#1: Jack and the Beanstalk: Reloaded

There was once a poor widow who had an only son named Jack. He was so lazy that he never did any work, never went to school, and – rather unfortunately – never really took a bath. As time went by, they became poorer and poorer.

One fine summer’s day, Jack’s mother decided to send him to the market to sell their cow, which was their only possession in the world. The cow was no longer giving them milk, having been, well, milked dry since time immemorial.

In many ways, cows are like oil reserves – they are finite resources and you milk them dry at your peril. There must always be reinvestment to maintain a healthy reserve replacement ratio, and efforts to safeguard against future growth impairment.

Jack set out to town to sell the cow but he had not gone very far when he met an old man.

“Where are you going with that cow, young man?” asked the old man.

“I am going to the market to sell the old cow,” Jack replied.

“Well, this is your lucky day,” said the old man, “for I will gladly take her off your hands in exchange for these five magic beans. If you plant them, they will grow as high as the sky by tomorrow morning.”

Although initially sceptical, Jack finally decided this was a fair exchange, as it meant he could go home right away and spend the rest of the day playing ‘Farmville’ and ‘Mafia Wars’ on Facebook.

The old man gave Jack the magic beans, which he put neatly in a biodegradable plastic bag.[1] Jack promptly completed a Change of Ownership form and surrendered the ownership of the family domestic cattle to the old cow. I mean, old man.

Jack ran back his house as fast as he could. “Look mother!” he said excitedly, “I’ve disposed of our cow in exchange for these amazing beans!”

“Wow! That’s actually pretty good,” said his mother, looking rather astonished. “What are the terms? Are they sukuk or conventional bonds? What about the maturity period? Does this mean you have to embark on a roadshow for investor briefings?”

Jack sighed and carefully explained to his slightly deaf mother, “I said ‘beans’, mother, not ‘bonds’. I got these magic beans in exchange for the old cow.”

“Holy cow!” said his mother, clearly horrified but aware of the weak pun she was making. “You are not only stupefyingly lazy but also unbelievably daft,” she said as she snatched the beans from his hand and threw them out of the window.

His mother was so furious that later in the evening Jack was sent to bed without any supper. Which was just as well, since there was hardly ever any food in the house anyway. After tossing and turning for half an hour, Jack still couldn’t sleep and he decided to go to the pub instead, where he ordered the finest lager in the house and drank himself silly.

Jack stumbled back to his house in the wee hours of the morning and slept until almost noon. He woke up with a mild hangover and he was not sure where he was. His room was unusually dark, and when he opened the curtains he saw huge leaves and flowers of assorted colours covering his window. He quickly ran downstairs into the garden.

Jack could not believe his eyes. Just outside the window where his mother had thrown the magic beans there grew a mighty beanstalk reaching towards the sky. It was taller than the Twin Towers (minus the aesthetics) and definitely taller than Burj Dubai (minus the financial meltdown). In fact, the beanstalk was so tall that the top of it was hidden in the clouds.

Jack wasted no time and began to climb up the beanstalk. It was, without any doubt, a clear breach of safety regulations, as he was not wearing a harness. He climbed higher than the treetops, higher than the clouds until he reached the blue sky and stepped out into a small town where the streets had no name.[2] He walked along a straight road, hoping to find a place where he could beg for some food, as he was very hungry by this time.[3]

To his delight, he came to a castle, and there was a very large woman standing at the door, lighting up a Marlboro.[4]

“Good morning,” he said politely. “Would you be so kind as to give me something to eat?”

“Does this place look like a bloody deli to you?” asked the large woman, looking patently annoyed.

“I think you had better bugger off as fast as you can,” continued the woman, “unless you want to become lunch yourself. My husband is an ogre who loves nothing better than fried little boys on toast for appetisers.”

Jack was too hungry to run back along the road, so he pleaded with the fat woman to give him something to eat.

“I am not going to leave until, urm, the fat lady sings. And you can always hide me from your husband when he comes home,” said Jack.

Now the Ogre’s wife was the sort of woman who was actually kind at heart despite her uncanny resemblance to a British bulldog. She took Jack in and gave him some bread and milk, which he gobbled up in record time. He had only just finished eating when suddenly he heard the Ogre’s thumping footsteps walking down the road.

The large woman grabbed Jack and hid him in the oven as the Ogre came into the kitchen and roared at the top of his voice, “I smell the blood of a human being! It’s the distinct smell of rotten cabbage — a Manchester City fan, he must be! Be he alive, or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!”

“Oh don’t be stroppy and sit you down at the dining table while I prepare some food,” said the woman. “Been hanging out with the lads again, haven’t ya Harry? All these drunken nonsense about always smelling humans and smelly football fans — will I ever hear the end of it now?”

Jack peeped out of his hiding place and was terrified to see what a huge, ugly monster the Ogre was. The monster kept picking his nose while wolfing down the buffet spread on the table as if he was at a Malaysian Hari Raya open house.

As soon as he finished his food, the Ogre called to his wife, “Bring me my bags of gold!” She rolled her eyes, cleared the table and put the gold in front of him.

