Saturday 26 June 2021

'Keeping the Wolf from the Door' by Sue Dawes

Once upon a time he could sense her coming, her carefree childhood clinging to the folds of her cape.

She wants to be called Red now, says Blanchette is ‘so last century.’

He pulls up the sheet as the door bangs open.  Her entrance is followed by the damp of the forest.

‘I’m home,’ she says, dropping her empty basket, no pretence anymore. ‘I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.’

He hears the squeak of the ice box as she raises the lid.

‘New social worker?’ she asks. ‘How many does that make?’

She laughs, the sound spiking the hairs on the back of his neck, pushing against the white cotton bonnet she insists he still wear.  

When she leans in to kiss his cheek, he can smell the rotten flesh on her breath.

‘Keeping me company is the least you can do, after Grandma,’ Red reminds him, wagging her finger.

He swallows.  The work is endless, like her trail of childish footprints.

He used to be fierce and frenzied, a life spent frightening old ladies and blowing the roofs off straw houses. Now he’s domesticated.

He’d be scared of her shadow, if she had one.

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