This one came from looking over and seeing that my coffee cup was empty. How it got that way I am not sure. But it was obvious to me there was a story to be found in the bottomless pit of my coffee cup.
Of all the coffee cups on all the tables in all the seven worlds, this had never happened before. Jack’s Coffee Cup was empty.
Though Jack had traveled far and wide from Old Cathay to Timbuktu, his Cup had never been empty.
Though Jack had experienced adventures even Christopher Columbus would have envied, his Cup had never been empty.
Though Jack consumed more coffee than the student body of a university, his Cup had never been empty.
How had this come to be? Wasn’t the Universe aware of the Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt never ever let Jack’s Cup run dry.” What had led to this life-and-death dilemma? Why was it so important that the Cup never run dry?
It all began with a cow. Not just any cow. A cow named Bossie. One morning Jack went to the barn to milk Bossie. Bossie kicked Jack in the leg, not once but three times. Now this wasn’t like Bossie. Bossie had never liked Jack pulling on her teats for the liquid gold the cow produced morning after morning after morning. She especially hated his singing, “One teat. Two teat. Pull.” But she had not protested so vigorously before. We could blame it on age but Bossie was only two years old. In human years, that wasn’t even middle age. No, it must have been those little green men who had visited her the last three days.
“That’s the third time,” Jack’s Mom said. “We can’t have that in a cow. Pretty soon our insurance will refuse to reimburse us for the injury. Take that animal down to the cow auction and get a good price for her. And buy us a gentler sort of breed.”
Jack protested. He was just as masochistic as Christian Grey and he loved the pain. But Mom was insistent. Bossie had to go.
He loaded Bossie up on the bed of his red Ford truck and headed for the auction. Down at the intersection, he took the wrong turn and ended up in a dead-end.
“Oh, my gosh. I’ll be too late. Mom’s gonna kill me.”
From the side of his truck, Jack heard, “Are you Jack?”
Jack looked in his side mirror. A rather small man all outfitted in green with a top hat approached him.
“You are Jack?” the man said in the Irish-est accent you ever wanted to hear.
“The last time I checked my birth certificate I was Jack.”
Jack jumped out of the truck.
“My name is Seamus. Not the Ulster Seamuses but the Dublin branch.” The man reached out with his tiny hand and took Jack’s hand and they shook.
Jack was a friendly sort of fellow. Everybody in the Seven Counties said so. He gave the small fellow a smile and said, “Please to meet you.”
The little fellow continued, “That’s a fine cow you have there.”
“I’m taking her to auction.”
“I’d like to give you an offer for your cow you can’t refuse. Six beans.” He took six small beans out from his wallet and passed them over to Jack.
The beans felt warm in Jack’s hand and they had a rich brown texture to them. Of all the beans Jack had seen over the years–and he’d seen quite a few–these were the most beautiful.
“No can do.” Jack passed the beans back over to Seamus.”Bossie here is the best of cows and I can’t let her go for six beans.”
Seamus laughed. “That’s not what I hear. You keep things up with Bossie pretty soon you won’t have a leg to stand on.”
Well, Seamus had Jack on that. “These are magic beans. You do know that?”
“And because you’re driving such a hard bargain, it’ll be five beans and not one bean less.”
“You said six beans.”
“That was before. This is the present. Five beans. Take them or leave them before I can change my mind.”
Jack hemmed and hawed for the next little while. Since Seamus had won the Zig-Ziglar-Salesman-of-the-Year Award six years in a row, it didn’t take long before Jack was back in his truck and on the road home.
Mom gave her one-and-only a big hug. “What did you get? What did you get?”
Jack puffed out his chest with pride. He was so proud of himself his pride had pride. “Five beans. Five beautiful beans.”
Mom knew she had a dolt of a son. But she never realized that he could be this doltish. “Five beans? You sold our cow for five beans? Just wait till your father gets home.” Now Jack’s father was long gone to the happy hunting ground in the sky.
But the woman’s subconscious always produced the words when Jack was being a bad boy. Like that time he fell down and broke his crown. She’d warned him about Jill. And her prophecy had come true. Jill stole Jack’s pail of water. Mom should have understood that Jack was going through puberty and he just couldn’t resist Jill’s charms. She was that kind of girl.
Mom took one look at the five beans and out the window they went. Then she went to her room, crying. There would be no supper for Jack tonight.
That night there was a huge noise behind the kitchen. It was like three flying saucers were landing. They weren’t. It was those beans, sprouting into a giant bean stalk.
The next morning, at five a.m., Jack put on his overalls and grabbed his pail and went out to the barn. No, Bossie. Where was she? Panicking, he ran back to the house and woke his mother up. “Somebody stole Bossie.”
Two slaps across the face brought Jack to his senses. “Oh, the beans.” He shook his head. “Bossie may have been a pain but she sure gave good milk.”
Jack looked out the kitchen window. He saw the bean stalk. “Oh, geez. Look, Mom.”
Mom gave the bean stalk a incredulous gander. “What the….”
“I’ll double that and raise you a What the f***”
Mom and Son stepped out onto the back porch. Their eyes were giant saucers. Finally Jack said, “Well, there’s nothing to do but climb.”
