Jack Greenthumb finds romance in Fairwilde Kingdom—a different day—a different girl. Then a cruel mystery begins. Dad’s beaten, the family farm destroyed and Jack’s true love, Gwendolyn Bante, kidnapped. Jack’s undercover operation reveals Gwenie’s a captive atop a mountain accessible only by helicopter. Reaching her is a dangerous expedition even for a champion rock climber like Jack. However, a Greenthumb Acres employee plants a miraculous seed from Heaven for the rescue. Suspense mounts as Jack scales the perilous cliff to face a brute and a treacherous descent in this retelling of the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.
Lonely darkness fell around Jack as he slipped into his harness and put on his climbing shoes. He crept in and out of the moon’s shadows to the base of the alp and took hold of the strong plant, the itchy touch of it not a problem, the strength of it boosting his confidence. Fueled by the fire burning in his heart to find Gwenie, he stepped on the first node and glanced back. Just one quick look. He didn’t know why. Maybe something in his psyche wanted to see the ground from whence he’d come one last time in case he never set foot on it again.
He climbed up the next nodule and the next as fast as his feet and arms would take him. A sense of leaving the everyday world overwhelmed him as it always did when he climbed, but this time it wasn’t freeing. An eerie sensation sent shivers through his bones with every foot he scaled. The breaking of twigs, crunching of leaves, and howling noises below grew fainter and fainter as he ascended higher and higher.
“Whooo-whoo.” Halfway up he met an owl that turned its head in a circle as it sat on the highest limb of a towering oak. He pulled upward while pushing with his lower body as he passed boulders and scraggly bushes lit by the stars and moon. He searched with his right hand for the next node, found it, moved up and placed his foot on the spot where it had been. The jagged surface on this mountain could rip open a person in an instant, but it was Jack’s fear for Gwenie that gripped him. The yearning to hold her safe in his arms seeped deeper into his pores each time he forged upward.
His body ached as he pulled with nerves wound as tight as a corkscrew for wanting to hurry to the top. Soon his leg muscles cramped. A gray piece of granite jutting out like the seat of a chair with a slab for a back tempted him. How could he rest after what he’d done to Gwenie? He had to keep moving, but what if his arms and legs gave out, and he never reached her? His head throbbed with decision making.
Just for a second he let go of the living pole. His foot slipped, and he slid down the precipice, debris rolling, crashing beneath him until the belay caught the rope and stopped his fall. His head swam as he thrust the spring-loaded camming device into a crack and anchored the cable. He swung to his right and sank to the rocky seat. The stones settled below him and silence filled the darkness where he sat tucked out of the light from Heaven.
Two days ago he was a slap-happy player in love with Gwenie since childhood, but content to drink life’s single pleasures a while longer. Now the need to take hold of a more profound passion that seemed as fragile as one of Dad’s orchids burned in his soul. The breeze whipping around him blew away images of fast rides through Fairwilde with a blond or a brunette laughing beside him. He needed Gwenie. Please Lord, let her be alright waiting for me.
He stretched out his legs then rubbed his palms together. Upward.
He swung out, grabbed hold of the beanstalk, pulled up with his hand and pushed with his foot as a blast of strong wind swayed the sturdy stem. The stars grew dim then disappeared as clouds rolled over them. Raindrops hit his head while lightning flashed, lighting up the sky—nothing but dark space as far as he could see. Then the flash.
He pulled up with his hand and pushed with his right foot—pulled up with his hand and pushed with his right foot again and again through the black void cut by occasional lightning. The tiny glow from the lamp on his helmet did little good in this storm. Another burst of air whipped around him, and the plant quivered. He touched a flat spot. The one Fernando told him to look for? He moved his fingers around it.
Yes. Relief as strong as the gust that bent the trees swept over him. The top. He wanted to shout I’m here Gwenie! into the stormy night over and over, but instead he leaned forward trying to see a way into the cabin.
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Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Her teen book, Stopped Cold, finished fourth in the 16th Annual Preditors and Editors readers’ poll and was a finalist for the 2013 Grace Awards. She’s published short stories in “Splickety” magazine and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. Some of her published articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Visit her web site at http://www.gailpallotta.com
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