Size Isn't Everything
by Pauline Masurel

Once, in the hills above the village, there lived a giant, a very lazy giant; a man who imagined that just being a giant was all he need do to get what he wanted.

    As a giant he could, indeed, do pretty much as he pleased all day. Usually he slept through the rising of the sun, the working part of the day and continued to snooze on through the brightest heat in the afternoon. Then, as the wind kicked up a little in the evening, he would stagger down into the village, stomping his way through the groves of olive and lemon trees, ripping out rows of vines each time he lifted his giant feet.

    In the village he ate most of the evening's freshly baked bread, scoffed all the cheese he could find and lobbed bowl after bowl of salty olives down his throat. Then he would light a fire in the market place and tip out the holds of the fishing boats to cook their catch, or roast any unsuspecting tethered goat upon which he could lay his hands. Finally, he would consume several barrels of wine and happily hiccup his way back up the hill for the night, leaving the villagers huddled terrified inside their houses.

    After several years of this blight, the men of the village met one night to discuss how they could rid the village of the giant. One young woman defiantly joined them.  Her name was Gina. The men were surly and displeased at this intervention but suffered her silent presence while they convened a militia to attack the giant.  They planned their strategy. Chose strikers and defenders (settling on a 4-4-2 formation for the battle).  Finally, as the meeting was disbanding, Gina stood up and made an announcement.

    “Well, I've listened to everything you've said.  But I reckon  there’s another way to defeat this giant.”   She took care not to rubbish all the carefully laid plans but it was obvious from the pugnacious tilt of her chin that she didn’t think much of their idea of a full-frontal attack.

    Some of the men just ignored her; plenty laughed, while others grumbled heatedly at the outrage of her interruption. A few (mainly those standing behind Gina and favoured with the best view) made lewd gestures and offered alternative suggestions of their own.

    Gina shrugged and murmured, “Well, I did try.” With that it appeared all further discussion was closed and the meeting broke up.

    The men of the village set out the next day to attack the giant. They took sabres, torches, pokers, pitchforks and any weapons or tools  that came to hand. They crept up on him in the early hours of the morning and got close enough to launch their onslaught. 

    The giant awoke. He let out an almighty bellow and slapped all but the strongest men aside with his first swipe. The remaining forces fought on bravely but soon all were beaten back down the hill.  They were greeted by their womenfolk and the sorry sight of a banquet laid out in honour of their unrequited victory. After eating and drinking the men retired to nurse newly-dressed wounds and attempt to sleep (or be consoled as best as their women could manage). 

    Gina slipped away into the hills.  She found the giant sleeping, just where she though she would.  She sat down beside him and hurled pebbles at his eyebrows until they tickled so much that finally he awoke.

    “Well?” she said, perhaps sounding a little crosser than intended.  “Are you going to give it up?” 

     The giant blustered.  His pride was hurt and his ankles sore from all the stabbing and poking sustained earlier.  Gina persisted, “You promised.”

    The giant lumbered himself up into a seated position, looked down at her and then gruffly shook his head. He pouted grumpily, “If you really loved me then you wouldn’t try to change me.  I said I’d let you share my cave, didn’t I?  What more do you want, woman?”  With that his head lolled backwards and he returned to his slumber.          

    Gina just rolled her eyes and muttered, “Well, I did try.”  She picked her way sadly down the hillside and returned to her bed to sleep alone.

    The next day Gina called another meeting. This time all the women of the village assembled while she outlined the plan that the men had refused to hear.  Before they began dispersing to their various kitchens, cellars and wardrobes to begin the preparations, Gina gave them one last warning for the night that would follow.

    “And remember, never go within three metres of the giant.”

    At this most of the women looked puzzled. They had all been told from the very earliest age that, due to the danger of land slips and earthquakes, this was a safe distance to keep from the overhangs and ledges at the tops of the cliffs.   None had ever heard the warning applied to a man before, not even a giant.

    “Why, Gina?” one asked. Others speculated. “Is the danger from giants like the risk of quakes?” or, “Is three metres the reach of his arms?”

    Gina just shook her head slowly and with a thrust of her hips pantomimed something that all but the youngest of the women understood only too well. Some eyes widened and others narrowed. Some women winced and others appeared entranced by their thoughts. Some mouths turned up at the corners; others pursed and a few fell slack.