There the Ogre sat counting and counting the coins until his eyelids began to droop. The sound of coins seemed to have had a calming effect on him (or maybe it was the lamb biryani he had earlier), and his head nodded slowly down and rested on the table.

He fell fast asleep, snoring so loudly that people on the earth below thought they heard a thunderstorm. Now Jack knew that thunderstorms were actually caused by ogres snoring and nothing to do with millions of droplets of water vapour suspended in the atmosphere in large, unstable cumulonimbus that produces lightning, rainfall, winds, hail or tornados.[5]

When Jack peeped out and saw all the gold, he knew that it was his big chance. He crept out of the oven, tiptoed past the sleeping Ogre, and grabbed one of the bags of gold. He ran away from the castle as fast as his legs would carry him, doing his best Usain Bolt impression, until he reached the top of the beanstalk. He climbed down through the green leaves until he reached his own little garden again.

“Mother, look what I have brought you from the top of the beanstalk!” Jack cried to his mother.

He emptied the bag of gold coins onto the kitchen table while he regaled his mother with his adventures in Ogreland. Needless to say, the poor widow was pleased to see her son again, and with the fact that they had money to buy all they needed.

One morning many moons after Jack’s first foray up the beanstalk, Jack took out the bag and saw that there was not much gold left. By this time, Jack and his mother already owned a pretty diversified and healthy portfolio of investments in Amanah Saham Bumiputra (ASB), unit trusts, fixed deposit and also condominiums, which they bought to generate rental income.

But Jack understood that these were really longer-term investments, and his immediate concern was the lack of liquidity, as their cash reserves was running a little low.

So Jack decided to climb the beanstalk again. He disguised himself so that the large woman at the castle would not recognise him, and once again she let him in and gave him some food.

The Ogre later returned to the castle and this time Jack hid in a huge copper pot. Then he (the Ogre, not Jack) called his wife to bring him his golden hen, which the wife then placed on the table.

“Lay!” roared the Ogre, and the hen laid an egg of solid gold. “Lay another!” and the hen laid an even larger golden egg. Jack’s eyes popped out of his head as he watched golden eggs popping out of the hen’s arse. He immediately began scheming how to steal the hen from the Ogre.

Soon, the Ogre fell asleep at the table. Jack climbed out of the copper pot and grabbed the Ogre’s arse. I mean, the Ogre’s golden hen.

The hen started to squawk as Jack bolted out of the door, and the Ogre woke up with a start. The Ogre was a little groggy and he looked around the dining area like a hippo on tranquiliser. After a few seconds, he realised that the hen was not on the table. He looked out of the window and he saw Jack with his prize bird under his arm, doing a Forrest Gump down the straight road and heading towards the beanstalk.

The Ogre chased after Jack with huge strides, and for the people in the world below, it felt like an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale. Even though Jack was running faster that he had ever run in his life, the Ogre was almost upon him when Jack reached the beanstalk.[6]

The Ogre reached out his hand to grab Jack and retrieve his precious hen, but Jack slipped nimbly down the beanstalk. The Ogre paused for a few moments because (a) he had acrophobia and (b) he wondered if the plant would carry his weight.

After much hesitation, he gingerly stepped onto the beanstalk and began to climb slowly after Jack. The beanstalk began to sway and creak, and there was no way on earth that the Ogre’s manoeuvre could have been HSE-compliant. In fact, it breached at least twenty-five separate OSHA regulations,[7] and Jack, realising this, went even faster.

When Jack reached his garden he called out, “Quick, mother! Get me an axe, mother!”

His mother came out running with a chainsaw in her hands, the type you mght have seen on Tim Allen’s ‘Home Improvements’, which she bought for Christmas at Argos.[8]

Everything went John-Woo-slow-motion as Jack handed the golden hen to his mother, kick-started the chainsaw and began cutting the mighty beanstalk. It swayed and creaked and then it fell with a tremendous crash!

The Ogre fell onto the ground and sustained serious injury. There were no paramedics, no hot doctors like they had in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’[9] to give him immediate medical attention. Some passers-by tried to help but there was nothing they could have done to save the Ogre.

Jack and his mother lived hopefully ever after, and the golden hen brought them untold riches. Curiously enough, the hen never suffered from a sore arse despite laying eggs all the time, now that Jack and his mother had a rather expensive lifestyle to maintain.

Jack later spent the bulk of his fortune on the stock market and became heavily involved in commodities and speculative trading, and he was rumoured to be one of the main culprits behind the collapse of Lehman Brothers and AIG in the 2008 global financial meltdown.

NOTES:

[1] With EcoPLUS 105, a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) by PETRONAS.
[2] Sorry, I couldn’t resist the U2 plug.
[3] He woke up too late for the McDonald’s breakfast meal.
[4] Kids, smoking is bad for your health.
[5] As you can see kids, there’s a lot of science behind my stories.
[6] Classic Tom & Jerry stuff, really.
[7] Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (OSHA 1994)
[8] http://www.argos.co.uk
[9] Yes folks, no Meredith, no Izzie, and no McDreamy. Shocking.

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#1: Jack and the Beanstalk: Reloaded

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