• Sam Palmer

A Modern Fairy Tale: Jack's Beanstalk, Part 1


"Jack! Jack, are you listening to me?"


"Eh?"


"Did you hear a word I said?"


"Speak up, would ya, Betty? I can't hear a damn thing you're saying."


"I SAID OUR INSURANCE NO LONGER COVERS YOUR HEART MEDICATION."


"Oh," Jack stared at his wife across the kitchen table, the opened mail splayed out before her. "Well, how much does it cost?"


"Too much," she pushed her glasses up her nose and sighed. "I think it's time to sell the truck."


"Eh?"


"I THINK IT'S TIME TO SELL YOUR OLD TRUCK!"


"Ah!" Jack looked away in disgust. "I've told you before, Betty. I ain't sellin' Loretta."


"Jack, there's-"


"Eh?"


"THERES NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT, JACK! SELL THE TRUCK OR ELSE WE CAN'T AFFORD YOUR MEDICINE!"


Jack crossed his arms and looked out of the small kitchen window, grinding his teeth as he stared at the yellow siding of the detached garage where his beloved Loretta resided. Betty reached out and gave his arm a squeeze.


"We could always call Junior and ask if he'd be willing to-"


"No, Betty. We ain't asking our son for money."


With that Jack rose, slowly, from the table and shuffled out of the kitchen. Betty sighed, staring down at the mail as she heard the back door open and close.


Jack entered the garage, pulling his handkerchief from his pocket and dabbing at his nose as he approached Loretta. Loretta was a 1958 Chevy 3100, hunter green and just as shiny as the day he'd gotten her. Loretta had been the first car he'd ever bought and she'd been a tough and faithful old bird. Jack had taken a lot of pride in keeping her pristine and well maintained.


He ran one rough hand over her smooth hood, looking through the windows at the clean interior. He'd replaced the seats 15 years ago, camel colored leather. Jack knew he could likely ask $50,000 and fulfill some car collector's dreams. He took a shaky step forward, the idea of someone else gripping her shiny wheel making his frown deepen, but he knew the money was needed.


"Sorry, Old Girl."


He stopped at the garage door, looking back one last time before shutting off the light and closing the door behind him, heading back into the house to make some calls.


_________________________________________________________________________________



"Jack you're sure you don't want me to go with you?" Betty stood holding the screen door open in her blue house dress, a loving but worried look on her face as she watched her husband slowly cross the driveway, Loretta's keys in hand.


"No no, Betty. It won't take any time at all. I'm driving down to Barry's garage. Barry said this guy is gonna pay in cash, so should be quick. I'll be back by dinner."


Betty watched her husband force a small smile, trying to hide his sadness at selling his most prized possession before climbing into the driver seat of Loretta. The last two weeks she had watched him wrestle with it as he made calls to find a seller. Jack gave her a nod and a smile as he drove past her, Betty stood holding the door until she could no longer hear the low rumble of the old chevy. Sighing she turned and headed back into the house to start dinner.


________________________________________________________________________________



"Jack! Good to see ya!" Barry gripped Jack's hand in a warm handshake.


"Barry," Jack nodded.


"She looks as good as I remember."


Jack turned, following Barry's gaze at the green Chevy parked outside the huge double doors of the garage. He nodded but said nothing else before turning back.


"Where's this friend of yours?" Jack peered around the garage, seeing the mechanic's tools, and cars with their hoods up.


"Oh, he's already here! Waitin' inside. Come on, I'll introduce ya."


Barry turned and began walking briskly back into the garage. Jack followed, not quite as briskly, into his office at the back of the shop. Inside, sitting in Barry's chair behind the desk, sat a very short middle aged man. The man broke into a large smile, standing and offering his hand.


"You must be Jack, wonderful to meet you finally!"


Jack's mouth pulled down into a frown at the sight of the short, energetic little man. Leaving his hand extended for slightly longer than comfortable, Jack finally extended his own and they shook hello before the three men all took a seat.


"You're name was, uh-" Jack tried to remember.


"Gordie! Gordie Cano."


"Right, right."


"Barry here tells me he's been trying to talk you out of that 3100 for years, but you wouldn't dream of giving it up. Says you keep it looking as good as the day you pulled it off the lot. Gotta say, I am really excited about this! My granddad had one just like it, and I've been keeping an eye out for one like your Lucy."


"Loretta," Jack corrected, shooting Gordie a look over his glasses.


"Right right, Loretta!" Ignoring Jack's stern gaze, and chuckling to himself.


"Well, she's a good truck. New engine put in in '98. Only got about 25,000 miles on her. Pretty good condition. I think you got a good deal here, er, Gordie." Jack shrugged, and crossed his arms across his chest.


