Fortune's Ladder

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Jamal looked in the mirror and washed the blood from his bruised eye and mouth. School was no more than a daily prison, where the teachers were the wardens and the students were the prisoners. Except there were no iron bars and Jamal did not wear an orange jumpsuit. He wished he was somewhere else where he fought monsters and there was no school, and no mom nagging him. He wanted to go to there.....just once!

As Jamal trudged home, he looked at the future and it was as dreary as an approaching storm. All he was good at was dodging the cops and having the principal get on his case. The sky darkened and the clouds dumped buckets of rain. Jamal ran into an alley and searched for shelter. He entered an open warehouse and a sudden gust of wind slammed the door shut behind him.

Jamal smelled a cocktail of urine, and stale sweat and scrunched up his face.

“Hey kid.”

Jamal looked around and saw a grizzled man as bony as a corpse, with a matted beard and teeth as yellow as corn kernels. His fingernails were like Fritos.

“Who are you?”

The man lurched towards Jamal. His breath reeked like an open sewer and Jamal backed into a wall.

“You wanna see what I have here?”

“Look man, I don’t got no change.”

The old man handed Jamal a rusty key.

“What’s this?”

“It’s about to unlock your destiny,” rasped the man as he hobbled over to Jamal.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m not playing with you son,” said the old man.

Jamal walked away but he grabbed Jamal by the wrist. His grip felt like an iron shackle. “Let me go,” hollered Jamal, “I’m not going to unlock my destiny.”

“Boy, this is an offer you can’t refuse,” he roared as his mouth blasted gobs of spit like cannonballs detonating.

“All right, Don Corleone, what do you want me to do, sleep with the fishes or something like that?” Jamal muttered.

“Look kid, if you don’t want the key, then your future will die.”

“So what,” yelled Jamal as he stamped his foot, “my future is already in the toilet.”

“And why is that?” said the man calmly.

“Well,” Jamal sputtered “the principal is always on my case, my mom always screams at me, I fail all my classes, my dad got iced in a drug bust, and I got no talent.”

“Look,” said the man “with this key, so much could change for you.”

“I ain’t going no matter what ya do to me,” screamed Jamal.

The old man grasped Jamal’s hand and dragged him towards a door. Jamal could smell whiskey on his breath.

“Welcome to destiny,” said the old man as he pulled open the door and tossed Jamal inside like a rag doll.

Jamal got up and walked around. It seemed like any other dark room and it smelled of mothballs and mildew. Except, there was a slight crack, that seemed to be growing bigger and bigger. The floorboards burst open and Jamal came tumbling down. As he fell from the sky, he swirled around and around like a leaf and slowly floated to the ground. A billboard read: WELCOME TO CHIMERA: Where All You Have to Do is Dream. A few of the buildings looked like old men. They were all hunched. Glass was strewn all over the ground.

Jamal noticed a gaping crack in the ground and heard loud screams of “leave me alone,” and “I did nothing wrong.” Should he see what was going on or should he stay back? Jamal felt for his switchblade, and flicked it open. If you want to be a man, help others in need, Jamal decided. He ran into the alley and saw some pretty messed up things. There was a white rabbit in a sports jersey being cornered by a fox in a police uniform. “Am I tripping?” asked Jamal. ” He pinched himself but nothing evaporated before him, like in movies. “Guess I should do something,” Jamal decided.

The fox approached the rabbit with a gun and leaned close to him. The rabbit’s paws and whiskers trembled as the fox waved his handgun. “Officer,” said Jamal, “leave him alone, what the hell did he do wrong?” “Shut up,” roared the fox, as he slashed at the rabbit’s face with a free claw. “I said let him go,” shouted Jamal “or you will have to fight me.” But the fox continued hacking at the rabbit’s shirt. Jamal dashed towards the fox and plunged the switchblade into his back. The rabbit’s whiskers twitched and Jamal walked over to him, unsure of what to say. Should he call for help, just leave the rabbit alone, or ask the rabbit about this place?

“Dude,” he stammered, “are you okay?”

“Yeah,” the rabbit gasped, as he stood up and fell down again.

“Could you tell me about Chimera?”

“Why?”

“Well, I want to know what I am doing here, I fell from the sky and landed on the ground.”

Jamal scratched his head, was he REALLY hallucinating or just having a casual chat with a rabbit in a sports jersey?

“Well, Chimera reeks like the world’s worst outhouse, all because of this one guy.”

Jamal looked at a wall tagged: BEWARE OF THE GIANT!

“So is this the....,” Jamal muttered as the rabbit stifled him.

“Yeah,” the rabbit whispered, “but DO NOT say his name.”

“So tell me about him,’ whispered Jamal.

“Well, long ago, we had a mayor who built shelters for the poor, was a friend to everybody, and with him as our guide, poverty, unemployment and crime were zippo.”

