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Jack and the Monster

Jack and the Monster

One day Jack was out in the newground hoeing com with his brothers Will and Tom. All at once they heard this racket in the trees down the hill and Jack looked around and saw his cousin Vernon running toward him hard as he could run yelling, "Jack, oh Jack, come quick, a monster's loose and eating up everything from here to Kingdom Come."

Vernon ran on up to where Jack and Will and Tom were working. He fell over on the ground, huffing and puffing. Finally when he could talk he said, "It's the biggest old awful thing that ever was. It breathes smoke and roars like a grizzly bear and it's big as a barn, nearly. Made out of iron, got a glass head, it's already captured a man, keeps him locked up in his head, you can see him in there through that monster's eyes. All the people on Defeated Creek's done fled. The monster's eating the world up and coming right this way. Mommy sent me to tell you all to run."

"Has anybody tried to kill it?" said Jack.

"Can't kill it," said Vernon. "No man alive could kill a thing like this monster. Why, it knocks whole trees over, it pulls 'em out by the roots, grinds 'em into sawdust on the spot. It eats land two acres at a mouthful, spits out boulders like peach seeds. It's eat a swath half a mile wide from here to Perry County already, aint no man can kill a monster like that. Everybody I know's running fast as they can go, and Mommy told me to tell you boys to run too."

"We'll see about that," said Jack, and he grabbed his hoe and set out down the hill. Will and Tom followed along behind.

When they got to the road the boys saw Neighbor Finley and his family walking along with big sacks of stuff on their backs. Finley's wife had a sack of clothes in one arm and her month-old baby in the other. The daughters carried quilts and blankets and the boys carried food and some pots and pans. Finley himself was carrying a ham under one arm and a cross-cut saw over the other shoulder.

"Where you going with all that stuff?" said Jack.

"Ain't you heard about the monster?" Finley said. "They's the biggest old awful monster that ever was running loose, eating up the world and coming this way fast."

"Where's it at now?" Jack asked. "Me and Will and Tom's on our way to fight it."

"Fight it!" Finley said.

"Yep," said Jack. "Why don't you come along and help us. If it's as bad as you say, we'll need all the help we can get."

"You get a look at that thing and you'll think otherwise," said Finley. "That monster get hold of you boys, he'll swallow you all down like sardines."

Finley shifted his cross-cut saw to the other shoulder and went on walking down the road.

"Well at least tell us where it's at," Jack called after him.

"Just keep on the way you're going," Finley yelled over his shoulder. "You won't have no trouble finding that monster."

And the boys didn't, either. Before they'd gone another mile they commenced to hear the monster snorting and roaring and crashing around up on the hillside. Before long they could see its smoke-breath rising in the air above the trees. As the boys started up the hill toward the monster Jack yelled, "Look out boys! It's throwing rocks!" and they all dodged just in time to keep from getting run over by a big boulder.

"This way!" Jack called out, and he ran around the hillside till he came to a rock-ledge big enough for all three of them to hide under.

"I'm scared," said Will.

"Me too," said Tom. "Maybe we ought to not fight this monster after all."

"You all hush and come with me," Jack commanded, and he led his brothers on up through the trees till they came to a clearing where they could look out and see the monster lurching and leaping and growling and roaring all about.

It was the evilest-looking thing the boys had ever seen or heard tell of. From where they hid it looked bigger than two bams. It had a snout on the front of it that would reach down and bite a chunk out of the ground big as a yard. Where the boys were hiding was all trees and laurel and pretty ferns and wet moss everywhere. But dovra there where the monster was, stretching out behind it as far as their eyes could see, it wasn't anything but yellow mud and broken rocks and trees.

"Lord God," said Will. "The end of the world has come."

"It'll sure be the end of m if we try to fight that thing," said Tom. "Let's give this up and go on home to supper."

"Aint going to have no home to eat supper in if we don't kill this monster," said Jack. "Look at it, it's heading right towards the homeplace."

"If we had some dynamite we might could blow one of its legs off," said Will.

