A Good Boy

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It was dark when he returned. “I’m home, Mother,” he called. “Come and see what I bought.”

Bought? She came, she saw, she screamed. “What the hell is that?” she roared, aiming a kick at him.

Jack dodged her foot easily, unfazed by her rage. “The man called it a — now, let me get this right — he said it was a cow.”

“Man? What man?” Her heart sank. “What kind of merchant was he?”

“Let’s think… he had shiny hair, a little moustache, and a big coat.” Jack had obviously been impressed by these merchantly credentials. “It had lots of inside pockets. Lots of things in them.”

“Things now including our bag of magic beans?” The full horror of her situation hit her. “Oh, Jack, what have you done?”

“I’ve bought a cow,” he repeated.

“But what’s it for?” she shouted. “What’s the use of it?” She looked at Jack, she looked at the cow. Both of them looked back at her.

“I’ll show you,” said Jack, kneeling down underneath it. “You get — now, there’s a knack to this, the man said, you have to squeeze it here and —” He reached behind him for her glass, tipped out the dregs, and placed it where a flow of white liquid could dribble in. “There. Try it.” He handed the glass back to her.

She sniffed suspiciously, narrowed her eyes at him, and took a sip. “It’s —” She frowned, took another sip, then drained the glass. “Oh, what is it? It’s wonderful!” She thrust the glass back at him. “Is there more?”

“It’s called milk, Mother,” Jack said as he pulled another pint. “And you can have it warm or cold.”

“I can?” There must be a catch, she thought. “How does it work, this — cow?”

Jack was pleased to have something he could explain. “You just put grass in it, at the front end. This is the deluxe model, the man said, it’s automatic, so it even fetches the grass for itself. Well, we’ve got lots of grass, haven’t we?” He stopped, unsure of how to continue. “I think we have bottles, too.”

“So?”

“So I thought, if we put some milk in bottles, we could sell it, and use the money to pay the tax-collector.”

“Oh, no you don’t, this is mine! Screw the tax-collector!” Hey, she thought, that might work. Why didn’t I think of it before? And if not, I could offer him some of this — “What’s this stuff called again?”

“Milk,” he said kindly. “Actually, Mother,” he continued, “I have another use for bottles. Would you mind if I cleaned out the bathtub? I’d like to use it, to wash in.”

“To wash?” She was mystified by such a novel idea. “Why?”

“Well, on the way home, I met a girl. Her name’s Princess.” His eyes shone. “I’d like to see her again, and I don’t want to be smelling of gin when I do.”

Smelling of gin never did me any harm, she thought. Except maybe once or twice. But — “All right,” she said. “I’ll do it. For you, and your Princess.” He’s a good boy, she told herself. Even if he is a dreamer.