THE BOOK OF JACKS
I hold all rights to the stories in this book.
THE BOOK OF JACKS is a collection of brand new but fairly timeless stories about boys and young men called Jack. Here we meet heroic Jacks and foolish Jacks, noble Jacks and hopeless Jacks. There’s a Prince Jack who’s banished by his father because he’s so short, a Jack who is turned to stone but lives to invent a famous cheese, a Jack who sets out to catch a witch and meets more than he bargained for, a Jack who has three brothers (also called Jack), each of whom is sent off to find the family fortune, and meets a disastrous end. Oh, there should be a Jack for everyone in…
THE BOOK OF JACKS
Here's the opening to one of the stories from The Book of Jacks
JACK OF THE GORGONS
Jack Cheesefeet was called Jack Cheesefeet not because he was the cheesemaker’s son (which he was) but because he never – I mean never – changed his socks. Jack’s socks were disgusting. His father said they smelt like the worst cheese in the world, and he knew a thing or two about cheese, did Jack’s dad.
Well this story is about what happened when Jack Cheesefeet met some gorgons.
Gorgons, in case you don’t know, are terrifying female creatures with great writhing, twisting snakes for hair.
They do lots of really nasty things, like let their noses run and run, and spit all over the place when they speak.
But the worst thing of all is this. When a human meets a gorgon’s eye, that human is instantly turned to stone.
Now one fine May morning two of these unpleasant types entered the village in northern Italy where
Jack and his father lived. One of the gorgons was called Gawful and the other was called Greadful, and as
they slurthered along the main street the villagers came out to stare at them.
And were instantly turned to stone.
The two gorgons whooped with delight and danced around the stone villagers, taunting them and tipping
rubbish over them and writing rude words on their foreheads. Then they took up residence in two tall wooden
towers at opposite ends of the village and fell into a deep and dreamless gorgonsleep while the poor villagers remained outside
their homes, as still and cold as garden gnomes, but bigger.
There was only one villager who was not turned to stone, and that was young Jack, who’d been off fishing for tiddlers
since the crack of eight to get out of helping his father make cheese. Heading homeward around noon and approaching the
village, a wax-curdling sound met Jack’s ears. He skidded to a horrified halt. He knew gorgon snores when he heard them. Without ado, he threw his sack of
tiddlers in the air and himself on a prickly thorn bush.
‘Yaaaaaaaaaaggggggh!’ he cried ( because thorns are painful).
On hearing Jack’s ‘Yaaaaaaaaaaggggggh!’ Gawful and Greadful jerked awake. Their scrawny necks swivelled and the snakes on their scalps writhed and hissed. ‘VOT VOZ ZAT?!’ the gorgons screeched in that interesting accent of theirs.
And then they spied Jack prising himself carefully off the thorn bush. Leaping from their towers, they loped towards him on their strergly legs, snarling nastily and flinging great gollups of gorgonspit in all directions at once.
Jack, of course, ran for his life, and might even have escaped the gorgons’ clutches if he hadn’t done the most brain-swerglingly stupid thing that any Jack has ever done.
He looked over his shoulder.
He met their eyes.
And was instantly turned to stone.
Bad news for Jack, bad news indeed, but others soon had cause to celebrate, for the one thing that can break the gorgonspell that turns people to stone is fresh warm gorgonspit, the very stuff that Gawful and Greadful, going after Jack, had spattered so carelessly over everything – including the stone villagers, who…
‘Fellow villagers!’ boomed the Mayor. ‘Let us pursue and slay those villainous fiends!’
The villagers reached for their gorgon-gartering gear and set off after Gawful and Greadful, who were so busy congratulating themselves on having turned yet another human to stone that they didn’t see their pursuers until they were almost on their hideous heels. But then they turned and glared with their horrible eyes.
‘Get beck! Beck, or ve turrrn you to stone again!’
The villagers halted at once, causing a lot of them to bump into another lot of them, but the gorgons continued to glare, keen to turn them back into stone even though they’d stopped. And what do you think happened? I’ll tell you.
Not one of the villagers was returned to stone.
‘It’s true!’ said Tom the taxidermist.
‘What is?’ said Watt the whittler.
‘The old tale,’ said Tom.
‘What old tale?’ said Watt. (He wasn’t called Watt for nothing.)
‘The urban legend that once you’ve been turned to stone by a gorgon and the spell’s been broken by gorgonspit you can never be turned to stone again. Not by a gorgon anyway!’
Now that they knew this, the villagers threw themselves on the two monsters. They showed them no mercy – not a bit or drop of it – tearing them grerp from grerp and gruttle from gruttle. They even cut their gnerkers off.
Jack Cheesefeet was now the only stoned villager, but Gawful and Greadful were no longer in a position to spit at him and return him to his former flesh-and-blood self, so the others, though dripping with gorgonyuk, carried him back to the village, singing as they marched. They were very grateful to Jack. If he hadn’t woken the gorgons and made them spit so furiously, they would still be standing outside their homes doing bad garden gnome impressions.
The villagers built a plinth in the village square near the cheese shop and placed Jack upon it like a statue. The butcher’s apprentice suggested they call him Plinth Jack, but someone gave him a thick ear for his trouble. Words were chiselled on Jack’s stone plinth by the village chiseller.
JACK OF THE GORGONS
The villagers did one other thing besides. They gave the village a new name.
BUT THIS ISN’T THE END OF THE STORY. OH, NOT BY A LONG WAY...