"That's what I told him. I said 'Gordie, you better jump on this. You won't find a better deal out there.'" Barry chimed in.


"That's right," Gordie nodded "This is quite a deal. And I did bring the cash with me, got it right here as a matter of fact." Gordie adjusted and scooted a suit case out from behind the desk where Jack could see.


"But," Gordie smiled, raising one fat stubby finger in the air. "I also have another offer for you. In lieu of the money, here."


Jack stared at Gordie, no longer attempting to hide his thinning patience. "In lieu of the money?"


"That's right," Gordie nodded. "This is going to sound unorthodox, but I assure you, this is the chance of a lifetime. Even for an old timer like yourself, Jack."


Gordie chuckled, but Jack did not seem amused in the slightest. Gordie cleared his throat and leaned back in the desk chair.


"You see, Jack. A few years back I came into quite a rare find. Quite a rare find, indeed. And it changed my life. I used to work a measly 9 to 5, making pennies, hating my job, miserable everyday, struggling to make ends meet. But thats all changed now. I have more money than I could ever need, and the ability to get more should I ever need it. Barry here told me a bit about your situation and why you're selling your Loretta-"


Jack looked over at his friend Barry, who squirmed in his seat.


"And I really wanna help ya out, Jack. You kinda remind me of my granddad, I think. Same hard gaze. A no fuss kinda guy, am I right?" Gordie smiled his toothy smile at Jack.


"Mr. Cano, I have no idea what the hell you are talkin' about," Jack stared across the desk.


"There it is! Right there! Just like granddad," Gordie laughed excitedly. "Well, I'll get right to the point. I want to offer you the same opportunity to have more money than you could ever need! More than enough to pay for your medicine, live out the rest of your days with the missus in peace, maybe leave some money behind for the kids. And it all starts with," he leaned back further in the chair, thrusting his hips forward as he dug into the pocket of his pants. Finally pulling his hand out, he laid it on the desk and opened his palm. "These!"


Both Jack and Barry leaned forward to get a glimpse at what lay in Gordie's fat pink hand. Three pale beans and some pocket lint. Jack's bushy brows pinched together as he squinted, mouth slightly open.


"Are those," Jack looked up at Gordie. "Beans?"


"Yep! But not just any beans, Jack. Magic beans," Gordie whispered the words as if they were a wondrous secret.


Jack stared back at Gordie for a few moments before turning to his old friend Barry "Is this your idea of a joke, Barry?"


"Jack, I'd listen to-" Barry began.


"You two are off your rockers!" Jack roared, gripping the desk as he hoisted his old body out of the chair. "You wanna give me MAGIC beans as payment?! You must think I'm some old fool!"


Jack made his way to the door, hearing Barry's chair behind him screech backward as the man stood.


"Now, Jack. Just wait would ya?" Barry reached out and touched Jack's shoulder. Jack shrugged him off and turned around.


"Barry, you're no friend of mine! Wasting my time with this," Jack motioned at Gordie still sitting at the desk holding onto his beans. "Phooey!"


"Jack, I bought the damn beans myself!"


"What?"


"That's right. I bought the beans myself, two winters ago. Remember when we almost had to close shop? We just weren't getting the business, and the bank was comin' after Jill and me. You remember."


"Yeah," Jack mumbled, remembering well how worried Barry had been. Come to think of it, it had seemed strange how suddenly Barry had been able to make ends meet.


"Gordie had made me a deal. Offered me those beans," Barry motioned to the beans in Gordie's hand "and since I didn't have many other options, I decided 'what the hell'. I'll try anything, at this point. And, Jack, they worked. It's real, old friend."


Jack kept one hand on the door knob, but he stared at his friend. He could see how serious Barry was, and Barry had never been one to tell tall tales. Gordie remained seated and quiet, watching as Jack relaxed his grip on the door knob.


"I brought the money, Jack," Gordie nodded towards the suitcase still on the floor. "You can choose the money and I'll take my beans back home with me. No big deal! But how long will $50,000 last you? How much is that heart medicine of yours? And what happens when they stop covering another medicine, and another? What happens when the house needs a new roof next winter? That money is going to disappear quick, and what will you have to sell then?"


Jack looked at the round faced Gordie, grimacing at the reality of what the man had just said. He let out a slow sigh, and felt his shoulders slump forward as he shuffled back to his chair, Barry following close behind.


"I'm not sayin' I'm takin' the damn beans," he grumbled as he eased himself back into the chair. "But, how the hell do they work?"


Gordie looked at Barry smiling then back to Jack "Well, it's all quite simple, really."

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