Wednesday, June 7, 2017


It's that or starve

"Feed store has these new GM seeds on sale. An introductory offer, like. Know you & your Ma ain't got a lot of money. You might want to check it out." The grizzled old man nodded, climbed into his F150, and slammed the door.

The younger man strolled down to the Co-op and pushed the door open.

"What can I do you for, Jack?" Don looked up from the centerfold of "American Tractor." Jack waved, then wandered up and down the aisles like he was looking for something. He ended up at the display of seeds and looked at the "50% off" sign.

"I sure could use a few seeds, John," he said. "These any good?"

"Them? I hear they grow real well." Jack picked up a packet and came over to the counter. "Here's the thing," he began, but Don held up his hand.

"No money, no seeds. Put 'em back Jack."

"Look, it's only a dollar. You know I'm good for it. Besides, Bessie gives real good milk. I can bring you a gallon tomorrow. That's worth a dollar and then some."


The sun was setting when he got home, so he just hoed a short row at the edge of the garden, sprinkled the 20 or so seeds in, and scuffed the dirt over them with his foot. Then he went in to supper.

His mother was ladling vegetable soup into bowls and setting them on the table. Jack put spoons and napkins out and sat down to eat.

"Have a good day Jack?"

He nodded his head, still shoveling in the soup. It was his first meal of the day.

"Find a job?" He shook his head.

She sighed. "Jack, did you even look?"

"Something better. I got some of those new genetically whatsit seeds. Traded to Don over at the co-op for 'em. Already planted 'em. We'll have some good beans in a month or so."

"Jack, you need to get off your ass and get a job. A couple of handfuls of beans just doesn't cut it. We won't get through the winter unless something changes."

Jack got up and came around the table. He hugged his mother and laid his head on top of hers. "Things will change, Ma. You'll see. I'm lucky, remember?"

"Like with that frying pan scheme? No sooner did you get free of that then you ended up in a fire. You couldn't sit down for six weeks."

"I'm fine now, there's not even a scar. I'm going to bed, and tomorrow I'll weed and water the garden."


Jack wasn't sure at first what woke him. He had heard something out of the ordinary. He rubbed his eyes and sat up. It was dark, so it must be early, but then he realized the light was green. Something was blocking the window. That's what had awakened him! The window had actually shattered. He pulled his boots on and went to the front door. He pulled it open, to be confronted with an impenetrable mass of greenery. Slammed that door shut, grabbed his axe off the wall, and opened the back door. This one was clear, so he ran outside and around the corner of the house.

"Mary, Joseph, and all the saints!" A tree had grown up beside the house and it was already taller than he could see. Elongate objects dangled from the tree here and there, but they were so small, or so high, that he couldn't really see what they were. He ran around to the front of the house, where one of the branches of the tree crossed directly in front of the door. He heaved up his axe and started chopping. After a few stout blows he heard a faint sound from above and looked up. One of the objects was falling. It crashed to the ground and spurted green juice everywhere. It was a bean pod 20 feet long.

"Jack, chop off a few pieces of that. We'll have bean soup for supper."

"Ma..." then he stopped and shook his head.


The beanstalk didn't get any wider after the first night, and most subsequent growth occurred higher than the roof of the house. Jack sold a few beans, and traded some to neighbors, but for the most part his mother canned them. He traded canned beans five to 1 for empty cans at the co-op.

By late June he was already sick and tired of eating beans. This was going to be a long winter!

publ. The Simian Transcript, 2010

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