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Little Jack Horner...Not So Little Anymore: Short Fiction

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Little Jack Horner

That must be the hundred millionth time I’ve heard those words read by a mommy with Georgie and adorable Susie sitting beside her on the couch. They point at Little Jack Horner and giggle. That picture was from years ago when I was a kid. I took this gig then just so I could have some pie. Now, look at me? Five feet eight inches tall, chubby from too much pie with nothing to show for my life but a purple thumb.

All my friends have the same problem. There’s Little Red Riding Hood. Man, that lady has issues. The wolf kicked off years ago, but she still drags the skin around playing both parts.

Mary had a little lamb. That’s ancient history. Now she has a flock of sheep that need to be tended. At least she has an income from the wool. The poem went into public domain a long time ago, so there aren’t any royalties. Such is the life of a childhood nursery rhyme star.

The three blind mice sit on Main street begging every day. Jack Spratt finally ate the fat. That’s a sad story. Now he can’t even jump over the candlestick. Yeah, same guy. The other Jack stopped by a couple of months ago. He’s the one who climbed the beanstalk. He tried to pawn some beans off on me. I felt sorry for him so I swapped three plums for three beans. They haven’t even sprouted yet. Little Bo Peep just wanders around aimlessly looking for her sheep. I’m pretty sure Mary coaxed them into joining her flock.

I’ve been thinking about starting a support group. Before I do that, though, I need to get rid of this pie. I can’t sell it. Nobody wants a pie with thumb holes all over the crust. Maybe there’s another way…

“Hey, kid. Yeah, you. Come over here. Don’t worry, I’m not a stranger. I’m Little Jack Horner. Everybody knows me. What’s your name?”

“Jack.”

What did I expect? “Could I interest you in a job? It comes with all the pie you can eat.”

“Wow! For real?”

“Yeah, and all you gotta do is just sit here poking your thumb in the pie, like this.”

“What do you want for it?”

“Not a thing, kid. It’s yours.”

Look at him. That was me years ago. Big smile. Popping plums into my mouth nonstop. Well, that’s his life now, not mine. It’s a big world, and I’m going to see it all. Maybe I can get Mary to go with me. Lord knows I’ve had my eye on her for years. I used to follow her to school every day...behind the lamb, of course.

Hollywood might be a good place to start. Maybe some producer will be interested in our stories. That’s it! We’ll trade this small time nursery rhyme schtick for the big time, the big screen, like Bogart and Hepburn—Bogart and Bacall, geez, that guy had it going. Yeah, Jack and Mary.

There she is now with sheep in tow. She looks sad. I wonder what’s wrong.

“Hi Mary, how are you this fine day?”

“Oh, I’m not doing so well, Jack. These sheep are wearing me out. Feeding, shearing, leading them to water, caring for lambs. It’s become too much work.”

“Are you saying you want to sell your sheep?”

“Not exactly. How is your pie?”

“My pie is in good hands...thumbs, I mean. Anyway, I’ve decided to start a new life. I was thinking about traveling.”

“That’s interesting. I’ve been thinking the same thing. Why don’t you come over to the house this evening, and we can talk about it over dinner.”

“I’d love to come for dinner. But about your sheep...If you don’t sell them, how would you travel?

“It’s a long story. Let’s wait for tonight.”

“That sounds good. I’ll bring a bottle of plum wine.”

“Perfect. I’ll see you about six.”

A date. I have a date with Mary. And she wants to travel just like I do. Life is looking up, and all it took was the courage to walk away from what was holding me back—that damned pie.

Later That Evening

“Hi, Mary.”

“Jack, come in.”

“That smells delicious. What’s for dinner?”

“Lamb."

“L-Lamb? Did you say—Lamb?”

“That’s part of the long story, Jack. I figure I’ll eat them until they’re gone. Then I’ll start traveling. Since you’re free from your pie, I sure could use some help with the sheep.”

“Do you mean caring for them or...you know.”

“Both.”

“I have to admit I’m surprised you could do this. You know...Mary had a little lamb—”

“Oh, please, stop with the song. I swear, if anybody sings that song around me ever again, I’ll fleece them.

“I promise, Mary. I feel the same way about my pie.”

“Maybe we could travel together, Jack.”

“Who would have thought that Jack Horner and Mary Lamb would one day be an item?

“I always hoped for it.”

“So did I. The lamb smells wonderful. You know, this adds a twist to your story?”

