The neighbors used to criticize me. Said I was too hard on Jack. Always picking on him. Like the time I made him take the cow to market. I could have done it but I had to teach him. A farm boy can’t make a pet out of an animal we raise for food.
Besides, I wanted him to learn responsibility. Not grow up a dreamer like his father. Didn’t want him to do to some girl what John did to me. Just walked out when Jack was 2. Never said a word.
I’ve managed. After all, I was born on this farm and know how to do everything. It’s been lonely without a man but I’ve never complained. Didn’t want to give the neighbors anything more to gossip about. We were getting by until last summer’s drought. Burned up the wheat in the field. And then with the chickens getting Newcastle’s… that’s when I knew we had to sell “Patches.” That’s what Jack called her. My first mistake. Letting him give the cow a name.
The day he went to market, I was on edge all day. Couldn’t wait for him to get back. When I saw him, I practically ran down the road to meet him. “How much did you get?” He just stood there staring at me. Fists clenched. “Come now,” I laughed. “None of your monkey games.” I thought he had done really well and wanted to surprise me.
When he opened his hand and showed me the few round blue beans, I went crazy. Started yelling and beating him around the face. The beans flew out of his hand and he took off across the field toward Patches’ old stall.
I went into my room and lay down on the bed. Never fixed supper that night or said “Good Night” to Jack. After awhile I began to feel bad, I had never hit the boy before. We only had each other. But I was just too tired to get up.
Next day when I woke up, my room was so dark. It scared me. I looked out the window and saw a huge vine covered with big leaves. Almost like a thick corn stalk that went up and up.
“Jack! Come, see what’s happened. Hurry. This is really something.” When he didn’t come, I went to his room. Maybe he was sulking, I thought. He hadn’t slept in his bed. I was so worried, but I didn’t say a word to anybody. Three days went by. Finally, on Saturday, when I was out chopping wood I heard him calling. “Mother! Mother! Come quick. Bring the axe.” I ran around the house just in time to see Jack jump off the vine with a giant hulking down after him. For once, Jack really moved, He grabbed the axe and chopped through the vine, knocking the giant’s body against some rocks in the field. Killed him right away, I think.
You know the rest. Jack’s pockets were filled with gold and jewels. Storybooks said we lived happily after. But that’s not really true.
I never had a happy day after that. Felt like such a failure. What mother teaches her son to steal! I had brought up a common burglar.
We don’t ever talk about the past. Don’t talk much at all. He insisted we move to the city where nobody knew us. Now he does pretty much whatever he wants to. And I get dressed up every day and wonder how to pass the time.y