The Fable of Stingy Jack

Photo by blackberry law via Flickr
Photo by blackberry law via Flickr

They called me Stingy Jack, but I still say tis a matter of opinion. When all you’ve got is nothing, being charitable tisn’t in your best interest! Aye, I may have lied, tricked, and deceived my way through drinks and women and places to sleep – but not a one of ye wouldn’t have done the same in my position.

Never had nought but me wits to live by; and live I did. Led a life that put the Devil to shame, and didn’t that piss off the blighter. Not one who likes to be outdone, the Devil. Then again, neither am I.

He came for me one cold autumn night, a corpse sprawled across me path. I begged a drink off him, one final tipple before the pit. He agreed, proving himself a fellow not all that bad, I must say, and when we found that neither of us had the silver to purchase the whiskey, he obliged me further by turning into a coin for my spending.

A year in my pocket beside a crucifix taught him better than to be kind to a condemned man, and I bargained ten years unbothered by him before I set him loose on the world again.

When ten years of dissipation were gone, the fool appeared again to take me. One apple to feed my starving belly; a reasonable request from a man who would never again enjoy the fruits of the living. Up the tree Satan climbed to fetch me my last meal, and keep him up there I did for days and days; carving crosses into the trunk of the tree an easy feat for a country boy like me. Though he cursed and fouled my name, helpless he was without my aid. Never to claim my soul to hell was our bargain; and a clever one I thought it too.

But Heaven would not take the soul of one such as I when I left my body behind and now hell will neither. The smiling jackal tossed up a coal to me, ever-burning to light my way through my endless wanderings on Earth, alone and forgotten, like a wisp of autumn fog. And his ghoulish grin I now see, every Halloween, glowing from the gourds and pumpkins that bear my name.

Let it be learned: no matter how clever you may think yourself to be, the living will always have the last laugh.

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Published by rsjeffrey

Robin Jeffrey was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a psychologist and a librarian, giving her a love of literature and a consuming interest in the inner workings of people’s minds.

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