Sometimes, things just come together with no advanced planning or scheduling. I like to call these moments gifts from the writing gods. And the month of June here on Flash Fiction Fridays is one such gift. Each of these flash pieces harkens back to childhood, whether through old bedtime stories or mythical beasts of imagination.
First up is Camille LaGuire's take on the classic story of "Jack and the Beanstalk."
The True Story of Jack’s Cow
By Camille LaGuire
"If those beans are so special," said Jack, "why are you trading them for an old
The stranger froze, surprised. Jack wondered if the man was merely stupid, and it hadn't occurred to him that the cow wasn't worth much.
"My...my...my granddaughter," the man stammered. "She...her mother died when
she was born. I need the milk."
"This cow doesn't have a lot of milk left in her."
"I don't need much."
The stranger held his breath, and watched Jack eagerly. Jack decided not to point out that he could probably get enough money from those magic beans at the market for a good cow —and— a nursemaid.
He sold the cow for a handful of magic beans.
After the bargain, the stranger watch as Jack headed home. Then the old man turned and led the cow away. He walked in silence, slowly, after reminding himself that twenty years is very old for a cow. He led her to the top of the highest hill and sat on a rock while she grazed. He couldn't see Jack's house, but he knew where it was. He watched that spot in the woods until it was too dark to watch any more. Then he slept.
In the morning, the beanstalk was clearly visible. The boy went up and stayed for a long time. The stranger wondered if the boy were bright enough. Well, it didn't matter. If he failed, there were other heroes. He had got what he wanted from that boy. He stroked the cow's flank, as she chewed her cud beside him. By evening, the boy had come down with a bundle. Perhaps a bag of gold, or even the goose. He'd have heard it, if it were the harp.
The next day the boy went up again, and spent the day. He came down again with another silent bundle.
On the third day, when Jack returned, the sound of song brought the stranger to his feet. The cow, who had wandered off to graze, wandered back to stand beside him. Both watched as the vine tumbled and the giant fell with a thunderous bellow.
The stranger picked up his pack and led the cow back down the hill to the place where the giant had fallen. When he found the body, he took a rope from his pack and fashioned a harness.
"You'll have to help," he said to the cow. "If you can understand me."
The cow seemed to nod, and she turned to accept the harness. The man took the rope and tied it to the giant's ring, which was, thank heaven, a little loose. Together they pulled the ring from the giant's finger, and the man rolled it away from the body to a clear space. He held it upon its edge, like a wheel.
"All right," he said, and he held his breath as the cow stepped through the ring. The cow was now so old. Would it work?
Yes. Yes indeed. A young woman stepped from the other side of the ring.
"Grandfather!" she said, and the two of them embraced, the old man with tears in his eyes.
"I feared you would be old," he said. "Like the cow."
"I'm only twenty," said the girl.
"Old for a cow."
"But not for a woman."
The two smiled at one another. The man turned and struggled to tip up the ring again.
"Come. Let us find your sisters."
"Where are they?" asked the young woman, as she helped him pick it up.
"By the sound of her singing, at least one is at the other end of this vine. With that boy, Jack."
The girl, now young and strong, took the ring from her grandfather and began rolling it along the fallen vine.
"Does she have to marry him?"
"He has shown himself more worthy than I thought," said the old man, but the girl made a rude sound with her lips. "But no. She has her own choice. You know that."
"I'll bet she marries him, anyway."
"If she loves him, she certainly will," agreed the old man.
The prolific Camille LaGuire has written several novels, novellas and even a screenplay. To learn more about Camille, please visit her blog, The Daring Novelist.