…And was rudely awakened the next morning by feet and hands scrambling up his stalk. Jack. That troublesome boy. Jeffery was prepared this time for the discomfort that a boy scrambling up your stalk can bring.
At the other end of the stalk, Jack darted straight under the couch before the Giant could hear him. But the Giant could still smell Jack.
“Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!” shouted the Giant as he walked into the living room, giving Jeffery a nasty glare. “He still hasn’t fixed his rhyming error,” Jeffery sighed.
“But even if there were a boy, I couldn’t eat him,” continued the Giant. “Why did I ever agree to this diet? Well, one teensy boy wouldn’t really count, would it? No! I have to stick to it. I know! I’ll eat something else to keep my mind off the lack of human flesh in my digestive tract.”
The Giant left the room, giving Jack enough time to dart back to the pile of sacks filled with gold. “So that’s why the boy is risking his life by coming up here again,” Jeffery realized. “He’s just a money hungry human.” Jeffery started to extrapolate this characteristic to all humans, but then was reminded of the peddler. “His only goal was to sell beans. Yes, he made money by doing so, but never enough to instill a sense of greed. He was an honest, good man. If only more of humankind could be like the peddler.”
As Jack stuffed coins in his pockets, he kept crouching and jumping, putting his hands in strange positions. “He must be stuck in that videogame mindset of his,” thought Jeffery. “I’m glad I’m a bean and not a human child.” (Although Jeffery was only a day old, beans mature exponentially faster than humans, hence his more rational thinking.)
After this internal musing by the bean plant, the Giant returned to the living room. Luckily for Jack, he had just fallen into the pile of sacks, so he was out of sight. The Giant was carrying a plain-looking, normal-sized goose. It fit nicely in the palm of his hand.
“Foo fo fee fay, a golden egg please do lay,” commanded the Giant. And as sure as Jeffery the bean plant was green, the egg that came out of the goose was golden. After a quick look of admiration, the Giant popped it in his mouth. “Fee fi fay fum…yum!”
The Giant rubbed his stomach in happiness, then his expression abruptly changed. He clutched his mouth with both hands, dropping the goose on the floor, and sprinted out of the room. To the bathroom, Jeffery surmised. You have to watch for salmonella with raw eggs. Even a vegetarian (he was proudly not a vegan) like Jeffery knew that.
Jack took this as his cue to run to safety. But only after grabbing the goose. No surprise. With the goose tucked under one arm and gold coins jangling in his pockets, Jack climbed down Jeffery as fast as he could. The extra weight from the goose irritated Jeffery, so he clenched his leaves until the boy had jumped off.
Jack sprinted into the house, shouting for his mother to come look at his newest surprise. A few minutes later, he was back in his room playing video games. “What a spoiled kid,” thought Jeffery. “He sure has found out how to use his mother. If you give her some gold, she’ll let you do anything—such a push over.”
Jeffery guessed (correctly) that he would be used for more climbing and gold stealing the next day, so he closed his bean eyes and rested.
That night, Jeffery had a peculiar dream. In it, giant glucose molecules were chasing chlorophyll up and down the thylakoid stacks. Up, down. Up, down. Suddenly, everything began to fall apart as atoms lost their covalent bonds. Oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, all tumbling down, down, down—
Jeffery awoke with a start. He was hyperventilating, not taking in enough carbon dioxide. When he realized it was just a nightmare, he began to breathe regularly again. He was drenched with perspiration, but he knew it would evaporate once the sun came out. Better close his stomata now to prevent further transpiration.
A few hours later, Jack was at it again. After two roundtrips, he seemed to be getting the hang of climbing Jeffery. He knew where the best footholds were and which slippery areas to avoid. But it was not any more comfortable for the bean plant.
Jeffery had decided after these few days of observation that Jack had a single-track mind: Climb bean stalk. Get gold. Avoid Giant. Give to mother. Play video games. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. “Humans are so simpleminded.”
