• Brian Simmons

Let me tell you a story

A VERSION OF JACK AND THE BEANSTALK




“Look here Jack,” said Mrs Spratt. “I’m fed up with you lazing about the house all day.


Now your Dad’s been and left us so hard up you’re going to have to do a lot more to help me around here, and you can start by getting out to that woodshed and chop a bit of wood for the fire before we all freeze to death”

Jack grunted in the ‘Kevinish’ way of all teenagers and wandered moodily into the garden.

A large axe had been left propped against the door of the garden shed and Jack picked it up amazed at its weight. He wondered how his father could possibly have spent hour after hour swinging it as he split logs for the kitchen fire.

“Probably what drove him off.” he thought. That and his Mum’s nagging on at him “Do this, fix that”

“No wonder he ran off with that gorgeous young widow Twanky from number 7” He smirked as he thought what his father would say, if or when he discovered that he wasn’t the first virile Spratt to be enrolled for an educational visit to number 7.

Jack picked up a log and propped it on the chopping block; then taking the axe he noticed what a razor-sharp edge it had. Bracing his feet in the way he’d watched his father do he swung the axe high over his head bringing it down into the centre of the log and sending the two halves flying.

“This is easy,” he thought, seizing another log and dispatching it in a similar fashion. Three or four more logs followed before Jack slumped down puffing and wondering even more how his father had managed it. “At least he’ll be able to keep up with Ms Twanky”

Suddenly he noticed a jam jar on the ground beside him and reached for it, peering inside at some large red seeds.

“Beans” thought Jack. “Perhaps I’ll plant some. Not much point cutting firewood if there’s no food to cook on it”

There were a couple of dozen seeds and Jack pushed them firmly, one by one into the soft soil until he got to the last one. It seemed different. It was certainly larger - almost three times the size of the others and it had a strange feel to it. It seemed to tingle between his fingers – vibrate almost. Nevertheless, he pushed it into the soil too.

Almost immediately he wished he hadn’t. Suddenly the ground under his feet began to tremble and he watched with amazement as the earth where he’d pushed in the last seed began to swell into a mound like a large molehill. Jack stepped sharply backwards as the mound continued to swell and swell until, scattering soil in all directions, an enormous plant literally exploded from the ground.

“Bloody Hell” Jack cried, forgetting in the circumstances to duck his head to avoid the hard clout to his ear that inevitably followed such a slip of the tongue.

“Mum, Mum! “ shouted Jack rushing indoors. “Something’s happened to the beans”

“For goodness sake calm down" she said. Remember Michael Winner


“No Really” he yelled “It’s like a Triffid (or it would be if they’d been thought of)”


Despite Jack’s urging she unhurriedly dried her hands and followed him.

Outside the bean plant was already taller than the mighty oak that stood at the end of the garden and was still going skywards like a rocket (except they hadn’t been thought of either)

“Holy Mother of God” cried Mrs Spratt (being very religious)

“Jack we’re saved” she exclaimed, at the same time thinking “We’ll have more beans than we can eat and we can use the trunk for firewood” as it was already as thick as a tree and expanding rapidly.

Mrs Spratt was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth or even a Triffid (if they had been thought of) although she clearly hadn’t given any thought to how the beans would be gathered as the monstrous plant had by now disappeared into the clouds.

Meanwhile, Jack had recovered his composure somewhat: in fact, he’d even started to feel a bit adventurous. As a small boy he’d always loved climbing into trees; getting into more scrapes than he could remember. Now, as this fascinating stem twisted and twirled its way into the heavens, he was overcome with the need to follow its lead and find out what lay up there beyond the clouds.

He wished like mad that stout Hi-Tec climbing boots, nylon rope, carabiners and pitons had been invented but as they hadn’t he put on his best sandals and set off up the beanstalk towards the clouds which by now had begun to take on a darker and somewhat threatening appearance.

As he climbed he reflected on how curious it was that confidence and courage seem to be inversely proportional to altitude. He was also ever so slightly disturbed by what he hoped was thunder but he fancied could also be the sound of extremely heavy footfalls accompanied by a deep voice saying what sounded like “Fee Fi Fo Fum”

“No” he told himself “It’s just thunder”

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