Just One Little Crumb

(1700 words)

Little Oswald Cobley was heading home through the woods from his school in the village of Ballykenny. He whistled happily and swung his school bag, looking forward to telling his mother how he and his classmates had formed a ‘band’ in the music lesson, playing on pots and pans from the kitchens, whilst their teacher, Mr Dumderry, had accompanied them on the bagpipes, to the squawking of the school parrot, Spike.
Suddenly, he was startled by the appearance of an old lady dressed in black. She had a long beaky nose with a conspicuous wart on the end and several long hairs growing from her chin. She held a plate containing a cake and gave a smile, showing two large gaps among her crooked teeth. “Hello, young man, I expect you’re hungry after a long day at school. Try a piece of my cake, freshly baked today!”
Oswald remembered his mother’s advice. “Never accept food from strangers.”
“Why not, Mother?” he’d asked.
“Well, if you buy it from Mr Barmwell, the baker, you know he will have checked the ingredients and made sure they were all tip-top and wholesome. If you buy food from a shop, well they have important people who will have made sure the food is healthy and safe to eat.”
“Yes, Mother.”
“But a stranger, well, they could have put poison in it, or worse!”
Oswald scratched his head. “What’s worse than poison!”
“Ah, well, there are potions that would turn you into a giant cockroach, or make your arms shrink to nothing, or turn everything you say into a scream of pain, or ….”
“No, I won’t, Mother,” Oswald interrupted hastily, not wishing to hear further horrors.
But now the wicked witch, for such was she, held out a crumb from the most delicious-looking cake Oswald had ever seen.
“My mother said I mustn’t accept food from strangers.”
“Ah, one little crumb can’t do any harm, surely?”
Oswald hesitated, then took the crumb from the old woman’s wrinkled hand and popped it into his mouth. “Mmm. This is gorgeous!”
“Here, have some more, young sir.” The witch handed over a slice which Oswald snatched from her hand, quickly stuffing as much of it into his mouth as he could.

The following morning, Oswald’s mother let out a scream when she went to wake her son. For sticking out some distance beyond the bottom of the bed were Oswald’s feet!
“What’s the matter, Mother?” cried Oswald, springing out of bed and knocking his head on the ceiling.
“Oh, my son, you have turned into a giant in the night! Did you take food from a stranger?”
Oswald looked down on his mother, feeling sheepish. “Just a slice of cake, Mother. A very delicious cake!” His mouth watered at the memory.
“Wait, I will fetch the priest, he will know what to do!”

But the priest didn’t know what to do and after a few days, Oswald was as tall as his parent’s house. He could no longer go to school or read books so the teachers rigged up a projector and a giant screen on which they projected his homework.
But Oswald grew and grew. Soon he was the height of two houses, then three houses, then four.
To eat, Oswald had to lie down in the meadow and large quantities of cooked food were dropped into his mouth by helicopter. But before long, he couldn’t lie in the meadow without crushing nearby houses with his enormous feet. He could no longer wear shoes or normal clothes, just a robe made from huge sheets.
So, he would feel cold and this made him angry. He would stamp around, crushing cars and buildings with his bare feet, and shouting so loudly it would burst people’s eardrums.

“What shall we do, sir?” The Head of the Army asked the Prime Minister.
“Well, I’m sorry to say, Oswald has become a menace. Even when he’s in a good mood he’s accidentally squashing people and knocking buildings down. There aren’t many places left in England where he can go without destroying things.”
“Well, how about sending him to Scotland, sir?”
“Yes, that would be good, there are miles and miles of moors and mountains and it wouldn’t matter if he crushed a few sheep with those gigantic feet.”
But getting him there was the problem. Oswald had grown to the size of a small skyscraper and a fleet of helicopters was now required to bring cooked animal carcasses, truckloads of vegetables and barrels of water to his mouth.
However, Oswald had other ideas. He had grown and grown until, at the age of eight, and a height of half a mile, he was the tallest, naughtiest, and most destructive child in the world – and then some!
Although gigantic, he still had a child’s sense of humour, so took pleasure in squatting and depositing steaming, smelly turds, a block long, onto roads, causing major tailbacks around the country.
Likewise, he enjoyed spraying huge showers of urine, which cascaded down onto shops, houses and office blocks alike, soaking unlucky passersby.
He was too big to wear clothes and although only a child, his penis was now forty feet long which caused embarrassment and amusement in equal proportions as he strode around the country, causing minor earthquakes wherever he went.

