This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Friday, 12 October 2012

Jack And the Acorn

Get up,” ordered Jack’s mother one day. “Get up right now!”

“What on earth for?” Jack stretched lazily in his luxury king-sized four-poster bed. “It can’t even be noon yet. Why do I need to get up now?”

“Because I say so!” his mother snapped. She slammed open the windows of his bedroom and pulled back the curtains with a rattle. Part of one curtain ripped off the hooks and she promptly dissolved into tears.

“Mom!” Jack said, appalled. “What’s wrong?”

“You’ve got to get a job,” his mother said, still sobbing. “We have nothing left! Nothing!”

“But,” Jack protested, “you remember how I

“Sold our cow for magic beans, disobeying your direct order;

“How I went up the beanstalk;

“How I stole the gold from the giant;

“How I murdered the giant and

“How we’ve been living on the proceeds ever since.”

“Yeah, yeah,” his mother sobbed. “I know all that. And do you know of stock market collapses? Do you know what happened to the Ponzi scheme and the gold I invested in Spiritualism for Profit?”

“What about,” Jack swallowed, “the investments in Siberian dragon mines?”

“You stupid twit. It’s all gone. All.”

So Jack, with a heavy heart, took up a bundle of food, tied it to a stick, and went out in search of work. His mother, down to her last two hundred gold coins, gave him a hundred in a leather pouch at his belt. Other than that, and his bundle of food, he was quite destitute, poor beggar.

After proceeding only a couple of kilometres down the road, he met a red-faced, sweating man labouring over the engine of a broken-down truck. The truck was smallish and old and black oil from a cracked gearbox dripped steadily on the road while steam eddied upwards from the radiator. Jack, who had been ordered to march on to the nearest town, quite naturally stopped to watch. The red-faced man scowled at him, and then his face magically smoothened into a beatific smile.

“Why, it’s Jack, isn’t that so? Where are you off to on such a bright morning?”

“I need to find a job,” Jack told him.

“Well, now...a job.” The man scratched his chin. “You know, Jack, with the economy the way it is, jobs aren’t so easy to come by. In fact...” he grinned, “I know what! Why don’t you buy this truck? You can use it to deliver things around the country, and you can earn as much as you want. You’ll be your own master!”

“A truck?” Jack scratched his head and pondered. “How much is it?”

“How much do you have?” the man asked, for some reason licking his lips.

“Only a hundred gold coins,” Jack replied.

“Um, well, that’s not very much, is it. But I’ll tell you what – I’m a kind man, so I’ll give this magnificent truck to you for a hundred gold coins.” With a flourish, the man slammed the truck’s hood down and turned to Jack. “Is it a deal?”

“Um, all right,” Jack decided, thinking of the long walk to town and then the hassle of getting a job. “It’s a deal.”

“Excellent.” The man shook Jack’s hand heartily with his oil-stained, greasy paw. “Right, here are the keys. You won’t regret the bargain.” He glanced at Jack’s bundle of food. “I, um, I’m awful hungry too.”

“Take it,” Jack said, handing the bundle over numbly. His attention was fixed on the truck, his face white and sweating.

“Thank you!” said the man. With a wave, he stomped away, Jack’s bag of gold jingling at his waist.

Jack swung himself doubtfully into the truck’s cabin, suddenly recalling that he did not know how to drive. Bringing back to mind what he remembered having watched, he jabbed the key in the ignition, slammed the gear lever into first without benefit of clutch pedal, and proceeded in a series of hops down the road.

His mother came rushing out of the front door as Jack brought the bouncing, backfiring relic slewing crabwise into her front garden, demolishing the gate and finally halting in a hiss of steam and exhaust smoke. She stood with her hands on her hips as Jack descended from the cab.

“You’ve done it again, haven’t you?” sje asked. “I should have known!”

“But, mom,” Jack began, “with this truck we can begin a transport business, and soon we can buy another truck, and before you know it, we’ll have a fleet of them, and...”

“And if you’d grown some brains you’d see what a wreck this jalopy is. Go see if you can find someone who’ll buy it for the scrap metal. Maybe that way we can get something back from it, even if only a few copper coins.”