“Well, sounds great,” said Jamal.

“But one summer evening, we felt the ground shake. My room blacked out for most of the night and by midnight, the lights came back on. I looked through my window and saw smoke rising. The whole block was packed with firemen and cops. On TV, we got a news report about the attack last night. They said that a giant had attacked and has took control of the city’s Mafia.”

“So how does he treat you guys?” asked Jamal.

“Well, he has cut off the food supply, tortured many innocent people just to watch them suffer and die, and he hires cops to beat us up for no reason.”

“Why does he hire foxes?” asked Jamal.

“Well, foxes have great sense of smell and they have like super fast reflexes.”

“Has anybody tried taking him out?” asked Jamal.

“Many have,” answered the rabbit, “but most of them were killed.”

The gears in Jamal’s head clanked around like a hamster accelerating faster and faster on its wheel. If he volunteered to kill the giant than he could show the bullies at school that he was not scared of them.


“I’ll take a shot saving Chimera,” said Jamal.

“Man,” shouted the rabbit, “are you out of your mind? Nobody would dare to take out a giant. My dad tried to challenge the giant, but he ended up in the giant’s stomach. I tried to get even, but I got my tail blown off.”

“Come on man, I could do it,” said Jamal, “I can take him out, if you just let me try. You’re coming with me.”

“Why?” groaned the rabbit, “why do I have to come?”

“Cause in all good action movies, the hero needs a sidekick to stand by him and kid around with him.”


“Well boss,” said the rabbit, “whatever you say goes, I will join you.”

“What’s your name?” Jamal asked the rabbit.

“Jack,” he answered, “what’s your name?”

“Jamal!”

“So we gonna save Chimera or what?” stammered Jack as his whiskers twitched and his paws trembled.

“Yeah,” said Jamal.

“But Jamal,” cried Jack, “the giant could break your bones as easy as a squirrel breaks open a nut.”

Jamal raised the back of his hand. “Chill,” muttered Jack, “you ain’t my father.”


The night blackness engulfed Chimera like a tsunami. Jamal held onto his stomach and whined. Jack hobbled down the street and collapsed as his stomach exploded.

“Jeez, man,” groaned Jamal, “you’re the sidekick, now what’s your job?”

“To help you,” yawned Jack, “I know.”

“We’ll probably reach the giant’s mansion by morning,” said Jamal, “but I guess a little sleep won’t hurt.”

“There’s a motel pretty near here and it always has a vacancy, so let’s get some shuteye,” said Jack.

“Yeah,” said Jamal, “I’m so bushed.”

Jamal ran towards the motel and pulled open the door. Jamal saw the clerk, who was a roach the size of a dog.

“Could you get us a room for two?” asked Jamal.

“Sure,” said the roach, “right this way.” “You’ll be sharing this room with my poker buddies, if you don’t mind.”

The roach handed Jamal and Jack a key to their room.

Jamal opened the door and his eyes practically leaped out of their sockets.

Aged plaster was starting to peel from the walls and dried mud clung to the floor. There was a bed stained with beer and the bathroom reeked like a thousand drunkards. Roaches were nibbling at a mutilated cupcake. “Are you gonna play poker with us?” asked the roaches.

“No,” said Jamal, “I’m not into blowing my money.”

“Suit yourself,” chorused the roaches.

Jamal took off his shirt and got into the bed and fell into a dreamless sleep. When he woke up, the poker buddies were not there. A hulking bear stood there baring his teeth and holding Jack by the ears.

“Let him go,” shouted Jamal, but the bear snapped Jamal into a pair of handcuffs and led them to a truck.

“Who’s that guy?” asked Jamal.

“Ursa Major,” whispered the rabbit, “the giant’s enforcer.”

Ursa glared at Jack. “Let’s get one thing straight,” he growled, “no talking.” He held a handgun on them. A couple hours passed and soon Jamal looked through the window and gazed at a massive house. The truck stopped at the gate and Ursa rolled down the window. The guard at the gatehouse pushed a few buttons and the gate swung open.

“James,” he said to the doorman, “bring these bozos to the giant.”

The doorman grabbed both of them by their arms and threw open a door. Jamal could hardly breathe, his eyes were focused on something as enormous as a skyscraper. “So James,” the voice boomed, “did Ursa get them?”

Jamal and Jack fell to the giant’s feet. The giant glared at them and said in a voice that rumbled like thunder, “so young man, were you the one who threatened to kill me?” Jamal stared blankly at the giant. “Speak up,” he roared, “did you threaten to kill me?”

Jamal kept his mouth shut, not caring what the giant did to him.

“Fine,” roared the giant, “if you’re not going to answer, than I might use a little force.”

“Guard,” he shouted to a fox, “take them to the dungeon.”