Much like the previous two days, Jack scurried under the couch once he popped into the Giant’s living room. The Giant wasn’t in the room, but Jeffery could hear beautiful music originating from elsewhere in the castle. “Maybe the Giant is a sophisticated musician,” Jeffery pondered. “Either that or he is threatening a musician with a nasty death by digestion.” The music began getting louder and more beautiful. Jeffery glanced at Jack, who was at it again, stuffing his pockets full of gold coins. He seemed to be oblivious to the impending danger. Jeffery decided not to warn him. His gratefulness for being bought and planted had been replaced with a desire for Jack to learn his lesson.
Jeffery could now tell that the music was from a harp. “Probably a golden one,” Jeffery reasoned. He reasoned correctly. The Giant entered his living room carrying a gorgeous gold lacquered harp. Curiously, no one was playing it. The Giant was so entranced with the music that he didn’t notice Jack staring at this new find. When the song ended, the Giant issued a single command:
“Fi fee fo flay, I demand for you to play.” And the harp began playing. Unsurprisingly, after the fifth phrase of this piece of music, the Giant was fast asleep.
Jack saw this as his chance. Cringing, Jeffery watched as Jack crept over to the Giant’s slumbering form. He carefully slid the harp out of the Giant’s humongous digits, and placed the instrument gently on the floor. Jack was preparing to bring it down Jeffery (which Jeffery was not prepared for) when the harp stopped playing. And started screaming:
The Giant awoke with a start and yelled, “Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!” He jumped from the couch, spotted Jack, and began lumbering toward him. And Jeffery.
Jeffery began saying his goodbyes for the boy. He was a goner for sure.
“Time for the boss level!”
“What was that?” Jeffery was shaken from his reveries and flashbacks by this strange utterance.
“There it was again! Oh, it was just Jack. Shouting his strange video game references. Which means he’s alive!”
Jack was more than alive. He was fighting the Giant. He was throwing the golden coins at the Giant like bullets. And he had good aim: most hit the overgrown humanoid in the eye. “I guess those sleepless nights of video games paid off,” Jeffery mused with a slight bean grin.
“Fi fi fi fi, you just hit me in the eye!” screamed the Giant. “I guess pain makes him lose creativity,” Jeffery thought.
Jack paused his barrage of gold to sprint toward Jeffery. With the harp tucked under one arm, Jack spiraled down the beanstalk as quickly as he could. This was without a doubt the most painful trip yet for Jeffery. “At least it’s only a boy and his harp—”
“Gah!” Jeffery felt the tip of his stalk snap. The Giant had just gotten on. “This does not bode well for the boy,” thought Jeffery. “Or me.”
But Jack was faster. He was just about at the bottom, and the Giant still had his head in the clouds. Literally. Not figuratively. His head was very much in the task at hand, which included breaking his diet by eating this thief of a boy.
Jack touched down on the ground, but he didn’t run inside. Instead, he called to his mother, “Throw me an axe!” Oddly enough, she had one in hand and immediately tossed it to her son without questioning.
“That’s very brave of him,” thought Jeffery. “I guess he’ll fight the Giant hand-to-hand when he gets on the ground.”
This innocent thought was ended abruptly when Jack swung the axe into Jeffery’s base.
He swung again.
“Oof! What is that boy doing? Why is he attacking me? He should be fighting the Giant, not his bean plant!”
Then it dawned on him. Jack was going to cut down Jeffery to make the Giant fall to his death. “What a cruel, selfish lad.”
Jack continued hacking away at Jeffery’s stalk and life. With each blow, Jeffery could feel his life force draining.
“This wasn’t the way I wanted to go,” he thought. “I wanted death to be from old age, after I had had many children and grandchildren with which to share my stories.”
“Guh!” Jeffery knew in one more swing he would be felled. But Jack and his mother would be safe and probably rich. He was doing the best thing he could with his life: sacrificing himself to save others.