[Fiction] Mr. Wolf

Little Red Riding Hood

When Georgia was a little girl, she wore a red peacoat with brass buttons that always got a few compliments whenever she and her mother would take the walk from their apartment to the local shops.

“Well, if it isn’t little Hood,” Tony would say and he’d slide an extra inch of salami into her sandwich.

“Well, if it isn’t little Hood,” Jacques would say and uncurl a handful of petit fours from his pudgy chef’s palm.

“Morning, Red.” Sandy would smile indulgently behind her Daily Post and sometimes Georgia found an extra few lemon drops from the candy shop in her bag.

It wasn’t until she was fully grown that Georgia took a stroll into the nearby woods with her familiar rose-dyed uniform.

“I’ve met so many friends,” Georgia said, treading carefully over the foliage. She raised her head and let autumn fall with a grace that stole her breath away. Let the people in her memories slip through her fingers. “I think I’m brave enough to greet you now, Mr. Wolf.”

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[Fiction] The Last Stage

Archie glanced at his analog clock. It was 6:57 am. He had been retired for seven years but still hadn’t gotten used to getting up any later. He knew the cannery was defunct and his son had told him over the phone to maybe try his at gardening, knitting, or golf. The sunlight shone wanly through the curtains and the dust motes hanging mid-air disappeared if he squinted the wrong way.

His goldfish was still snoozing, but the end of his tail was ragged.

Archie slipped silently from the covers.

“You poor thing,” he said to the bowl in his bedroom. Lifting it, he plodded over to the adjoining bathroom to fetch the bucket he kept under the sink. As it filled under the bathtub faucet, he imagined the clinking of silverware and someone busying herself in the kitchen. His face grew tight with sadness and then fond with remembrance.

“Well Zippy,” he said to the fish when the water had been transferred and it was swimming happily in its newly rehydrated home, “won’t you join me for breakfast?”

Archie took Zippy’s little wriggle as assent and carried Zippy, and his bowl, into the kitchen.

[Fiction] Old Friend

First, I want to thank all the writers and artists who joined in on yesterday’s National Poetry Day party. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet some new faces! Now back to your regularly scheduled writing…

Wolf

Donna wrapped up her old teddy bear, the mink with the missing eye, and a scruffy lion in a few scraps of cloth to be put into the box to Goodwill. She hadn’t seen her childhood toys since she left them behind in her mother’s house. She had names for all of them once, but try as she might she couldn’t remember any of them until she came upon Pepper, the wolf. His hair had been washed out of his gray dye when she had given him a bubble bath, was it? Yes, 40 some odd years ago.

“You’re looking your age now,” Donna said fondly, touching his nose. She pulled a stray white curl away from her own face and smiled. “And so am I.”

He was the only thing she took for herself from that house, safely tucked under her arm.

[Fiction] Ballerina

Ballerina

Justine practices her plié in her converted basement. She mops the sprung floor herself and dusts the barre. The mirror reflects only one lithe figure. She never invites anyone down for a pas de deux, but she always smiles at her reflection. She thinks she is too late for the career of a prima ballerina, but her full heart is as grand as one.

[Fiction] Angie’s Boot

Garden

Angie, who grew up with nothing, hoarded all that she could around her desert home. Her stretch of pale grass became an oasis: a refuge for small skittering legs and dormice in the dark. When her husband left her, she took his old work boot and filled it with rich dirt. The cacti flourished and bloomed in their new pot. Six months later, she looked again at the shoe and it was only the flowers that she saw.

[Fiction] Baby Talk

Constantine trotted by Sarah’s side like a shadow even when the sun wasn’t out. At first, the new baby brother had been a nuisance, a pest, on the same level as spiders and mosquitos to all fourteen-year-old girls, until he started talking.

Sarah listened as she never listened to anyone else, because when Constantine spoke it was not like other people speaking, but music. Soft rising. Sly falling. His toddler’s babble was possibility: untamed, uninformed, and incomplete.

