February 26, 2018

The Wolf in the Forest

The first thing is, her name is Rebecca. She's spent years being identified as what happened to her, and she hates that. She hates the way people talk about whether her mother failed her or not, instead of asking her how her day went, what books she recommends, what her recipe is for the lavender scones she likes to make. So we won't be calling her Little Red Riding Hood here.




Secondly, she clenches her jaw every time someone brings up the wolf. She used to correct them, but she's given that up now. If they want to think there was a wolf in the forest, and that this wild and cunning animal was the point - if they want to ignore all the statistics about stranger danger, and go on with their lives in the comfort of knowing they just have to keep their children out of the woods - then she's content these days to let them. She tried as much as she could to set the story straight. My mother, she tells them, also believed in the wolf in the woods. She warned me about it, cloaked me against it, then sent me off to my grandmother's house where she said I'd be safe. But still they hear it wrong. Now she's stopped talking and started taking responsibility for her own peace.

Except, that is, for the nights she wakes crying, and she crawls into his embrace, knowing he is the only one who can calm her. Just as he was the only one who would save her, all those years ago. His arms are still strong; he can still wield an axe well enough to break down a door. And his smile is gentle as ever; he doesn't mind how she needs to keep the door unlatched, the light on at night, even after all this time.

Because she will never unsee the shadows in her grandmother's bedroom. And she will never entirely stop hearing the thin old voice saying, lock the door behind you. And if she sometimes washes herself over and again as if there's slime or blood on her skin she won't be rid of, that's because she can not forget how her grandmother swallowed her whole, even though she was eventually rescued.





2 comments:

  1. I always thought "little red" one of the creepier tales in a genre of often creepy plot events... perhaps because of the way the wolf was able to fool the grandmother, as much as the being swallowed up and axe-surgeried out again!

    this rendition is very intriguing...

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  2. This gave me chills - just as that tale is supposed to. The visceral quality of it...so often watered down, or almost flippant. And the core of it for me was always this horrifying kernel: "...because she cannot forget how her grandmother swallowed her whole..."


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