    Gina smiled. “Don't say I didn't warn you!”  The older women clacked their tongues and wondered, privately, just how it was that Gina (who really wasn't any better than she ought to be) would know  such a thing.

    The following night was marked by a great fiesta down in the village, the like of which had never been seen before. All the men remained inside their houses while the women, dressed in their shortest skirts and skimpiest tops, made merry in the streets.  They laughed, sang and danced so uproariously that some had almost forgotten why they were there.

    The giant, for his part, had never dreamed of such goings on; so many tasty women together, down in the square. He wondered where they'd been kept hidden away for so long. Only as he entered the main street did his thoughts turn to other matters. There, in the centre of the square, in the lengthening shadow of the bell tower, was the most enormous pie he had ever seen. It was certainly a pie fit for a giant.

    The women called out to him, “Come and join us! Come and join us! You're so big and you're so handsome.  Come on down and take your fill!”

    At first he suspected a trap. Where were all the soldiers who had come with brands and spears the previous night? Were they hidden away somewhere in that delicious looking pie? But the smell, the smell was wonderful, not only the gorgeous aroma of good home cooking but three enormous barrels of wine. He could savour those in the air as well.  The grape scent had evaporated freely in the earlier searing heat and was taunting his nostrils.

    So the giant plundered on down into the village and the women linked arms and danced around him, keeping him always safely at the centre of the ring, taking care to never come within three metres of the gargantuan man, just as Gina had instructed.

    The giant could not control his hunger.  He scoffed the pie and quaffed vast quantities of wine. His other appetites began to return.  His humungous eye scoured the faces and bodies of the nubile young delicacies prancing before him.  Suddenly he emitted an almighty belch.  It set the church bells ringing in their tower and blew the chimney stack covers off half a dozen roofs, sending them flying down to earth like a flock of demented crows.

    Meanwhile, cowering inside their houses, the men all softly cheered and chanted choruses of  “Who ate all the pie?  Who ate all the pie?  You fat bastard, you fat bastard....”

    The giant was feeling decidedly queasy and resolved to retire to  his cave and sleep off the meal. No matter about those women. He'd try them out another time. As he headed for the hills, back to his patchwork quilt of heather, rosemary and wild thyme, he realised what they had done to him.

    "Poison!" he roared and the ground shook.

    Back in the village Gina told the women, “There, he knows that he's dying,” and she whispered to her sister, with a sad smile. “The earth really did move for me that time.”

    The giant thrashed back through the olive groves, struggling every stride of the way.  Realising that his life was nearly over, he determined to destroy the village with an earthquake if he could. He stomped his feet, time after time. His legs plunged deep into the ground, sinking deep well-holes in the earth.  In each new shaft there arose pure spring water. 

    He began to despair of extracting his revenge. Now the villagers would have twelve fine new wells to drink from, to water the crops and keep the fields fertile (or was it only eleven, his vision was becoming blurred).

    Defeated by this realisation the giant's body thundered to the ground.  He thumped his fists petulantly, but to no avail.  No help came.  His jaw dropped slack and his eye grew dull.  He died where he fell.

    With the giant gone there was nothing left for the villagers to fear, apart from each other. In their homes the men and women reunited.  They cast each other strange re-appraising looks as though trying to make sense of the events of the past few days. They were puzzled too that there was no sign to be seen of Gina herself.

    She had set off up the hillside at first light, on the morning after the giant's defeat. It was rumoured that she went to live alone in the giant's cave. The villagers told that the opening in the rock was clearly marked by the form of a petrified, giant horse.  They said that, upon hearing of its master’s death, the animal had jumped in fear onto the lintel of the cave and promptly turned to stone.

    But the path to the cave was long and steep though and none of the villagers actually dared to enter its mouth to check out their own stories.  Gina's mother rationalised that anyone might be scared by the thought of living in such close proximity to Gina, even a horse. “No wonder it was petrified,” she told all of her neighbours. “Wouldn't you have been?”

    By and by, a salt stream appeared in the hillsides.  When it was in spate there was no need for the villagers to pan salt from the sea.  They used its waters, leaving them to crystallise in the sun, and were in the habit of calling this seasoning Gina’s Tears.  It was even rumoured that if you listened hard enough you could hear the leaves of the trees exhale into the wind the words, “Well, I did try.” 

    But all of this was probably just so much talk.