Make a New Plan, Stan

 The door was huge, the handle a good six feet from the ground. I tested it, and the latch moved easily. I put my shoulder to the door and shoved as hard as I could. It opened, slowly at first, but then with rapid acceleration. The balance must have been better than I imagined. The door crashed into the wall with a noise that echoed all around the house. Oh well. I was going to have to announce my arrival at some point. Maybe this way I came across as assertive, and not dizzy with terror.

The front door opened directly into a living room. A table was set for an evening meal. I tried not to think of what might be on the menu. A log fire roared in the hearth. Two ancient armchairs, the backs folded forward like wings to hide the occupants, faced the fire.

Suddenly a head popped round the side of one of the chairs.

“Steady, Eddy. Mind the paintwork.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t expect it to open so easily.” Even as I said it, I realised any impression of assertiveness had flown out of the window.

“Well? Close it then. You’re causing a draught.”

“Right.”

I turned and closed the door in what I hoped was a manner every bit as assertive as I had opened it, but much quieter.

I turned to face the room. The occupant of the armchair had risen and stood with his back to the fire, glaring at me.

“Well? What do you want?” he barked.

“I’ve come to see the giant,” I said.

“You’ve found him. So what do you want?”

“You?”

“Me.”

“You? You’re the giant?”

“Are you a bit simple, Simon? Did I not say that? Now come on, what do you want? Spit it out.”

“Um, it’s just, well, look, aren’t you a bit small to be a giant?”

He pulled himself up to his full five feet six. “Being a giant isn’t all about size, you know.”

“Well no, I suppose it’s not, but it’s quite a big part.”

“Oh, I see. Yeah, I’ve met your sort before.”

“Sorry?”

“You and your prejudicial attitudes. You come round here with your preconceived heightist bigotry, telling dwarves they have to be below a certain height and giants the same. Why don’t you go back to South Africa.”

“Sorry? South Africa?”

“Yeah, with all your other apartheid friends.”

“Apartheid? Oh, no, apartheid doesn’t mean ‘apart height’, it means, it means….” I saw his defiant expression and decided it wasn’t worth pursuing. “Anyway, they’ve abolished it now.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Watusi and pygmies living in harmony. It’s a beautiful thing.”

The giant grunted, reluctantly putting his accusations of height bias aside.

“So, what’s the skinny, Vinnie?”

“Pardon?”

“What’s on your chest, Chester? What’s up, Doc?” He heaved a sigh. “What… do… you… want?”

“Oh, that.” I turned sideways in a futile attempt to hide the scabbard hanging from my belt. “Well, I was, um, I was just in the neighbourhood, you know, and I, um, I thought…”

“You’ve come to slay me.”

I nodded miserably. “Sorry.”

He waved his hand dismissively.

“Oh, I’m used to it. It’s the story of my life. When you’re a giant, you’re going to attract giant-killers. Stands to reason. When you’re a big man, there’s always a little man that needs to prove himself. It’s like the gun-slingers in the old west. Still, you don’t look the type. Normally they’re all mouth and trousers, swaggering around with a nasty line in insults. What’s your story, Corey?”

“They said you were an ogre.”

“Well, I’m a bit grumpy first thing, you know, before I’ve had my first cup of Joe, but ‘ogre’ is pushing it a bit.”

“No, I mean, like a real ogre, all stamping on houses and grinding bones to make your bread.”

“That’s racist, that is. Giants are no more genetically predisposed to violence than people of so called ‘normal’ stature. Where’d you think the term ‘gentle giant’ comes from? Anyway, that’s dwarves, that is, grinding bones. Vicious little bastards they are. And why would I make bread out of bones? That’s just plain disgusting. Give me wholemeal over bone meal any day of the week.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just, they were so convincing.”

“Who were?”

“The villagers.”

“The villagers. Right. And you spoke to them all, did you? You were elected by general consensus of a town meeting.”

“No, not exactly.”

“No. In fact, I bet you spoke to just one person, right?”

“Well….”