After a large bowl of porridge, Jack dressed in his lederhosen and his lederhosen hat and his lederhosen boots. He said his farewells to Mom. “Don’t wait up. I may be late.” Then he took his first steps up the bean stalk.
A half day later he was climbing.
A day later he was climbing.
A week later he was climbing.
He was tempted to look down. Knowing he had vertigo up the ying-yang, he did not look down.
Then, after taking a break for the Sabbath, he found his footing on land. He stepped out through the clouds and saw the most magnificent sight ever. This was Oz and Shangri La and Machu Picchu and Versailles and Buckingham Palace all rolled into one. Needless to say, it was a big WOW. And it left Jack breathless. He fell to the ground to keep from passing out from all the splendor.
After sitting on the ground for about a half of a millennium, he recovered and got to his feet. He stepped onto the brick road. It could have been the Yellow Brick Road. Only it was a rainbow of colors.
After a long time and the accumulation of several callouses on his feet, he reached a large wooden door. Just as he was about to knock, a cow approached him. “Don’t do that.”
Now Jack had seen the re-runs of “Mister Ed”. So he knew that horses could talk. But a cow. He slapped his face several times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.
“You’ll be sorry if you knock on that door.” Cow gave Jack a huge cowish grin.
“You’re a cow. You can’t talk.”
“Now you tell me.” Cow gave Jack one of those I’m-going-to-have-to-be-patient-with-the-boy looks.
“Why shouldn’t I knock. It’s rude not to knock.”
“I’m telling you it’s not something you want to do.”
“Oh, here’s the why-not. There’s always a why-not. Nobody ever listens to Cow. You think the Wicked Witch of the West and Ultron were bad asses you ain’t seen anything yet.”
“What do you mean?”
Cow finally had gotten Jack’s attention. “You-know-who resides inside and he don’t like visitors.”
“No, silly.” Then Cow leaned over and whispered, “Giant.”
From inside the building came a voice. A big big voice louder than a hundred loud speakers. “Fie fih foh fum. I smell the blood of an American.”
Another voice yelled at the big voice, “No, stupid. America hasn’t been discovered yet.”
“Oh. Fie fih foh fum. I smell the blood of a Frenchman.”
The voice again. “Come off it. We’re not in France.”
“Oh, right. Fie fih foh fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.”
Cow passed over some cologne. “Spritz yourself with this. Quick.”
Jack shot each of his underarms and passed the bottle back over.
Cow motioned for Jack to hide in the bushes.
The wooden door opened, and out stepped Giant. He was so big he would have put Cyclops to shame.
“Well?” a cuckoo bird said from the Giant’s shoulder.
“It’s just Cow and that smell. That p.u. smell. I hate that smell.” Giant turned and went back inside.
Cow put one of his hooves inside to keep the door from completely closing. Then Jack heard some music.
“That stinkum-delight smell has got to go.” Cow spritzed Jack once more. “This one is the no-smell spritzer.” Then he pushed Jack inside.
“What should I do?”
Cow handed Jack a list. “Get these and your future will be made.”
“Why am I stealing a Forever Cup?”
“It’s what makes the other stuff work. And please make sure it has coffee in it. If it’s empty, everything goes kaput-sky. ”
“Yes, and you’ll have one heck of a run of bad luck. And I mean bad.
Jack tippy-toed inside the massive building. The hall was large. Big. Humongous. In fact, it put the huge in humongous. Giant-sized furniture was everywhere.
He fell dizzy on the floor from the awesomeness of it all. But he soon recovered, knowing that danger was only a giant away.
Jack checked Cow’s list. The items were written in an elegant cowish script. Then he went looking. He found the ice creamer maker in the kitchen along with the Forever Cup. He knew it was the Forever Cup because it had Forever Cup painted on it. And yes, it had coffee in it. The blackest, nastiest coffee you ever wanted to taste.
Finally it was the goose’s turn. You’ve heard the term, “cooked your goose,” before. When he picked it up, the goose woke from a sound snooze. Not knowing what was going on, it started crying out, “Thief. Thief.”
Cuckoo heard the goose and woke Giant.
Jack put Goose under his arm, the ice cream maker under the other arm and the Forever Cup into his backpack. He headed for the door as fast as his legs would carry him. Cow held the door open for him.
Once Jack was outside, Cow slammed the door shut. Knowing how sensitive Giant was to smell, he did a humongous poop-a-rama right there on the doorstep.
“Jump on my back,” Cow said.
As Cow and Jack galloped off into the sunset, Cow yelled, “And a hi-yo Silver.” And down the bean stalk the two went. Then touchdown, and Jack ran for the barn. Back with an axe, Jack went to work chopping the stalk down. Unfortunately he lost the barn. Giant crashed on it, turned over and took his last breath. Cuckoo surrendered.
For the next fifty years, Jack prospered. He made the best ice cream throughout the Seven Worlds. He paid for the ice cream materials with Goose’s golden eggs and Cow became a big Wall Street hedge fund manager, manager of all of Jack’s money.
Every thing went hunky-dory until Cuckoo escaped and went about the countryside causing mischief. And his greatest act of evil was draining the Forever Cup, leaving Jack with only one message.