RED RIDING HOOD, RECLAIMED
It was a lie, but this could work if everyone sticks to the script.
So I put on my red cape and set out for grandmother’s house: which is no place as idyllic as the vacation cottage referenced in all the books. No. More of a run down carriage house, spared when the ramshackle carriage barn was razed as a public hazard: a spindle of antiques cluttering the advance of the wilderness. Grandmother had set up a small living space in the back and we were always bringing her supplies, the necessaries of life. These things she could never afford herself, having raised a family and spent her youth pushing out the next shoe-struck generation; and if it weren’t for our regular delivery service, the old lady long ago would have expired simply of yellow-eyed want.
So she was amenable when the wolf and I made our proposal: why wouldn’t she, just two afternoons a week, take a long walk: go see the woodsman, busy herself with a little social conversation, or simply count the clouds that look like grandfather’s infidelities?
Given her situation, what was she going to say?
And so the wolf and I had our two wondrous afternoons each week. His fur was the ground-water wet landscape of my emergence; I was the humbling prey that held him away from his pack. Our union was the grand gnashing of gears and pinions that only a contentious mix of species can call out of simple flesh. Grandmother’s spindly bed could barely contain us. It rocked and it heaved and it prepared to give way: it stammered and stuttered and skidded on its stick legs around the room, as seemingly alive as if it had its own wants and its own surrendered barrenness. The early half of each evening after our visits, grandmother would be shoring up the bed’s battered frame, sorting feather from straw, restacking her preciously gifted personal goods on the numb and rattled shelves. Fur shed in wolf-passion, in shine tasting new woman passion, would bedevil her sheets and nothing would get the surpassingly erotic hair out.
I was drawn into the passion of fur: into the matte and bristle, the crystalline smell of its precision. The moment when compassion and cooperation turn into the single fearing purpose, the tunnel vision of personal passion: that moment I fell in love with. The blinding animal need without geometry or object. Without prelude or outcome. These for the wolf were hallowed dance steps and I was enraptured by the performance.
But there is outcome. The human half of this pair must push back the allure of the feral and look instead self-consciously into a workday future. Wolves have no future. They dance and kill and love in the present day and tomorrow is another bucket of needs and wants that hasn’t yet been dreamt of.
In the practical time of women, these arrangements never last. No matter how deep in the woods, someone discovers the outlawed ecstasy; or the natural course of events conspires to break the back of a short-lived workable solution. Sometimes the unharnessed passion runs its full wicked course and the animal turbulence calms into plans for a mortgage, savings for college, the thought of a retirement to the shore. A woman begins to imagine the life she will have when the life she is having – of unmeasured actions and irregular wants and random satisfaction – loses its energy and she pristinely wonders how much love there is in sitting quietly over what is left of the morning’s orange juice.
As the body cools, the omnipresence of needs becomes the tickling hint of plans. The present looks over the fence at the future.
So I am trudging suspiciously now along the path I used to fly with pleasures of rage along in days past, at the speed of bestial love and pure minded lust. Under my red cape in better times I brightly surged this way bone naked, electric at the idea of union; yet today I am dressed in deceptive layers, my thoughts as mathematical as the single purpose machine my body has become. Self-centered and demanding, my ample belly pries at the cloth and I can barely keep one foot in front of the other, my condition more comfortable with a waddle than with any other gait: one leg out to the side and the other flung inelegantly around. Gravity does not love a woman in my situation, and I feel its hands against me like a drunk fondling another drunk at the church social.
By now the wolf will have eaten the last unappetizing ribbon of my tough, leathery grandmother. I can imagine how impressed she would be that I could go back on our deal, develop all on my own a more profitable long term perspective, and scheme to use my wolf lover as my ready and unthinking tool. She would be proud at the end of her life to be worth silencing. My wolf will have dressed himself poorly enough in her nightclothes, looking nothing like a grandmother, fooling not even himself. The need for an exit of grandmother he can understand; but the nightclothes he thinks is just one more slip of a pregnant woman’s roaming mind, a craving like milk thistle or dandelion root. He will pull on the thin, cheap sleeping garments as best he can and try like a man in quicksand to look the interested lover. What wolves and people do not know ensures their world stays a place of simple decisions.
The woodsman is the core to my disentanglement. His actions need to be as precise and convincing as those of a clockmaker, as true as God flinging down His alabaster retribution: His unjacketed spare lightning bolts, well timed if poorly aimed. Only in the shadow of single purpose does this woodsman know that it is his part to kill the wolf, to restore my overly complicated life to its former little girl’s equation. Only he knows he is my dolorous note of revenge and salvation.
The wolf will be gone, along with his songs of completion and his eyes of a lust left lingering across species; and grandmother, with her needs thumbing the moral, will be an ironic bloat in the wolf’s self-important belly. I am sick of being the expedient. I am sick of being the example that proves a tale that makes no sense.
For the woodsman’s part, I have promised him his pick of my pups.
Ken Poyner has been publishing for 40 years, most recently in Menacing Hedge, Devilfish, Silver Blade, Garbanzo, Poet Lore, Subliminal Interiors, and the ubiquitous elsewhere. He lives in southeastern Virginia with his world class power lifter wife and their myriad rescue cats.
Melyssa Anishnabie is a self-taught artist and amateur photographer with a slight fetish for gauze, bones and rusty things. She calls Toronto home, where she lives with 4 cats, 2 dogs and the occassional wayward pigeon. Don’t worry, she won’t catch bird flu.
Her favorite activities are sleeping, canoeing, exploring abandoned places with her camera, playing World of Warcraft (horde ftw) and of course creating in both digital and traditional mediums.
She supports her pets and her art by working as a photo editor and by pretending to be really cool people on tv.