Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beans - Part I

First, I have another story up on North by Northwestern.  You can read it here!

This week begins another multi-post story.  Don't worry, this one will only last three weeks, not two months.  It is a reimagining of a classic fairy tale (you'll figure out which one), but told from the perspective of a minor character.  A very minor one.

Enjoy, and come back next week for Part II!

            “Beans!” rang out the peddler’s voice like a tolling bell.  “Beans!  Beans!”  It must be three o’clock, the prime bean selling time.
            Inside the peddler’s basket, all the beans were clamoring to be sold.  Being bought is an important milestone in a bean’s life, if only because it means the next step is to be planted in that warm, moist, succulent soil known to these parts of the land.  “Oh, how good that would taste on our dry, cracked lips,” all the beans thought (individually of course—no single consciousness for them).
            One of these individual beans was named Jeffery.  He was particularly excited about this day at the market.  He had a good feeling that today would be his day to be bought, allowing him to begin the wonderful life that follows planting.  He sighed, then gave his best bean smile, hoping it would catch the attention of passersby.
            “Mother, mother!  It’s the Bean Man!” shouted a young boy.  His high-pitched, nasally voice hurt Jeffery’s head.  “A buyer is a buyer,” he reminded himself.
            “Moo!”  That’s strange.  Why is there a cow here?
            “Jack, we don’t need any beans today,” replied someone who must be his mother, assuming his mother was not the cow.  “Come, let’s—”
            At which point Jeffery tuned them out.  If they weren’t going to buy beans, they didn’t warrant his attention.  Time to lure in a new customer.
            An hour passed.  The peddler had stopped several pedestrians, but none bought his beans.  Jeffery felt bad for the man.  When he can’t make a living, it means the beans won’t be able to grow.
            “Mister, I’d like to buy a bean.”  It was the same boy from before.  Jack, his mother had called him.
            “Moo!”  There’s that cow again.
            “Take your pick, son,” said the peddler.  “Any bean for that cow of yours.”
            “One cow for a lousy bean?  Do you know how many comic books I can buy with a cow?”
            “No, how many?”
            “Well, I used to be able to buy one, but now they’re so expensive that—But that doesn’t matter!  Why are your beans so pricey?”
            “These are special beans.  One of a kind.  You won’t regret it.  Trust me.”
            “Fine.  I’ll take one.  I have to get rid of our cow anyway.”
            A hand reached down into the peddler’s basket.  Jeffery could smell the sweat under his fingernails and see the dirt on his palms.  “What a disgusting child.  Is the hand coming for me?  No, looks like it’s going to take Theodore.  No, wait—it’s got me!  I’ve been picked!”
            The rest of the beans in the basket began applauding Jeffery.  Beans are a very supportive species, so no hard feelings when a brother or sister gets bought first.  The light of the sun went out as Jack’s hand closed around him.  Through the moist hand, he could hear the end of the humans’ conversation.
            “Thanks for the bean, mister!”
            “No, thank you.”
            Jeffery was suddenly released from the boy’s hand and landed in a dark, soft cave.  “Must be his pocket.  These humans have no respect for beans!  We’re unceremoniously dumped from one place to the next with no second thought.”  Jeffery couldn’t stay mad for long, since he knew that without humans, he would never be planted.
            After being bumped around as the boy ran home, Jeffery began to hear voices again.
            “Did you sell the cow, Jack?”
            “Yes, mother.  And look what I got!”
            All of a sudden, the boy’s hand grabbed Jeffery, a little too tightly for his comfort, and plopped him on the counter.  At least there was light again.
            “You got a bean?”  Was that anger Jeffery sensed in the mother’s voice?  No one told Jeffery that people might be mad at him.  He was taught beans were important agricultural crops, and they would always be needed.
            “It’s a one of a kind bean, mother.  The peddler told me that I wouldn’t regret it.”
            “Oh, I’ll make you regret it, young man.”
            Jeffery watched as Jack sprinted up the stairs to his room with his mother close behind.  “What strange animals humans are.  I’m glad I’m a bean.”
            Jeffery decided to take a nap.  He needed plenty of rest before his big day of growing tomorrow.  He closed his bean eyes, but he was jolted awake as a hand picked him up.  “This is a different hand, much cleaner.  Must be the mother’s,” he thought.  The hand did not hold on to him for very long, for it tossed Jeffery out the window and into the dirt outside.  Jeffery had never felt something warmer, moister, or cozier than this soil.  What a perfect place to grow.  And grow he did.
            He stretched his cotyledons.  Pushed out his roots.  Forced his stem out.  It was hard work, but Jeffery knew it would be worth it.  When the sun came out, Jeffery decided it was time to take a break.
            Some beans grow tall and some grow short.  They have genes, just like humans.  Gregor Mendel knew this.  The humans that bought Jeffery did not.
            “Honey, look how tall your bean grew!”
            “Not now, mom, I’m in the middle of killing evil ninjas on the X-Cube 3!”
            “Honey, you should really look at this plant!”
            “But mom, I’m at level 31’s boss, Zortag the Terror Spewing!”
            “I’ll shoot some terror if you don’t get out here this instant!”
            Jack finally joined his mom outside.  He craned his neck up and up, trying to locate the stalk’s tip.  He couldn’t find it.
            “I told you that you should see it.”
            “I think it’s a magic bean.”
            “Of course it’s magic!  How else could a simple bean grow so tall?”
            Jeffery scoffed at this last statement.  He was never just a “simple” bean.  He was well educated, came from a loving family, and was exceptionally good at astrophysics—hardly the “simple” bean!  And he certainly wasn’t magical.  He just came from a long lineage of very tall bean plants.  So naturally, Jeffery had a sizeable stalk.  A stalk that went up so high it didn’t just touch the clouds, it went through them.  It went up all the way to a castle in the sky.  A castle belonging to the Giant.

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