to market
to sell for some food for me and my poor old mother."
this is your lucky day, my boy. You need go no farther to seek your
fortune. I'll tell you what. I'll save you a trip to market and take
that nice-looking cow off your hands in exchange for these marvelous
"You will?" Jack exclaimed, his eyes shiny with delight
at the bargain he had made. Those valuable beans so beautiful to behold
would warm the cockles of his mother's heart and buy for them the riches
they had despaired of ever obtaining. No more cold gruel for them! And
he could buy the Asteroids game he had always wanted. Shoot for the
sky he had always thought. One had to take a chance on snake oil now
and then. And no one could deny that those beans were beautiful,
Jack grabbed the beans from the palm of the old man's
hand before he could change his mind and shoved the cow's lead rope
into his empty hand. "There's your new owner, Nellie." The
old man did not appear upset by the bargain and turned back up the road
leading the cow behind.
Jack waved good-by and shouted after him, "Hey, Pops, I forgot
to tell you something. She don't give any milk." Jack chuckled
to himself and hurried back home to show his mother his bargain.
As he rushed through the door, his mother who had been playing solitaire
at the kitchen table looked up and said, "You're sure back quick,
boy. What brings you home so soon? Give me the cash. How much did you
get for Nellie?"
drew out the colored beans and proudly showed them to his mother, shouting,
"I've made my fortune. Ma, look at these magic beans."
"You bean-brain!" she yelled. "You dull-witted
lad. You slack-wristed nincompoop. You're just like your father!"
And with that, she seized the beans and threw them out the window, then
burst into a fit of uncontrollable tears.
sheepishly while his mother worked through her fit and then said, "How
do you think I feel, Mother?" and then burst into tears himself.
They both went to bed hungry that night, not knowing what they would
do the next morning, but Jack snored contentedly after a while, thinking
he would go look for the old man and the cow in the morning.
He awoke the next morning eager to start on his journey, although a
little bit weak and spindly on the legs from lack of food. He was just
giving himself a big stretch and starting to do his morning jumping-jacks,
when he saw the large trunk of a beanstalk through the window. He rubbed
his eyes and went to examine the large leaves twining their way up the
side of the house. He craned his neck up to the sky and, lo and behold,
he could not see the top of the stalk; it faded into the clouds. Then
and there Jack decided to climb that beanstalk. He would get to the
top of the stalk if it were the last thing he ever did.
He was just beginning to ascend when his mother peered her ugly head
out of the window and yelled at him, "Stop, Jack. Get down here
this minute! You'll break every bone in your body and who will pay your
Jack hollered back at her. "Shut up, Ma. I'm going out
in the world to seek my fortune."
don't come running to me, boy, if you break your neck," she shouted
Higher and higher Jack climbed until he alighted on a cloud. In the
misty distance he could see the castle.
"Hot dog!" Jack exclaimed aloud. "Just like the
castle in all the fairy tale books. Now if I'm not mistaken, there should
be a grisly old one-eyed giant in that castle. All I have to do is slip
unseen into his counting house and snatch his golden guineas away.
To think I had to search the world over for someone more dull-witted
on to the imposing brass door knockers. He raised the handle, but before
he could rap three times an old hag answered the door and croaked, "Come
right in, Jack, we've been expecting you for two hundred years now.
The oven is nice and hot and Jules the Giant should be in from his morning
The toothless old dame (everyone is mostly old in a fairy story) ushered
him in and then said, "I'll see you later, bub; I have to get the
bats out of my belfry. Quasimodo is coming for dinner tomorrow night."
"Who is Quasimodo, Mom?"
"He's a hunchback, Hal."
"What's a hunchback, Mom?"
"Someone with a hump on his back.
Well, we better get on with the story."
his way to the giant's counting house without any trouble. Before long
he heard the thud-thud of his hob-nailed boots and a resounding voice
booming, "Fee-fie, fo-fum -- I smell the blood of a . . . young
Jack knew he could be referring to no one but himself, and he scurried
into the corn popper Jules had on the sideboard.
Jules sat down in his Lazy Boy rocker by the hearth and bellowed, "Woman,
bring my kazoo." In came the old hag bearing his kazoo. She set
it on the table and the giant ordered. "Play, kazoo, play!"
The kazoo played merrily until the giant snored away in tune with the
Jack sat in the corn popper bursting to get out. He had always
wanted a kazoo and now he knew more than ever he had to get out and
snatch that kazoo away from the sleeping giant before he woke up. Who
wanted hens that lay golden eggs or bags of golden guineas when he could
own a priceless kazoo, and with his talents, modest though they be,
he would make it in Nashville -- Jack's Genuine Jug Band with Kazoo,
too. He could see his name in lights now, and him standing next to
Dolly Parton's gorgeous knockers -- who needed Jules?
he was thus fantasizing, the old hag came in and plugged in the popper
and the next thing he felt were corn kernels raining down on his unsuspecting
pate. He heard the beldame croak, "Got to get fresh buttered popcorn
for that big dolt before he wakes up and yells for his snack. I think
I have taken all the guff I'm going to from that brute. I'm filing for
sounded like an empty threat until Jack felt something warm hit his
derriere and more jolting and jostling of his small frame as puffy balls
of white, growing more and more powerful, pummeled him back and forth.
Soon he felt himself carried aloft on a billow of popcorn and then catapulted
out of the vent of the popcorn maker. He swished through the air saying
his Act of Contrition as fast as he could remember and bellowing for
a priest, when before he knew it, he landed by the kazoo on the table.
Coming to his senses, he grabbed the instrument, tucked it under his
arm, for it was the giant-size one -- good thing it could play itself
or he would be hard put to find a mouth to fit it.
at that moment, as fairy stories would have it, the giant woke up, growling,
"Fee, fie, fo-fum -- I smell the blood of a young whippersnapper
-- and here he is!"
Jack ran as fast as he could without
his Nike jogging shoes, which, alas, he had forgotten to put on that
morning before starting to climb the beanstalk. The giant was fast
behind him, pursuing him across the castle drawbridge, leaping over
every cloud until Jack reached the beanstalk and shimmied down it. He
felt it sway above him with the giant's weight. "He’d have to be
weighed at a feed mill," Jack thought as he descended hurriedly.
If his mother was not waiting with an axe at the bottom like she should
be, he would break her neck. Then, it would be hush, hush, sweet mama
for her. He knew that he could always count on mama in a pinch before,
even is she was hell to live with sometimes.
he neared the ground, he could see Mama with hatchet in hand. As he
sprang to the ground, he said, "Here, Mom, hold this magic kazoo
and give me the hatchet quick!"
wish I could, son, but even if you're stupid, you're my son."
ninny, not me," and he wrenched the hatchet from her hand as the
big form of the giant could be seen slowly but surely coming down the
beanstalk. Jack gave it one, two, three hardy swings and the beanstalk
came tumbling down and with it Jules the Giant. The crash of Jules'
body left a big crater in their back yard, which they later filled with
water to open a swimming pool for the entire vicinity.
for the body of the giant, it was stuffed and Jack opened a museum where
he displayed the giant alongside other memorabilia from his magnificent
climb. Without a cow to shelter anymore, Jack renovated the barn into
a Country Music Hall where Saturday night barn dances were held, his
Jug Band and Magic Kazoo playing on into the early hours of the morning.
to say, all these enterprises made Jack quite a rich man, and he and
his mother lived happily ever after along the interstate.