Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jack And The Magic Stick


There was once upon a time a poor widow who had an only son named Jack, and a cow named Milky. And all they had to live on was the milk the cow gave every morning, which they carried to the market and sold. But one morning Milky gave no milk, and they didn't know what to do.

"What shall we do, what shall we do?" said the widow, wringing her hands.

"Cheer up, mother, I'll go and get work somewhere," said Jack.

"We've tried that before, and nobody would take you," said his mother. "We must sell Milky and with the money start a shop, or something."

"All right, mother," says Jack. "It's market day today, and I'll soon sell Milky, and then we'll see what we can do."

So he took the cow's halter in his hand, and off he started. He hadn't gone far when he met a funny-looking old man, who said to him, "Good morning, Jack."

"Good morning to you," said Jack, and wondered how he knew his name.

"Well, Jack, and where are you off to?" said the man.

"I'm going to market to sell our cow there."

"Oh, you look the proper sort of chap to sell cows," said the man. "I wonder if you know how many beans make five."

"Two in each hand and one in your mouth," says Jack, as sharp as a needle.

"Right you are," says the man, "and here they are, the very beans themselves," he went on, pulling out of his pocket a number of strange-looking beans. "As you are so sharp," says he, "I don't mind doing a swap with you -- your cow for these beans."

"Go along," says Jack. "Wouldn't you like it?"

"Ah! You don't know what these beans are," said the man. "If you plant them overnight, by morning they grow right up to the sky."

"Really?" said Jack. "You don't say so."

"Yes, that is so. And if it doesn't turn out to be true you can have your cow back."

"Right," says Jack, and hands him over Milky's halter and pockets the beans.

- Jack And The Beanstalk


This next part is a sequel to this story, written by me.

Jack seemed to have some problems with bad trades. Later he made some wild claims about a beanstalk and an angry giant to justify trading the cow away, but no one believed him. His mother was pretty angry with him, and ended up having to get another cow. It wasn't easy, but since she was the hard worker in the family she found one. Why she didn't make the trade herself in the first place, no one knows.

Still pretty angry with Jack, she put him to work milking the new cow, and declared he was now Farmer Jack. He didn't like this at all since work was a dirty word to Jack, so he decided maybe he should make another trade.

So it was off to market again. He took the cow's halter in his hand, and off he started. He hadn't gone far when, this time, he met a funny-looking old woman who said to him, "Good morning, Jack."

"Good morning to you," said Jack slyly, and this time didn't care how she knew his name.

"Well, Jack, and where are you off to?" said the woman.

"As a matter of fact, I was just coming to see you," said Jack.

"No, no, you're supposed to say 'I'm going to market to sell our cow there,' " said the woman.

Jack looked her square in the eye and said, "Look, I know you want this cow, and you know you want this cow, so let's cut to the chase. Now what do you got for me? More magic beans, a sow's ear, a monkey's paw? Well, c'mon, what is it?"

The woman said, "Huh? Oh yeah, I have this here magic stick..."

"That's all! A magic stick? What, do I look like a fool?" asked Jack, clearly annoyed.

"Do you want to get rid of that cow or not?" the woman said, herself a little agitated.

Finally Jack said, "Oh, just give it to me!"

So they made the trade, and the woman walked away with cow number two.

Jack looked at the stick and figured it wasn't quite time to go home yet. How was he going to explain this one? Last time the magic bean thing was a disaster. He had to come up with something for this stick.

So he stood there in the road and started waving the stick around trying to think up ideas. He was trying everything. Pretty soon he started doing some of the most vulgar and appalling things with the stick that any person had ever seen. People going past started to gawk and stare. Jack was clueless, he had no idea how strange he was being.

It got worse! As he continued, travelers began to stop and watch. One guy threw a shiny penny on the ground in front of Jack. Finally, he had his idea!

Jack loudly declared, "I will continue this entertaining exhibition if you people continue to throw money!"

Later that evening Jack went home with a pocket full of cash. His mother saw the money and happily concluded that the hard work from before must have reformed Farmer Jack.

Maybe they lived happily ever after, and maybe they didn't.

- Jack And The Magic Stick


This story was inspired by a few true events, and the Jack in my part of the story was inspired by a real boy. That's all I'll say.

An interesting fact is that the name of the author of "Jack and the Beanstalk" has been lost to time. No one can say who the original author is, although the story has been rewritten many times.

On the other hand, I am the exclusive author of it's sequel "Jack and the Magic Stick."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Who Is Ratty?

I have a ghost story for you this time that happens to be true. I've snuck in other true stories on this site before. You'll have to guess which ones they are. 

Who is Ratty? That is a short but very complex question. Some of you have wondered about it, and some haven't thought about it at all. Most of us use pseudonyms here on the internet. This one is different though. Ratty is a legend. Ratty was a hero. Today I am Ratty, but I'm not the original. Ratty was my uncle, and Ratty was my best friend.

I said this was a pseudonym for me, and obviously it wasn't his real name either. I use it here on the internet, the same as any of you use yours. It was his for a much more interesting reason. I didn't just take his name for just any old reason. I did it because I guess I'm also the one who gave it to him. This is going to take some explaining because it's a very different kind of story.

This story starts when I was only a baby. And yes, although it may sound unusual, I do remember back that far. One of my few remaining memories of my favorite uncle was when he used to bring me piles of change. I used to drop the coins down into the cracks of my grandparents' front steps. It was a fun thing for a little kid to do, and he didn't mind at all.

It was around this time that my uncle was drafted into the army, and into one of the worst wars in our country's history. He became a tank driver, which sounds like it would be a pretty safe job in a war, and it was. He used to send me pictures of him standing beside the tank. One of them showed where they had run over a land mine. The explosion created a huge hole in the ground. The tank was mostly undamaged.

One time, when his tank was in for repairs, he volunteered to go on a rescue mission. My grandpa told him never to volunteer for things like that. He did anyway. They went to rescue some wounded soldiers. They were given a kind of truck that was known for not having any protection at all. This time it was the truck that ran over a land mine. My uncle didn't come back alive.

I was only a little older than two years old at this time. I didn't understand the concept of death yet, so my mom decided not to take me to the funeral. There also wasn't any real way to tell me about him yet. It was about this time that I received a visit from somebody. It might sound strange, but the visitor was my uncle.

I still remember that day. My mom and I were in the kitchen, and my mom had to go down to the basement for something. The back door was open, but the outside screen door was locked. I watched as my uncle came up the stairs of the back porch to the door. I told him that I would go get my mom for him, but he said not to do it because he was in a hurry, and the one he came to talk to was me.

I don't remember much of the conversation anymore, I was only a few years old after all. I do remember that he told me he would be back. My mom came up the stairs soon after he left. After she asked me who I was talking to, I told her it was my uncle. He was her younger brother.

To this day, my mom tells me she heard me talking to somebody up there. She had her hands full, and was frantically trying to get upstairs. Even back then, kids shouldn't talk to strangers. I knew that very well, but he was not a stranger. My mom knew I was telling the truth as I saw it, and that I must have known who I was talking to. Besides, there was nobody there anymore, not even outside.

Shortly after this happened I made a new friend. He was a kid that was a little older than me. He told me his name was Ratty. I knew him for a long time, and we played together the way little kids do. There was one time where I was teasing my new little brother with a worm, and Ratty took it from me and covered it up so my brother wouldn't be afraid anymore. I learned a new lesson.

This whole time, my parents just assumed that I had an imaginary friend. Lots of little kids have them at some point. At the same time all of this was happening, my grandma had the idea to put pictures of each family member on one of her living room walls. For my uncle, she used an old picture from when he was a little kid. It had been packed away for several years, and nobody had seen it in all that time.

When we went to visit my grandparents, I immediately noticed that picture. I identified it as my best friend Ratty. I was much too young to have ever seen this picture before. Nobody else knew what to think of this, but they most likely dismissed it as the imagination of a small child. Wouldn't you?

I continued to play with my friend, but through the years his visits became less and less frequent. They finally stopped shortly before I started school. He still occasionally visited me in my dreams, but it just wasn't the same.

Was this all only the imagination of a child? Or was it something much more special? I don't have that answer for you because I simply don't know. I do know that it was all real to me, and I still remember everything, including his face.

So, who is Ratty? That was Ratty. I use this name to honor my uncle, and my best friend. Thanks Ratty. I'll never forget.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Maggot Man

The little boy woke in the middle of the night to a strange sound in the room. His family was staying in this small house in the woods for their vacation. There was only one bedroom, but the living room was very big. The boy was sleeping on one couch and his older sister was sleeping on the other across the room. It wasn't too bad; the couches were actually almost as comfortable as their beds, and sleeping on them made it seem like they were on a little adventure.

Even so, this was still a strange place for the little boy, and this quiet house out in the woods was far away from the comfort of his own familiar bedroom. He wasn't really very afraid. And as his parents had explained, this house was far out in the woods, so the only thing they'd come across around here would be deer or squirrels. But it didn't hurt to take precautions, so he kept his eyes shut for a few seconds and waited to hear the strange sound again.

Then after a few seconds he heard it again! It was the quiet creak of the floorboards. A third person must be in the room with the boy and his sister. All sorts of strange ideas ran through the boy's mind until he came to the logical conclusion that it was probably just one of his parents. That's when the boy decided to finally open his eyes and end the suspense.

What the little boy saw in the dark room didn't look at all like one of his parents. It was the figure of a man in a dark trench coat leaning over his sister who was sound asleep on the other couch! The man wasn't wearing a hat and his head was completely bald. His skin was so white that it seemed to glisten in the dark. It wasn't a good color though. That pale skin made the boy think of the color of maggots.

Startled by the sickening thought of the man's odd appearance, the boy gave an involuntary shudder that made the couch springs creak ever so slightly. Reacting to the sound, the man slowly turned his head around towards the direction of the frightened boy. As his face slowly came into view, the boy saw that the man's ears looked as if they were smoothly pressed right up against the sides of his head. All the boy could see of the man's very flat nose were the two nostril holes. Strangely, the man had a wide grin on his face. The grin didn't necessarily seem cruel, but it also didn't seem kind either. It was just fixed on the man's face as if it was the permanent shape of his mouth.

The terrified little boy was now hoping with all his heart that this was only a dream! Without any further delay, the boy quickly pulled the covers over his head, hoping the strange maggot man would go away. As the boy lie there cowering in terror under his blanket, he heard footsteps coming across the room towards him. But then for some odd reason they suddenly stopped about halfway, and there was only silence.

After what seemed like an eternity, the boy decided that the man must be gone, so he slowly pulled back the blanket to see that there was now daylight filtering in through the windows. He slowly looked around the room and saw that it was now empty except for him and his sister. The boy quickly jumped up off the couch and ran to his parents' room to tell them what happened. After talking to him for awhile and assuring him that they would investigate this event, the boy's mom and dad tried to convince him that it was almost certainly just a dream. The boy finally agreed to consider that conclusion.

The boy never saw the strange maggot man again, but he always felt that it all seemed too real to have been only a dream. But if it was real, then who was that strange man? More importantly, what was he? Was he trying to harm the boy's sister in some way? His sister claimed to have never seen him. Did the strange man leave because the boy had seen him? The boy wondered what might have happened if he hadn't woken up and seen the maggot man.

And so for many years the boy couldn't help but wonder why they were visited by the strange maggot man.

Monday, January 30, 2012

David

“May you shelter in the palm of the Creator's hand, and may the last embrace of the mother welcome you home.” - Robert Jordan


He had just come home from the doctor. He had been hoping for good news, but instead he was told he had two months to live. He had been sick for a long time. The cancer had struck fast and spread throughout his body like an invading army. Even the chemotherapy failed to slow it down. It had only made him feel and look much sicker.

The chemotherapy was supposed to make him better, he thought bitterly. But all it had done was weaken him and put him in  more pain. His hands and feet were now numb and in constant pain from the damage those treatments had done. And now he was convinced that it was all for nothing.

Before his trip to the doctor, he had felt a little bit better. He was too weak to walk much on his own, but he thought he had more energy lately. He was getting back out a little more, and some of his enthusiasm for life had returned. But now it was all over. His hope had left him when that doctor told him how little time he had left.

He kept thinking that there was still so much he had to do. Who would take care of his family after he was gone? He had so many plans that he now knew he would never get to fulfill. It just wasn't fair that this was happening to him! He didn't even consider himself to be that old yet!

Maybe the doctors were wrong! He hoped that maybe he could stretch his life out an extra month. It wouldn't be enough, but it was better than the awful death sentence he was handed. That's it. That's what he would do. By the shear force of willpower he would stretch his life out to three months. Then maybe, just maybe he would be able to take care of everything that needed doing.

But there was something wrong. He was beginning to forget things. Some of the simplest things he had always been able to do now seemed hard. Did that little dog he was seeing belong to him? He liked dogs. Oh yeah, that was his dog. He wished he could remember its name. He was tired. He needed to sleep.

When he woke up the next day, something was very wrong. He was trapped in this place and he needed to get out! His feet were cold, but every time he put on his socks they would disappear! He tried to tell his family to help him, but they only looked at him strangely. And the things they said to him weren't making any sense! He really needed to get out of here! Why was everything so strange now? It felt as if he was trapped in a bad dream!

The only thing he could remember was that he was sick, so very sick. He felt cold and he hurt all over. The pain had become unbearable, but nobody seemed to understand when he tried to tell them. Even though he told them he didn't want it, somebody gave him some medicine to make him sleep. He didn't want to sleep; he only wanted to get out of here!

As he lie there in his bed, his older sister came to him. It was the strangest thing because he remembered that his sister had died several years ago, not long before his mother also passed on. "Are you ready to go now, David," she asked him. He told her no, he didn't want to go. He didn't want to die! There was still so much left to do! And he was afraid. He didn't know what would happen if he died.

He began to panic, and he called out for somebody to help him. His son quickly appeared at his side and talked to him for a few minutes and adjusted his covers. He was glad to see him, and he told him so. Seeing his son meant everything was still okay. But he was still in so much pain! He fell back into a fitful sleep.

The pain was becoming worse, and he tried to call out to ask anyone to help him. He was thrashing around in his bed weakly, and still the pain was there. He just wanted the pain to go away! He could feel the passage of time, and he knew morning was approaching. Why did he hurt so much!

And then he looked up to see another person at his bedside. It was his mother! He was so happy to see her that he forgot all about the pain. His mom looked down at him with a loving smile and said, "Davey, it's time to go now." And at once he knew it was true, and it was okay.

He sat up and his mother hugged him. The pain was gone, and he wasn't afraid anymore. He knew that his problems here no longer mattered and that everything would be alright. His mom had come to take him home and take care of him. And with those thoughts, he was gone.

Monday, January 16, 2012

What If We're Wrong?

Starry Sky over Palo Duro Canyon
And now for something really different. This post will not be another fictional tale, even though they have been amazingly good thus far. What I will bring you this time is a strange thought that came to me one night as I looked up at the starry sky. I wondered if there might be something looking back down at me, and what might that something be...

We as humans think of ourselves as the top of the food chain. We are the ultimate animal, the supreme intelligence on our planet. All other animals are in some way inferior to us. All evolution has led to us as the greatest finished product. That's exactly what most of us think. But what if we're wrong?

Have you ever watched an ant? Ants are amazing little creatures. They are much more resourceful than we think an insect would be. Ants can work together in amazing ways. Did you know they actually raise their own version of livestock?

There is a kind of aphid that ants keep in the same way we keep cows. The ants feed and milk the aphids, and they keep careful watch over them. The aphids react to the ants in much the same way a cow would react to a farmer. They know what the ants want them for, and they know the ants take care of them. These two kinds of insects work together as master and servant in a symbiotic way.

There are so many things we may notice while watching a colony of ants. But while you are watching the ants, do you ever wonder if the ants notice you there? Some obviously do. But do they take real notice of you if you aren't threatening them? You as a single being may notice the ants, but are there single ants that look up and think, "Hey, look at that human!"

Maybe we humans are just too big and strange for an individual ant to notice or even understand the concept of our existence. If we stomp an ant hill, do the ants think a human attacked them, or do they consider it to be a natural disaster? Maybe some of them actually have noticed that a human has caused their disaster.

So what do we think when there is a huge natural disaster? Some of us consider it to be a natural occurrence. There are some that claim certain natural disasters to be acts of God or even the devil. So they claim it's the fault of a kind of higher being. Is that different than the possible thoughts of an ant?

Before I go on, I want to say that this isn't about whether God exists or not. Only God is qualified to answer that one. What I'm really asking is, what if there are other creatures that are higher than us? If so, do they see us as we see ants? Maybe most of us never know they are there. Maybe the few of us who have noticed them thought they were seeing God or a devil.

We as humans think we have the answers to everything. We think that one day we will be able to unlock the secrets of the universe. Are those assumptions correct? We may never know. At one time, humans thought that putting leaches on sick people could cure them. Now we know that those assumptions weren't exactly correct. What kinds of things do we assume now that may not be quite right?

Scientists say that the universe is ever expanding. So does that mean it has a definite size? A size means that there would have to be an end. If so, then what is beyond that end? And what is beyond the outside of the universe?

Or maybe the universe goes on forever. That seems like an easy answer. Think about an infinite universe for a moment. It just doesn't seem possible if you really think hard. It has to stop somewhere, doesn't it? Maybe the nature of the universe is just beyond our comprehension. That means we don't know everything, and we may not be capable of knowing everything.

So does all of this mean that there are higher beings than us? No. Is there any evidence of the existence if something higher than us? Maybe. Maybe we see such higher beings quite often but we just don't have the intelligence to understand what we are seeing. So some of the more observant among us try to come up with theories about these beings. Spacemen, ghosts, fairies, gods, demons, giants, or many other strange concepts.

These are all only questions. I don't claim to have any answers, only more questions. Do you have your own opinion on these strange things I've asked here? If so, then share it with me. Maybe you have an insight nobody else has considered. Maybe you have more interesting questions. And let me know if you like this strange post. I know this post wasn't another fiction story, but it might be a perfect fit here on Rat Tales. Where else?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dance, Monkey!

Fair  Episode 5

Topengmonyet
Trapped! No matter what Eric did, he couldn't remove the collar from around his neck. There was also a chain that extended from the collar to Professor Moltavio's wagon. Worst of all, it seemed that the evil professor had somehow turned Eric into a monkey! He knew there would be dangers in the city, but he never imagined that things would be this bad!

"You can't keep me here like this! I demand you let me out of this collar and change me back to myself, Professor," exclaimed Eric.

The Organ Grinder looked down at Eric with an evil grin on his face and said mockingly, "Oh, but I can. There is no one who will stop me; not even your stupid friends. Who would believe a lowly monkey over me when you try to tell them your story? And don't try to run away, because I have this..." The professor then pulled a little black box with a red button out of his pocket.

Then the Organ Grinder's eyes slowly widened as he exclaimed with a snarl, "You are wearing a shock collar! If I push this button, or if you try to go too far away, the collar will give you a zap of searing pain!" The evil Organ Grinder then lifted up his thumb in a slow and obvious fashion and plunged it down on the red button! A jolt of agony slammed into Eric, and he fell to the ground writhing in agony!

"Now," the professor slowly said, "when I begin playing my organ grinder, your job is to dance around foolishly and collect money from my adoring audience. As long as you do as you're told, I won't press this button. If I have to press the button in front of anybody, it will just look like part of the act." With that, the evil Organ Grinder gave the button a quick push that sent another jolt through the collar!

After a few moments Professor Moltavio began to turn the crank of the organ grinder, and the most awful sounding music Eric had ever heard began pouring out of the gaudy box. Then the evil Organ Grinder looked at Eric and said, "Dance, monkey!"

Eric didn't want another painful jolt through the collar, so he began to lift his feet up and down in what he hoped would pass for a monkey dance. It seemed to work because random people began to pause and stare at the funny little monkey.

For reasons Eric couldn't understand at all, a crowd began to form around them. Random people began throwing coins near him, and the Organ Grinder urged him to pick them up. When his little basket was filled, he would take the coins to the Organ Grinder. Then poor Eric recognized one of the coin throwers. It was Will! Eric hoped Will would recognize him.

"Will," he called as he danced on. "It's me, Eric! Save me! The Organ Grinder turned me into a monkey, and he has enslaved me! Please, help me!"

Will looked a little closer at him, and exclaimed, "Ha! It's you! How could you let yourself be tricked like this, you idiot! I'd never let anyone put one over on me like that! You deserve what you get!" With the hand that wasn't holding on to his flute, he tossed a few coins in Eric's direction and said, "Now dance, monkey!"

The rotten Organ Grinder gave the monkey a warning look, so the monkey had no choice but to continue his little monkey dance. It seemed as if hours had passed when another of his friends showed up. It was Riley, drinking a cup of lemonade. Eric went to him and pleaded, "Riley, it's me, Eric! Professor Moltavio has turned out to be evil, and he has enslaved me as his dancing monkey! Please save me!"

Riley looked at the monkey, and his eyes widened as he said, "Eric? It is you!" Then a dullness glazed over Riley's eyes, and he said, "You know, nobody ever helped me before, so I'm not gonna help you." Riley then took another drink of his lemonade, dropped a coin in Eric's basket,  and said, "Dance, monkey!"

Soon other musicians began to join the Organ Grinder until they had formed a whole band. The crowd began to clap, and Eric saw his third friend come to the front of the crowd. "Sam," Eric screamed! "Thank god it's you! The other two won't help me, but I know you will! Please help me escape from this enslavement that Professor Moltavio has subjected me to," he said in desperation.

Sam looked down at Eric with a startled look on his face. He leaned in closer and whispered, "Eric, get away from me! What would all of these people think if they found out that I know a dirty little monkey!" Then in obvious fashion Sam dropped two coins into Eric's basket, and in a much louder voice Sam said, "Dance monkey!"

Then a huge painful jolt came through the collar, and Eric went writhing onto the ground! His basket was turned sideways and coins rolled out everywhere! Out of the corner of his eye, Eric saw Riley grab a few coins that rolled his way. Something inside Eric's mind snapped and he didn't care so much about the pain anymore. He struggled to his feet and began screaming, "I'm not really a monkey! Somebody help me! Save me from this horrible bondage!"

In the middle of his mad fit the crowd quieted down to a whisper, and the music came to an abrupt halt. But the monkey was flabbergasted to see that the people weren't looking at him! Every member of the crowd had their back to him, and he heard whispering tones of awe from random people in the crowd, "The Mayor! The Mayor!"

The crowd then slowly parted in front of Eric, and a heavy set man in a fancy suit came strolling out of the crowd. As he got close he looked down at Eric and cleared his throat, "Harrumph! What seems to be the problem here? How can I help?"

A flood of relief came over Eric, and he poured his story out to the Mayor. A look of anger came over the face of the Mayor, and he slowly gazed over at Professor Moltavio, and then to the crowd of onlookers. Then suddenly his arms shot up and he looked to the sky and yelled in a cheerful boisterous tone, "Dance, Monkey!"

A loud cheer burst from the crowd, and the music abruptly resumed its horrible frenzy. Coins were flung at the monkey from what seemed like everywhere, some bouncing painfully off of his head. It all continued that way even as it began to get dark. The monkey noticed that some people were now beginning to build a huge bonfire in the middle of the crowd, and it began to light up the night sky.

The music raged on and the monkey danced. The crowd cheered on and on in an animated frenzy. And as more objects were thrown onto the big bonfire, sparks shot up from it into the night sky. One little spark rose higher and higher as if it was determined to last forever. But the end for most things is inevitable, and the spark began to dim. Just as the little spark finally winked out of existence, a cry could be heard coming up from far below, "It's not fair! IT'S NOT FAIR!!!"