“It does? How?”

“Let me put it this way. Mary had a little...slice of...lamb.”

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2019:

Ann, there clearly was a purpose for these fairy tales/nursery rhymes. And I believe that, more often than not, it was a practical meaning that came down to..."How do I get these kids to shut up so I have a moment's rest?" Yep, that's what I think was going on. And that's fine. It adds age and depth to the telling of the story. Some of them are dark and should be left so, even in our later interpretation. Bless you, Ann. Thank you for your visit.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2019:

Suhail, Lawrence, Rodric, my apologies for missing your visits. I love your enthusiasm. You might see something like this again sometime.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 24, 2019:

Very clever, Chris! I like the twist on these nursery rhymes.

It reminded me that nursery rhymes are out of fashion. Due to my reading them to my children and grandchildren, this family knows quite a few but I mention them to others and their faces are often blank - very sad.

Some of the stories were rather dark though, don't you think, and you've brought some of that into this one. I think it was the Victorians trying to scare their children into behaving properly!

Fun read!

Ann

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on January 20, 2019:

This is funny and inventive. You gave me an idea to do something like this, one that I put off in the past regarding the Three Little Pigs. Good on you!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 08, 2019:

Chris

That was a different take on the nursary rhyme!

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on December 11, 2018:

I think you should continue this series. It is bizarre but worth reading over and over again.

Regards,

Suhail

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 11, 2018:

Suhail, this is my second venture into nursery rhyme abuse. I won't be further subjecting my readers to more. I appreciate knowing that while this was a little bizarre, you also enjoyed it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 11, 2018:

Doris, My parents had my 4H calf butchered. I was crushed. I know that happens to a lot of 4H animals. We spend a lot of time in training with them and bonding. I don't remember if I refused a hamburger afterward. Probably not.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on December 10, 2018:

Hi Chris,

I think this is creativity and originality gone wild LOL, but I loved every bit of it.

Regards,

Suhail

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 10, 2018:

Ironic but funny. It is only natural that we would grow up to make something else out of the nursery rhymes. Good job, Chris. Mary is colder-hearted than I am. My family fed me my pet pig by mixing it in with the rest of the ham and bacon butchered that year. Today I can't even eat one of my chickens. Hubby asks why not?

Anyway, my mom said that she and most of her classmates hated poetry writing class. When one boy was asked to read his creation, he cited:

Mary had a little lamb,

She fed it castor oil,

Every time it jumped the fence

It fertilized the soil.

She said the teacher was not amused.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 09, 2018:

manatita, I think these characters would grow up and remain childlike. It's a quality most of us could use as we age. Nice to see you here today.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 09, 2018:

Marie, I'm glad you enjoyed the humor. As for lamb, I admit, I've eaten it and enjoyed it. I, too, thought of comedians as I was writing some of this. I think it could yield some good material.

manatita44 from london on December 09, 2018:

Funny … cute. I like the togetherness and conversations. Childlike, Bro. Good! Nice time to tell them too. Peace.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 07, 2018:

I love the humor in these and think it would be good material for a stand-up comedian.

Mary eating her childhood pet? Wow, that's unthinkable, yet you thought of it! My grandmother made roast lamb for Christmas dinner, I remember. My family was at her house for the occasion. I'm sorry, but the smell of the lamb on my plate was unsettling. My grandmother was a good cook, too. I had just never had lamb--and never will.

Blessings!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2018:

My mind is always wandering off into unusual places looking for a story. Hopefully, very soon, it finds something with a bit more depth. haha, Thanks, Sean.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on December 07, 2018:

Everyone has the right to change his life, but habit becomes a character and then...

The trip to the mountains made you think a lot! Isn't that? Ha! Ha! I love your spirit.

May the Truth be with you!

Sean

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2018:

Liz, it makes me wonder what happened to Jack and Jill.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2018:

John, When it works, it seems to wander off the beaten path most of the time.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2018:

Shauna, I don't think I'll do more anytime soon. Two is enough.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2018:

Thank you, Eric.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 07, 2018:

This is a creative interpretation taking all the rhymes forward into adulthood.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 07, 2018:

An interesting read, Chris. I like how your mind works.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 07, 2018:

Chris, I just love what you're doing with nursery rhymes! You're adultifying them!

I really enjoyed this. I hope you do more.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 07, 2018:

A full blown treasure. Dang getting old changes everything. In this saga; all to the good. Thank you Chris.

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