Jack winced. “But, mom,” he protested, “let me at least try to see if we can find something in it we can use? Maybe there’s something in the bed...”

“Hah,” snorted Jack’s mother. “All you’ll find in that is an acorn that fell off a tree, maybe.”

And that is exactly what Jack found; one single, solitary acorn that had fallen off a tree and was rolling around in a corner of the truck’s bed. Dispiritedly, he flung it at the flower bed at the bend of the garden path and took the truck to the scrap metal dealer. He got precisely four hundred and fifty copper coins for it, and that was because the dealer felt sorry for him – he said.

The next morning, Jack rose early, since he was supposed to go right back to the city to earn a proper living, but with only a hundred copper coins in his purse this time. Even his mother decided he wouldn’t completely waste a hundred copper coins because it would leave him with nothing to buy a meal or board. But Jack did not actually leave for the city, for on stepping out of the door, he saw, looming over the house, a gigantic acorn.

In his position, an ordinary mortal like you or me would have done a double-take and rubbed our eyes, decided we were dreaming, and gone back to bed. Jack, however, was not only made of sterner stuff, he was used to this kind of thing happening. So, with a whoop carefully modulated not to wake his mother, he rushed off to get an axe and then ran to the gigantic acorn. It was growing from a twig sprouting from the end of the garden path, where he had carelessly flung the acorn he had found in the truck the day before.

With another ecstatic whoop, Jack scrambled up the twig and, hacking with his axe, cut steps in the acorn. He went up and up and up, the acorn meanwhile growing under him, until he finally breached the clouds and came at last to a land where great castles floated on sheets of hardened cloud. As he had fully expected, large and – relatively – small giants were striding around here and there, darting nervous glances around them.

“Nearly had an Airbus shave the top off my head last week,” one whispered to another in a grouchy rumble loud enough for Jack to hear. “These humans are impossible!”

“Something will have to be done,” the other one agreed. “We’ll have to construct traps or something.” Hefting a bag over his shoulder, he began walking away.

“Where are you off to?” the first one asked.

“To the bank. It’s not safe leaving gold around these days, with all those magic fruits and all.”

Jack’s ears pricked up. Quickly, he followed the giant, crouching behind wisps of cloud, until he came to the bank.

A harried looking crowd was outside, each giant clutching a bag full of his or her savings.

“Thieves!” was what they were saying amongst themselves. “Human thieves, crawling like rats in the rafters! Nothing is safe.”

Ignoring them, Jack crawled up to a baby giant which was holding on to its mother’s hand. In the free hand, the toddler held a tiny purse, which meant it was about as big as a full haversack to Jack, containing giant-sized golden coins. Raising his axe, Jack swung hard at the strap of the bag, and accidentally nicked the baby’s hand as well.

The baby began to bawl as Jack heaved the bag on his shoulder and ran.

“Fee-fi-fo-fum,” a giant policeman, who was standing nearby, shouted. “I smell the blood of a thieving bum. Be he an Islamofascist or a Commie Red, I’ll squash him like a cockroach under my bed.”

“But I’m only a thief,” Jack squealed, as he began sliding and slipping down the huge acorn, just evading the giant cop’s giant grabbing hand. “A completely loyal capitalist thief and murderer!”

“All right then,” said the policeman, baffled. “Just you make sure that you use that money you stole in the pursuit of free enterprise! Don’t let any pinko liberal get his claws on it, that’s all.”

Jack slid to the ground to find his mother waiting anxiously. She threw her arms around him. “My darling boy...did you get treasure? Were the giants nasty?”

“Mother,” said Jack, “look!” He flung open the bag and poured the huge coins on the ground. They bounded all over the garden, and with a joyous cry Jack’s mother threw herself on the nearest and clasped it to her bosom.

The coin promptly broke into two.

Strange indeed was it that a gold coin should be capable of fracture, but not so strange when mother and son took a look at it.

Those golden coins were children’s toys made of papier-mâché and paint.

So, tomorrow, Jack is off to the city to look for a job...again.

They say there’s work as a court jester to be had.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment