Darla the Dolt

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    Darla Dean took pride in one simple fact: not once in her life had she ever lost anything. If asked, she could pinpoint any one of her possessions in a heartbeat, and her mother steered her clear of picking fights and gambles (though Darla secretly believed she wouldn’t lose in those, too). This wasn’t to say much, however, as her mother often reminded Darla that the only reason she knew every location of her material goods was because the two were too poor to afford an abundance.

    This perfect streak was tainted when Darla left the house one day with money for groceries and returned empty-handed save for three beans. Her mother screamed, “Have you lost your mind?!”

    With furrowed brows, Darla pursed her lips and said, “Obviously not. These beans are going to make us rich, you’ll see. The lady said they’re the perfect investment. They’ll grow overnight, all the way to the sky!”

    Ms Dean was overcome with anger. “You were lied to! You idiot, you dolt!” she snapped, “I didn’t want any stupid beans, I sent you to get bread and milk! Heaven’s sake, how did I raise such a thoughtless child?! Go, get out of my sight, and throw those precious beans out of the window. Only those of us who have common sense are getting fed tonight.”

    The beans were snatched from Darla’s hand and tossed carelessly into the back garden. Casting them only one hurt glance, Darla accepted her punishment and trailed up to her bedroom, blinking back her tears.

    When she awoke the following morning, Darla found her room lacking its usual brightness. While the sun’s shine kissed some corners of the room, large, thick shadows covered the rest of it. Darla gazed outside of the window and was met with a giant beanstalk that stretched all the way to the sky. The lady hadn’t lied at all.

    Darla threw open her window and leaped onto the beanstalk, climbing upwards as if on a rope ladder leading to the Gods. She climbed and climbed, her arms growing heavy with exhaustion as she reached closer to the top of the seemingly endless beanstalk. Upon reaching the sky, she stepped onto the broad, silver road in front of her, heaving a sigh as she shook her arms and rested. After taking a couple of seconds to regain her breath, Darla started to walk.

    The road was wide and winding, with nothing in sight for the longest while. Eventually, Darla stumbled upon a large house, taller than any she’d ever seen, and sat on its doorstep was an impossibly tall man – at least five times the height of Darla, and that was with the man sitting down! He was thin for his size, with scraggly grey hair and beard, and half-moon glasses sitting on his crooked nose. Darla tiptoed closer to him, catching her own reflection in the man’s heavenly brown eyes.

    “Hello!” she chirped, grinning and waving to the giant.

    He returned her smile but replaced the excitement with a friendly composure. “Good morning. What are you doing here?”

    “I don’t know,” Darla admitted, “I’m awfully hungry, though. I don’t suppose you have something to eat?”

    “You’ll be something to eat if my wife sees you. She insists you are what you eat, so lately she’s been chomping on pretty girls.”

    Darla shook her head. “She won’t want to eat me, sir. I’d turn her stupid. Please give me something to eat, mister. My mum’s angry and won’t give me food, I’m so hungry, I might die.”

    The man lowered his hand for Darla to step into, once again giving her a gentle smile as she grinned up at him. The smile pushed at his wrinkles and his large ears seemed to move back as if to give him more smiling room, leading the man to be overall far more endearing than one would expect from a giant in the sky.

    Darla received bread big enough to live in and a pool of milk, both of which were apparently normal amounts for the man. She happily ate her breakfast, humming her thanks every now and again, but she hadn’t even made a dint in her portions before she was interrupted.

    Angry, heavy steps shook the house, and panic painted over the man’s kind expression. “Goodness, that’s Darling,” he whispered, ushering Darla back onto his palm. “Quick, hide in here.” He placed Darla into the oven, closing it shut seconds before his wife entered the kitchen.

    She was certainly pretty, though Darla prayed that wasn’t due to the lady’s horrendous diet plan. She was twice the width of the giant man, her skin far more plump and smooth. The woman’s hair was long and auburn, but for all her beauty, her green eyes held a nastiness that Darla couldn’t help but despise.

    “It’s been twelve days, Spud,” the woman complained, “and I’m starting to break out! See, right here?” She turned her head and gestured to her hair, in which a streak of white ran through her auburn locks. Her irritation melted with the movement and Darla saw her nostrils twitch. “Oh, Spud, what’s that I smell?

    “Tee-ti-to-tum,
    A gorgeous girl I will become.
    Be her pretty and be her sweet,
    I’ll be her once her I eat.”

    Her husband shook his head. “I’m afraid you’re imagining things, dear. The only pretty girl here is you. Have something to eat and take a rest, you’re clearly exhausted. We can fix your hair after.”

    The woman nodded and left for the living room, where she curled up on the couch and counted golden coins until she fell asleep. Once her snores rumbled through the house, Darla was lifted from the oven.

    “How many girls has your wife eaten?”

    A somber expression painted the man’s face. “Too many,” he confessed. “I don’t know how to get her to stop. I have no right in telling her what to eat, but I just can’t stand it. You mustn’t come back here. Go home, and never return.”

    Darla nodded. “Before I go,” she said, “I want to prove to my mum that the beans truly were magical. May I take a souvenir?”

    “Of course.”

    With great speed, Darla rushed to the woman’s side, collecting as many as the gold coins as she could. The woman’s massive hands had made them seem small, but to Darla they were bigger than cars. She hurried back to the beanstalk and threw the coins down to her garden below, climbing down to meet her bemused mother, brimming with pride.

    When Darla returned to the house, she found the man sat once again on the doorstep. He smiled at her in greeting, although his voice held a slight amusement to it when he chided her:

    “You know, it isn’t nice to steal gold from people.”

    Darla frowned. “Well, it isn’t nice to eat people, either.”

    “Are you here to steal from us again?”

    “I’m certainly not here to be eaten.”

    The man sighed. “Is your mother not feeding you again?”

    Knowing his eternal kindness, Darla nodded vigorously, patting her stomach and pouting in effort to secure his pity. She was once again carried in the palm of his hand into the incredible kitchen and given her bread and milk, which she took to with gratitude and enthusiasm.

    Once she Darla finished her full, the man took her leftovers and told her, “Now, don’t you steal any more of our gold, you hear? Our money is not a souvenir.”

    Darla nodded once and accepted her fate of being carried out of the home. As she entered the living room, however, she spotted a giant purse with glistening gold inside. Thinking herself to be incredibly clever, Darla insisted the giant stop as she claimed to have dropped a ring onto the floor. She was let down to search for it, and she cleverly inched closer and closer to the purse.

    Moving as fast as she could, Darla seized the gold from the purse and ran from the home, laughing giddily as the giant cursed behind her. Getting out of the house meant finding an opening, as the door was closed, but Darla was hit by both luck and misfortune as she raced to the exit: the door swung open. The giant lady stood in its entrance.

    With a violent swiftness, the lady snatched the gold and Darla in one hand, glaring at the tiny girl who trembled in her palm.

    “Don’t eat me,” Darla begged, repeating the plea as she started to sob. “I need the money, please, don’t eat me, I taste bad, I’ll make you stupid, I’ll make you ugly.”

    “You’ll make me a thief,” the giant retorted. “Though you are beautiful. Maybe I could stand to be a thief, if it meant having your golden curls.”

    “I’ll cut you up and eat you piece by piece. I’ll take your little gremlin hands first, so you’ll never be able to steal ever again.”

    True to her word, the lady took Darla into the kitchen and seized a sharp knife. Darla squirmed desperately beneath the woman’s hold, pinned between the kitchen counter and the lady’s hand. Her sobs turned into a scream once the knife sliced through her skin, taking her hand clean off. The woman laughed, weakening her grip as she did so, and Darla quickly fled from her.

    Darla ran as fast as she could out of the house, cradling her bleeding arm to her chest, wrapping the lower half of her shirt around her wrist. Blood pounded in her ears as the pounding of footsteps echoed in the distance; the lady was chasing after her.

    She raced down the beanstalk, screaming for her mother to grab the ax. Her mother did so, hitting the beanstalk once Darla was safely planted on the ground. The lady giant was visible now, and Darla’s mother attacked the stalk more vigorously, until it finally toppled over, giant in tow. She screamed in anguish and crashed the ground, breaking her crown on the impact.

    Breathless, Ms Dean turned to her daughter and cried, “Darla, you’ve lost your hand!”

    Exhaustion and heartbreak welled-up in Darla’s heart and eyes, for she burst into tears and nodded. “I stole the gold, ma,” she confessed, “I wasn’t given it, I took it. I’ve lost my hand.”

    She continued to bawl, even as her mother pulled her in close and stroked her golden hair, whispering promises that everything will be okay.

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