The Tale of Jack



The rising sun found them snuggled together on the mattress, barely covered by a crumpled sheet, the warmth between their bodies having kept them comfortable through the night.


The scene would have been idyllic, had it not been for the angry goose honking up a storm outside the window.


Jack groaned and got up, motioning for Finn to stay put, then dragged on his bathrobe and shuffled out into the yard to put down food for Goldie. She eyed him irritably as he did so.


“I’m sorry breakfast is late,” he told her. “But I think you’ll find that these are unusual circumstances.”


When he got back into the kitchen, Finn was standing there in his jeans and nothing else, figuring out the taps to fill a glass with water.


“Is there a cloth?” he asked, peering around near the sink. “I’d like to wash.”


And so it was that Jack introduced Finn to the wonders of a 21st century bathroom, and the equal wonder of water conservation through shared bathing.


By the time Jack’s Mama returned home from her stay in the hospital, the two of them were clean, dressed and fed, sitting on the back lawn, playing with Goldie. She had come through the house looking for Jack, and stood in the kitchen doorway, surprised to see he had company.


“Mama!” Jack cried, jumping to his feet. He rushed up and hugged her, asked if she was okay. She nodded distractedly.


“Who’s your friend, sweetie?” she asked, a slight tinge of worry in her voice that made Jack feel horribly guilty. He turned to see Finn getting to his feet, a nervous expression on his face.


“Mama, I’ve been wanting to introduce you for a long long as I’ve known him. But I haven’t had chance before and...and it just didn’t seem right, you know?”


She looked puzzled for a moment, then light seemed to dawn.


“Jack, you-”


“Mama, this is my boyfriend, Finn.”


Finn approached and held out his hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Ma’am,” he said stiffly.


They shook, as Jack’s Mama looked him up and down carefully, considering. Jack held his breath.


Finally: “You call me Helena, dear. I’m so pleased to meet you.” And Jack breathed again.


“Mama, can I have a word with you?” he asked, leading her gently back into the house.


“What’s wrong, sweetie?”


“Nothing Mama, everything’s great,” he replied, seeing her face light up as she realised that he meant it. “Thing is, Finn’s just moved here and he’s looking for a job, but I thought I’d tell him he could stay with us for a while. Would that be okay?”


His Mama seemed to think carefully, but as always she came to her final decision quickly and keenly. “That should be fine Jack. He seems like a nice young man.”


“Thanks Mama.” He hadn’t told Finn about this idea yet, but doubted that he’d have a problem with it.


“Another thing Mama, you know how you said we could afford to get ourselves a couple of little treats now?”


Her eyes twinkled. “Yes?”


“, I’d like to buy a...a bigger bed.”


“A double?” He nodded. “I’m sure we can stretch to that Jack, you’ve needed a new bed for a while now anyway.”


“Thanks Mama” Jack replied, and bent to kiss her on the forehead. She beamed and cuddled him happily, and they both stood there in the kitchen for a little while, watching Finn play with Goldie.


Then Jack had an awful thought.


“Uh, Mama? There’s one more little thing...”


“What’s that, sweetie?”


“The police are going to come by later this afternoon.”






Jack came out of the veterinary surgery with a spring in his step, walked down the path to the sidewalk and clambered up onto the fence to sit and wait for his boyfriend.


The year that had passed since at all went down had been like a dream. It hadn’t taken long for Jack to get his GED, and now he was taking a long distance course with the city college to get his qualifications as a veterinary nurse. Dr Prince was letting him do some of his practical classes at the surgery and had promised him a job as soon as he’d passed the exams. Jack couldn’t wait.


The afternoon that he’d moved in with them, Finn had met Mr McElgar, who’d offered him a job on the spot. He’d needed another pair of hands, he’d said, and anyone who Jack would consider dating was obviously a person of good character, who could be trusted to pull his weight on an organic vegetable farm. Jack would have questioned his reasoning, if it hadn’t benefitted him so much. It turned out that he was right though; Finn took to the work like a duck to water. He had, after all, been farming organically for countless years, all on his own. The McElgars said he was their most valuable asset. He’d settled into the Bean household like he’d always been there, almost immediately as thick as thieves with Jack’s Mama. Jack sometimes wondered why he’d ever been so worried that day he’d first introduced them.