“It’s too risky to feed Oswald any more, sir,” said the Head of the Army to the Prime Minister at a hastily called emergency meeting. “Oswald sneezed and caused two transport choppers to crash, with the loss of twenty soldiers!”
“Hmm. Yes, Oswald is a problem all right. I’d like to use the nuclear option but it wouldn’t be fair on the public who got vaporised or burned beyond recognition.”
“Listen, sir, I’ve an idea that might just do the trick.” The Head of the Army continued and the Prime Minister began to smile.
And so, it was decided. A giant PA aboard a transplant plane was flown close to Oswald’s head and a message was broadcast, giving him an ultimatum. Go to Africa or be attacked by the Royal Air Force!
So, the very next afternoon, Oswald began his trek to Africa. He waded across the English Channel in five minutes, causing a mini-tsunami along the coasts, and was soon striding down through France, Spain and some other unimportant countries.
He would snack on herds of sheep and cattle, popping them into his mouth and munching on them like crisps. For water, he carried an enormous pipe which he’d found on a building site, and which he would use to suck up water from lakes and ponds.
But this diet played havoc with Oswald’s stomach and he had to squat several times to spray brown-orange diarrhoea over town and country alike. The people cursed Oswald, who, once a world-famous attraction, was now almost universally hated.
Dieu merci, il est trop jeune pour se masturber!” exclaimed the King of France as a thunderous rain of smelly yellow urine crashed down onto his palace and gardens.

Striding along at nearly five hundred miles an hour, it only took two days for Oswald to reach the Sahara, where he amused himself by kicking some pyramids around, much to the dismay of the locals who found this ‘tourist’ too big and strong to fleece.
So, Oswald was free to stamp around the Sahara Desert, which was nice and warm and, to him, like a giant sandbox. Here, he grew to be almost a mile high, taking the occasional foray south to snack on herds of impala, antelopes and zebras.
But Oswald was not happy. He missed his mother and father and his school friends. Now he had no one. He was unable to talk or communicate with anyone. His voice was too loud and his size meant it was hard to approach people without squashing them. And it was very cold in the desert at night. He would lie, shivering and crying, keeping the natives of the Sahara awake. But they didn’t really count, so to all intents and purposes, Oswald was isolated.

Then, after a week in the desert, the second part of the general’s cunning plan came into play. Oswald was stomping around the desert, gazing out to Morocco in the North and thinking of draining a nearby oasis, being rather thirsty, when he spotted something moving – a tiny light, low down in the distance.
It came nearer and nearer and now Oswald heard the high-pitched scream of engines. He felt frightened. But after all, he was a mile high – invincible!
Then the tiny light began to rise above the desert, higher and higher until it was level with his waist. Closer and closer it sped towards him, until, like an angry wasp, it buzzed at his chest. Oswald tried to swat it away but missed, then he felt a sharp pain. That was the last thing Oswald ever remembered. He was enveloped in a huge fireball as a five-megaton nuclear warhead exploded in his ribcage. The explosion was so enormous it could be seen from almost every country in Africa and the heat was so intense that Oswald was completely vaporised, along with some local tribesmen – ‘unavoidable collateral damage.’ So, there wasn’t even the need to dispose of a hundred-ton corpse and a day of celebration was held all over the world.
Of course, some said that the action was cruel and wanted the Prime Minister to be prosecuted by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and there were violent demonstrations – as there always were about anything. But the Prime Minister would have none of it and went on television to give a speech about personally having saved the world from a terrible menace.
And as for the oh-so-wicked witch who started it all. Well, whilst listening to the radio and the chaos her potion had wreaked, she cackled so much that she suffered a fatal heart attack. Her evil potions now stood on a shelf, in innocent-looking, anonymous glass bottles, waiting for the day when they would perhaps be found by an unsuspecting school child and, maybe, tasted once more.

Featured in the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth

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