The fox seized Jamal and Jack by their forearms and led them down a flight of stars. There stood two foxes wearing black tuxes and the guard threw both Jamal and Jack into the room. “Hello guys,” one of the foxes said, “welcome to your new home.” “Me and my assistant will do our best to make sure you enjoy your stay.” “There is one meal per day which is usually stale bread, so you better get used to chewing. Thank you and have a great day.”

“We’re screwed,” said Jack.

“Calm down man,” said Jamal, “I think I know how to kill the Giant.”

“What kind of plan?” said Jack, “would it involve nukes or something like that?”

“What annoys the giant?” asked Jamal.

“Well,” said Jack, “music gets the giant so p***ed, when he first come to town, he banned music.”

“I got it,” said Jamal, “Jack, can you beatbox?”

“I got some words,” said Jamal, “I think this plan may work.”



Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! The Giant strode through the town

Tearing up stuff and throwing it around.

Along came Jamal, strong and tall

Who smashed the giant’s bones and all.


“Hey good tune,” said Jack, “let’s do it as loud as we can.” The guard who stood in the office next to Jamal’s cell, started humming. His partner started singing and soon a whole chorus of guards began chanting. Some guards were doing air guitar and soon even the other prisoners sang. From upstairs, Ursa Major heard the noise. He started prancing downstairs and started spinning on his head. The Giant heard the noise and trembled with rage. He thundered downstairs to the dungeon and saw Ursa, shaking his hips. The Giant picked up Ursa and gripped him firmly. “Um Master,” stammered Ursa, “I was just um, uh, guarding the prisoners.”

“No, you were singing,” roared the Giant. The giant dangled Ursa near his mouth. “Don’t eat me,” he begged. But, the Giant minced Ursa with his teeth. Then he thundered upstairs.

“How many of you guys hate the giant?” said Jamal.

All the guards timidly raised their hands.

“Well we will overcome his rule. Now I have a plan.”

“How?” asked the guards, “he will kill us if he finds out.”

“We’ll just keep on singing,” said Jamal.

Meanwhile the Giant heard the song again and he bolted down to the dungeon. Nobody screamed as the Giant smashed through the wall with his hand. Jamal and Jack ran through the wall, and dodged the flying chunks of stone. The Giant charged towards them like a bull in an arena and raised his fist. He picked up a car and chucked it at Jamal, but it landed near a building and exploded.

“Come back here,” the Giant bellowed like an ox, as Jamal dashed across the bridge. “Jamal,” shouted Jack, “the Giant is pulling the bridge apart, you better hurry.” Jamal felt the bridge rumble. The Giant stomped his feet and several cars turned flip-flops and gnashed his teeth and tore out clumps of his hair. Soon bystanders started singing and the Giant smashed some of the bystanders like ants.

“Hey Giant,” shouted Jamal, “I know a quiet place where you could ignore the singing.”

“You do,” said the Giant, “where is it?”

“Just follow me,” said Jamal as he chuckled to himself.

Jamal led the Giant to a warehouse. The Giant bumped his head and moaned. “Are you okay,” said Jamal, “it’ll go away.”

“Do you want me to go?” said Jamal.

“Okay,” said the Giant.

Jamal left the warehouse and slammed the door shut.

Jack took a canister of gasoline and started dousing the roof.

“Hey does anyone have matches?” shouted Jamal.

One bystander threw Jamal a pack and Jamal pulled one out.

Jamal’s hand trembled as he struck the match. “Stay calm,” he muttered to himself, “just do it.” Jamal lit the gas soaked roof and sighed. He heard a slight crackle, smoke rose and the Giant was coughing as loud as a thunderstorm. “Let me out,” he bellowed, “I can’t feel my skin.”

“Once it heats up some more you will feel great,” shouted Jamal,

“Keep dousing more gasoline,” Jamal whispered to Jack, “just do it.”

Flames sputtered and the roof started to slide like a collapsing mountain. The Giant smashed his fist through the warehouse and lumbered through the streets. The Giant, flaming like a tree on fire, staggered towards the bridge. “Hey Giant,” shouted Jamal, “dive into the water, it’ll help you cool off.”

The Giant plunged into the water and flailed his arms wildly but Jamal walked away as the Giant vanished beneath the waves. Everybody looked at Jamal and rushed towards him. “Thanks, it was nothing,” said Jamal “kudos to Jack for setting the fire, without him I would have failed epically.”

Later that night, a choir of cheers thundered. “Jamal,” someone asked, “be our mayor, you have saved Chimera, so now help get rid of corruption.” Jamal raised his hand and a hush fell over the crowd, “guys, I’ll try my best to help you out, but i’m gonna to need some assistance from Jack.”

Later, that night, Jamal entered the Giant’s mansion and walked down a corridor of rooms. A placard read: JAMAL: MAN OF THE HOUSE!





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