Auntie's Fairly Flailing Tales #1:
Jack, The Giant's Life Coach
In these so-called modern times, human beings preoccupied with technological novelties seldom consider that outside the comfort of their convenience zones, monstrosities still exist. Now and then an open-minded soul or a basic cable viewer might ponder the possibility of an anomaly such as Bigfoot, a shape-shifter, or a celebrity game show host. Yet even under the influence of an unpredictable nostrum– prescription, O.T.C., legal, or otherwise-- one could never have imagined a creature so terrifying that the beast would make Grendel’s mother seem like a school crossing guard. I am referring, of course, to Jack’s old lady.
Ninety seconds in her presence would cause one to jump off the wagon for good–-or back on, depending on the individual’s personal background and emotional history. This was an unfortunate break for the lad, who–while he wasn’t particularly great himself– was nonetheless the great-great-great-great (etc.) grandson of the legendary Jack the Giant Killer whose valiant deeds had earned him an illustrious–albeit honorary– place at King Arthur’s Round Table. This noble lineage had been inherited from the paternal side. Exactly how Jack’s pater had happened to have chosen such a mismatched mater for a life partner has never been satisfactorily explained. Let’s leave it at that. If it bothers you so much, click “Help.” Or go to “Restart.”
Where was I? The woman who’d given birth to our protagonist would have frightened a food addict away from a buffet restaurant on All You Can Eat Night. Apart from her hideous dental condition, an effect of a general tendency to “let herself go,” she wasn’t unattractive for a woman her age. But even if she’d been a veritable knockout, no man in his right mind would have remained in the same room with her, so intimidating was her hair-trigger temper.
Guards from the maximum security state prison would send her emails asking for advice. Upon her approach, pit bulls specifically bred and trained as attack animals would whimper and bolt in retreat. Walnuts on special at a supermarket three blocks away would crack open merely from the sound of her voice. She was the most frightening woman in the world.
Sane men obviously avoided her but poor Jack could not escape her constant hysterical, spirit-killing harangues. The withering deprecation and capricious demands constituted flat-out child abuse continuing into Jack’s young adulthood. No wonder he actually looked forward to her sending him our on errands just for temporary respite, but, as you may well imagine, it was sheer torture returning home.
“ ‘Bout time you showed up, you little twerp!” she screeched.
“Sorry, Mother. The bus was late–“
“What did it do, take a detour to Tijuana?” She stuck out her flabby right arm and wiggled her fingers. With a sneer designed to express both menace and delight, she watched Jack squirm as he fumbled through his pockets. When he finally produced a little plastic sandwich bag, she snatched it from him like a toad snatching a fly with its lightning-quick tongue.
She held the transparent bag up to the light, the better to examine the contents. “What is this– some kind of joke? Don’t look at me as if I had five heads! You know what I’m talking about. Where’s the other one, the real bag?”
“Excuse me, Mother, I really don’t –“
The ogress lurched forward and grabbed her son by the neck. With her other hand she thrust the bag into Jack’s face and squeezed it into his nose. “See that? Look at the crap you bring home to me. Stems and seeds. What the hell am I supposed to do with stems and seeds?” With that she took the bag and tossed it straight out the window into the alley below. “I ought to throw you out, you good for nothing son of a – where do you think you’re going? Yeah. That’s right. Run! And don’t come back!”
As downcast as the rejected purchase in the alley, Jack was left with no other refuge in which to flee. That the damp and garbage-strewn cul de sac would be an unsuitable place to spend the night hadn’t previously crossed his mind. For one thing, there was nowhere for him to sleep, including a discarded mattress, filled with stains of unknown origins and undoubtedly the current home of several thousand individuals of Cimex lectularius, a species which had of late notoriously emigrated to Jack’s native city. In any case their temporary quarters was not lying in its normal flat position but rather propped up against the building’s communal trash receptacle. Even so, the question of where Jack might rest his head was moot, for from the a window above another object had been hurled– this time a box of beer cans and bottles accompanied by instructions--“Hey, Useless–-recycle these!”– which hit him squarely on the back of the head, effectively knocking him unconscious and laying him belly-down on the ground, a hodgepodge of mud and the crumbled remains of paving stones.