018. “The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean”

by crfricke

*This post is part of A Grimm Project, a series of short fiction pieces using each of the Brothers Grimms’ Nursery and Household Tales as writing prompts. For more information about the project, click here. For more about the story which inspired this freewrite, click here.*

There once was a poor old woman who lived in a village, and she had gathered a bunch of beans that she wanted to cook.

She set a pot to boil over a meager fire, and let the beans soak together in a crock of fresh water. Once the pot began a-bubbling, the old woman took her ladle from the wall and began spooning the beans, a few at a time for it’s all she could lift, into the warm pot.

Oh, how the beans screeched! Oh, how sorry she felt for them. They were kind little beans, like napping babies, and she felt ever so terrible for waking them, only to plunge them in the boiling sup. But what else could she do? She was old, and poor, and the beans had been made good payment for the stitching she’d done that week for the parson up the road. They belonged to her, to do with what was best.

Ach, if only her hands were not so weak, she’d have gotten it over and done with sooner. But a lilt of the spoon, a few beans at a time, was the most she could muster. She took some consolation in naming each bean as she ladled it into its doom.

This one is Ben, she crooned, Old Ben, for his chin looks much like my long-gone father’s.

This one is Terrence, like the neighbor’s little dog. See how it curls, like Terrence’s tail!

This one is Margaret, for I always liked that name, and ne’er had one to give it to.

It occurred to her, halfway through, that the naming of each bean only drew out its death ballet for longer, and that the beans may have already had their own names for themselves. Nonetheless, it brought her comfort, and so she kept along at it until the pot was full, and their sighs had quieted.

Cate Fricke
May 2014