Jack’s Mama had had her surgery and made an excellent recovery. A few months later she’d found herself bored and restless, so much so that, even though they didn’t really need the extra income, she took a part time job at the library, which she loved. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon at 3, she could be found in the children’s section, reading stories aloud to groups of excited kids, while the rest of her shifts were spent shelving books and helping customers find their favourite authors and look things up in the reference section. It was just her sort of work; useful and surrounded by people. She gave most of her wages to various charities, saying that, all things considered, she didn’t really need it.


Long after the necessity had passed, Dr Atieno had continued his regular visits to the house to check up on her. Soon though, he had to accept that nobody was falling for that excuse anymore, so he stopped bringing his medical bag along with him, and started bringing flowers instead. It turned out that all that talk with Jack in his office that one afternoon, about love and heartache, that had all been about Jack’s Mama. He’d known that she, as stubborn as she was, wouldn’t accept anything from him while she was in a situation where she’d end up relying on him. Jack would have told him that that was dumb, except he had a suspicion that he was right. They’d been dating for a while now. Jack had foolishly given up on seeing his Mama so happy again, and was very glad to have been proven wrong.


Jack and Finn were saving up for their own place and, once they’d managed it, they were pretty sure that Dr Atieno would move in with Jack’s Mama. Possibly, there’d be a wedding in the equation too.


Mr Golightly was in prison, his wife had moved away and remarried, and the people of the town had collectively denied all connection to him after the news of what he’d done to Jack had come out. Jack rarely thought of him anymore. In the bigger picture, he really didn’t matter, and Jack was too busy being happy to spare a thought for him these days.


And finally, Goldie. She still laid those magic eggs pretty regularly. Every now and then, Finn would use one to make pancakes or something and they’d all sit together and eat them. Most times though, Jack would get his Mama to bake them into cookies. Then they’d take the cookies to one of the wards in the nearest hospital for the patients to snack on, or to the weekly financial advice help desk at the library, for the people who were having troubles. The little town of Eastgate had never been so prosperous.

About two months ago, Finn and Jack had taken Goldie to visit a farm on the other side of town where she’d met and taken a shine to a handsome Canadian gander named Ringo, whom they’d promptly purchased and brought home. Just yesterday she’d laid a whole nestful of eggs, and Mr McElgar had told them they have goslings soon.


The afternoon was warm and bright, just like the day, exactly one year ago, when Miss Buford had turned up at their door and all their problems had been solved. That was what they were going out to celebrate tonight, the anniversary. Miss Buford and her fiancé were meeting them at the restaurant and Jack was waiting for the rest of their party. He hadn’t waited long before they appeared in the distance.


His Mama and Dr At- John, he had to get used to calling him (or maybe, someday, ‘Dad’) walked hand in hand on the narrow sidewalk, turning their heads to chat with the McElgars who strolled along behind them. And at the back of the little procession, towering above them, was Finn, handsome and cheerful, in the going-out clothes that Jack’s Mama had picked out for him. Jack hopped off the fence as they drew close and got hugged by everyone in a brief little brawl of merriment, and then they were off again, Jack and Finn in between the two other couples, arm in arm. Every now and then, his Mama would reach back without looking and touch his hand.


He remembered, not so long ago, seeing a couple of young men and an elderly lady, a relative he’d guessed, walking together in the street, and feeling pangs of jealousy. No jealousy anymore though, oh no.


He had everything he wanted.


Surrounded by his favourite people, he walked down the sunlit street with a light heart.




From the other side of the street, in the shadow of a silver birch, a man dressed in an ornate green suit watched the happy group go by. A satisfied smile briefly crossed his face, closely followed by a look of tender sadness...


Then he turned and walked away.  


Chapter 8 ~~~~~~~~ Back to Jack and the Beanstalk ~~~~~~~~               


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