Aphelion Issue 296, Volume 28
July 2024 --
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Protecting the Bean Farmers

by Brooks C. Mendell

Tommy, standing in the middle of the beanfield and shading his eyes from the sunlight, looked up at Jack descending the Beanstalk with a heavy sack of stolen goods.

"What victory might he claim this time, Master?" asked Tommy, leaning on his rake and turning to Sid the Elder.

"Pyrrhic," said Sid the Elder, adjusting his eye patch. "His insecurity runs deep."

Tommy pondered the situation. Jack's early trips proved rich in tales and treasure. Weeks after returning with a gold-egg laying hen and magic harp, he filched cabbage-sized gemstones and buckets of manna. Later, his gleanings became more trivial, like a bundle of sickle-sized toenail clippings.

The fame and attention corrupted Jack. He ignored his chores and disparaged his neighbors. "They're losers," he said from the bedroom window while his mother weeded the garden and his father milked the cow.

"Can't trust him with taking out your rubbish, much less your daughters," said Old Mother Hubbard at the Town Hall meeting.

"Or with your wives," grunted Old McDonald, thumbing the tan line around his ringless finger.

The grumblings from fabled and respected villagers had little influence on Jack's recklessness and boasting. Tommy remembered how Jack pulled Little Bo-Peep into the house he had built. Thirty minutes later, he saw Bo-Peep walking home alone and crying.

"We farm," thought Tommy. "We reap what we sow."

Tommy's attention returned to the moment as the other bean farmers around him chattered in surprise. From where the Beanstalk met the clouds, the Giant emerged in pursuit of Jack.

Tommy walked to the base of the Beanstalk and removed the silver tinderbox from his tunic. Before opening the box, he looked towards Sid the Elder who looked back and nodded.

Tommy struck the flint to steel. Sparks flew. A burst of flame circled the ready Beanstalk and rushed upward.

High above, Jack looked away from the Giant and down to the mounting blaze. He hesitated in surprise, giving the Giant enough time, finally, to close the gap.

The bean farmers returned to scratching the field.

© 2022 Brooks C. Mendell

Brooks Mendell writes and works in forestry. He lives near Athens, Georgia. www.brooksmendell.com

Find more by Brooks C. Mendell in the Author Index.

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