“The bitch!” The giant slammed a fist into his palm. “The conniving, bitter, dried up old cow.”

“No, it was a little old widow woman.”

“Yeah, that’s her, the evil little harridan. She gave you some tale of woe, did she? Cry on your shoulder? What was it? Did I slaughter her family? Raze her cottage to the ground? What?”

“Um, you withered her crops.”

“Ha! Her ‘crops’ were withered long before I arrived on the scene.”

“And you dried up her cow and, um…,” I screwed up my eyes in concentration, “… something about a goose, I think.”

“Really. And how did I do that, do you think? How exactly does one go about drying a cow up?”

“But she was crying and trembling in fear and everything. And the beanstalk, well, that was in her garden. She said after I, um, you know, I was to come back and chop the beanstalk down.”

“She can’t do that! I have a court order. My lawyer has sent her the papers. I have right of way to access my property. I mean, how else am I meant to reach my front door? Fly? Right, that’s it. I know she’s an old lady and everything, but I am not standing for that. I’m going to teach her a lesson she’ll never forget.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked, my hand dropping to my sword hilt, though my heart wasn’t in it anymore. To be honest, I wasn’t really that keen to start with, but her tale of woe had incensed me. Besides, she was an old lady. How could I say no to slaying her giant?

“I am serving her an injunction, that’s what I’m going to do. Sending slayers to trespass on my property? I’m not having that, Matt. I’m going to hit her with a restraining order, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to sue her for every last bean she has.” Suddenly he slumped and let out a sigh as haunting as death.

“Oh, what’s the point?” he said. “Seriously, why bother? She’s just a mean old woman, and the only way she can get any attention is to cause mischief. They all hate her in the village, you know. Oh yes. She tried to get the maypole taken down on health and safety grounds. If the tavern stays open one minute past closing time she’s onto the authorities. No wonder she lives on her own. I have every right to access that beanstalk, every right and she knows it. But she’s not going to stop, is she. No, not her. She’ll keep harping on about it until one of us is six feet under. And all the time it’s eating into my nest egg. Do you have any idea how expensive lawyers are?”

“Can’t you reason with her?”

“Ha! You think I haven’t tried? It’s like reasoning with a brick wall. Worse, because you don’t expect a wall to ever give way. No, she’s going to keep sending slayers and barbarians and, and, I don’t know, dragons probably until I’m dead or gone, and I’m damned if I’m going to move just to please her.”

“You know, there might be a way,” I said. “I mean, if she’s not going to compromise.”

“What, bend over and let you chop my head off? That’s going to happen.”

“Well, that’s one way, but if you want to keep your head, there might be another way.”

“What do you mean, Dean?”

“Well, on my way up here I couldn’t help noticing that the beanstalk is pretty ripe. Some big beans up near the top.”

“Ha! You should have seen the bees.”

“So, if you were to plant a bean, say, at the other end of your property, then I could climb back down, give the widow some story about the battle we fought, pronounce you dead and chop the beanstalk down. That would allow her to bother the villagers and you to lead your life again.”

“What? Let her think she’s won? No way, Jose.”

“Well, fine, it was just a suggestion. Of course, if you want to spend every last penny on lawyers and wait for the day a less reasonable giant slayer turns up, that’s your call. I just thought I’d offer.”

I turned and made for the door. As I reached for the latch he called out.

“Wait, wait.”

I turned. I could see the battle of emotions waging war across his face. Finally he shrugged.

“You could pull off a story like that?”

“Sure. And at the end of the day, everyone wins.”

“Why’d you do that for me, Lee?”

“Well, to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to hacking a giant to death. Besides, if I ‘slay’ you, she’s promised me her cow. Should raise more than a handful of beans at market.”

“Okay, that sounds like a plan, Stan. You want to stay for dinner? A drink?”

“No, but thanks for the offer. I think I’ll just get off back to the widow. I left her sharpening an axe.”

“Fair enough,” said the giant, slapping me on the shoulder. “Give the beanstalk a whack, Jack.”

   


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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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