Give me a story that uses these five things: Beans, Doris Day, alligator, pillow, verb tenses.
—I keep fingering the three magic beans hiding in the pocket of my corduroys. A very old man wearing an alligator on his golf shirt gave five of these magic beans to my daughter. They are brown with strange white markings, very shiny. She gave me three and put two under her pillow. I know they’re magic because that old man has been dead a long time, and my daughter has a good imagination. I will plant one bean behind the big maple out back next to the tree with the newly-reddened leaves, and come spring I’ll climb the tall bean stalk up to the clouds where I will have a lovely, first person omniscient point of view.
Yes, it’s a mighty good view from up here. I choose to examine the moment when my youngest sister picked out a postcard just for me: odd straw hats on five Spanish women all smiling like Doris Day. My sister, the lovely Helene, was visiting the Alhambra in Spain, but at the postcard stand the funny hats appealed to her far more than pictures of the Moorish palace. I can see her giggling at the post card rack. I lie on my cloud studying her as she shops—so happy, so full of the life she was soon to lose. She cannot see me since I have slipped sideways past all requisite verbs into simultaneous past, future, and present tenses, all perfect.
Of course, magic comes at a price, and I know this. I end up having to sacrifice both my eyes for my moment of loving relief. It’s worth it, even though the granter of wishes reminds me that in the future I could have conjured up other views of dead family members if only I had kept my eyes. After all I have two beans left. I choose not to believe him, trickster that he is. I have resigned myself to memories. The good news is that my two living sisters will help me while I adjust to this new blindness. I’ll tell them about the magic beans, and they will scold me for my bargain, but the tone of their voices say that they are wondering whether I just might part with those last two beans.
I’m aware that Mother Nature extracts a high price when one crosses her rules. She gladly posits fictional places to send me like the Dreaded Fires of Hell and just as happily decides to remove my eyes instead, to punish me for thinking I was clever enough to transgress so freely. So send me to Hell for wishing to see my dead sister, I jeer at her. It’s another place Helene and I might meet up for a while. I heard Mother Nature cackle when I took the trickster up on a bad bargain out of love. Love is not her forte. She’s into harder equations.
But I am a mother too, so I must remember to have a quiet talk with my daughter tomorrow about those beans she still has under her pillow.