"Could," said Jack. "But we don't want to blow that man up inside. We'll have to rescue him before we go to dynamiting."

"Poor feller," said Tom. "Watch at him, waving his arms all around, trying to get out."

"I'm glad that aint me in there," said Will.

"It'll be you if that monster gets hold of you," said Tom.

"You all listen now," said Jack. "I've figured out what to do."

Jack told Will to run back to the settlement and get all the dynamite, fuse and blasting caps he could carry and hurry back with them. Then he told Tom to rim out in front of the monster and get its attention so he could sneak around and climb up the monster's side and break that poor prisoner out.

"I'll do my best," said Will, and he took off back through the woods and headed for the settlement to get the dynamite.

A minute or two later Tom ran out of the woods in front of the monster and commenced to dance in circles and wave his arms around.

The monster like to went crazy when it saw Tom. It roared like a waterfall and struck out at him with its snout. But Tom jumped back out of the way and kept on waving and dancing, and when the monster struck again. Jack ran out of the trees and leaped on the monster's side.

Its side was solid steel and there weren't many places to grab hold. But Jack still had his hoe with him, and he was a good climber. By sticking the hoe in the little cracks in the monster's side and pulling himself up by the handle, it didn't take Jack long to get up to the monster's head where the captured man was.

"Come on!" Jack yelled at the man inside the monster's eye. "Break out of there and we can get away."

But the monster was making so much noise the prisoner couldn't hear Jack, and he didn't see him either. He was looking out to the front where Tom was dodging the monster's snout. The monster came so close to catching Tom, Jack knew he had to act fast. He hauled off and smashed the monster's glass eye with his hoe-handle, then stepped in throu^ the opening to drag the prisoner to safety. But just as Jack did that, the monster caught Tom in its snout! Jack could see his brother out there plain as day, dangling like a worm as the monster raised him high to eat him.

"Oh Lord/ sure!" thought Jack." Poor Tom's gone for good."

The thought of his brother being gone made Jack so sad he wasn't sure he could fight anymore. But then he figured the least he could do was go ahead and try to save the prisoner's life. The only way to do that now was hit the man on the head and pull him out unconscious. So Jack did that. He swung with his hoe-handle again, knocked the prisoner out, then threw him over his shoulder and turned to leave.

But all of a sudden, the strangest thing in the world happened. Suddenly the monster stopped dead still. The monster quit its lurching and leaping, it hushed its awful roar, its big snout stopped in mid-air, with Tom still dangling down from it. The woods around fell quiet enough to hear a bird sing, and for a minute Jack couldn't believe it. He thought it was some kmd of monster-trick, to catch him in a lure.

But then Jack saw Tom work himself loose from the snout and crawl right up the length of it to where Jack stood with the prisoner over his shoulder.

"We did it!" Tom shouted. "We killed the monster!" And then from his high perch he began to sing out across the trees to all the world, "The monster's dead! The monster's dead! Me and Jack killed the monster, and the awful old monster's dead!"

By the time Tom and Jack got back down to the ground with the prisoner. Will was back with the dynamite, along with a dozen men and women who'd come with him, wanting to help in the fight. By sundown that day a big crowd of people had gathered to look at the dead monster and the strange man that had been a prisoner in its head.

The prisoner was almost as big a curiosity as the monster-corpse itself. When he came to, the prisoner tried to fight Jack and Will and Tom. And even after they tied him down, he went on cussing the boys, threatening to kill them if he ever got loose.

"That monster's drove this poor man crazy," said Tom.

"It's taken his mind away," said Will.

"He'll be okay," said Jack. "He just needs to rest up and be back among folks for a while. We'll take him home and let Mommy feed him a good supper, he'll feel better after that."

Some of the people in the crowd wanted to go ahead and blow the monster up with Will's dynamite, just out of revenge for all the damage it had done. But Jack said he thought it would be better to just let it lie there so people could come and look at it and see what it was they'd all been so scared of.

So they did that. They left the monster there to rot and sink into the ground. The last I heard, it was there on the hillside. If you're of a mind to go up and study the remains, you can.