She pressed her fingers against his cupid’s bow. Wet and slick with saliva, it was hungry for more than a bottle. She wrapped him in her thin arms, the ones her girlfriends taunted as anorexic at school, and found a surprising strength welling deep inside her.

She lifted a lullaby, a wonder, as Constantine sang.

[Fiction] Expectations

Red Shoes

My mother had a pair of red shoes that she never wore but placed in a clear plastic box at the top of her closet. She never hid them but enshrined them. On tiring days after work, her feet aching in flats, she’d sit on the bed with the closet door open, rubbing her swollen ankles and telling me she’d wear those heels someday, maybe to the opera or to dancing or to my wedding.

I was five at the time and couldn’t picture a groom. I didn’t dream of cakes or white wedding dresses and it wasn’t until ten years later, when a boy tried to kiss me, that I realized why I never did.

She threw the shoes away when I turned 30, still single, and when she had a bad fall that kept her bedridden for weeks.

“I’m sorry,” I said, placing a vase of primroses at her bedside.

She touched the petals, playing her fingers over where the sunlight did. Then she turned to me, looked at me, really looked for the first time in a while, and smiled.

“No, I am.”

Little Photographer

Little Photographer

My son Josh loves to follow me around the studio, helping me rearrange drapery and backdrops from the bucolic to the sinister. When he was born, I gave up a government clerkship to spend more time with him, using my savings to open up a photography store where I charge $50 for a single portraiture.

Josh can be a handful when he’s not busy – sitting still to him is about as lonesome and as boring as banishing him to the ends of the earth. I always need to invent new toys for him; the ones I buy, like Fisher Price, never last as long and they make a large dent in my wallet.

One particular morning, he’s being extremely difficult while I’m trying to pose a new mother and her wailing infant for a picture. He tugs at my shirt, staring wide-eyed at the crying baby.

“Let me help mom,” he says.

A migraine begins to gather between my brows and I can already feel a faint throbbing when I grab an old camera that I had been meaning to get fixed, but never did. I press it into his hands.

“You can be my number two.” I try to smile, feeling half-wilted. “Get ready to help me shoot.”

He shuffles off, intent with his new plaything and I think no more of it until the baby abruptly stops howling and gurgles. I rattle a few props to try to get her attention, but her gaze wanders behind my right shoulder. I turn around and there is Josh, photographing the toy horse I gave to him for his last birthday.

He smiles sheepishly.

I gesture him to move his horse and camera closer to my side. Whooping, Josh gallops towards me on his steed, the camera’s strap waving in one hand like a lasso.

The baby laughs brightly and I have the perfect photo.

Observer

Museum guard

Jeffery is a security guard at the Nelson Museum of Art located in a rundown neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The museum is managed by an NGO and due to the economic recession, had to cut its staff, so he is the only guard on duty. He’s seen paintings of gumball machines and lesser known contemporaries of Monet make it on the walls, usually for two seasons, when it used to be one. He doesn’t know what each painting costs, because the appraiser and archivist, Caroline, went on maternity leave two weeks ago and doesn’t know if she’ll be back.

He’s seen all types of people browse the art, some with blank faces, others squinting nearsightedly as if they could find some hidden meaning behind a lithograph if they just tried hard enough. But silver-haired Magdelenia, who visits every Friday at two o’clock, breezes by, smiling at each piece — whether cheerful or horrendously gloomy – and greets each one like an old friend.

She speaks to them, one by one: “Hello, it’s Magdelenia again. How are you today?” and “Did you get any unusual visitors this week?”

One Friday, Magdelenia enters with plodding steps, dressed in black with a veil before her eyes. She sits down on the bench in the middle of the room, a red plush one that children like to climb over, and waits.

Jeffrey imagines that the paintings would crowd all over her if they could, saying things like “What’s wrong, Magdelenia?” and “Please smile, Magdelenia!” But they can’t, so Jeffrey pulls a napkin he saved from lunch in his pants’ pocket. From his customary corner in the gallery, he strides over to press it into Magdelenia’s hands. Her fingers feel as worn as parchment paper.

“Thank you,” Magdelenia says, and Jeffrey smiles kindly upon her.