Little Red Revisited

Little Red didst blithely skip

in forest deep and dark.

Forgetting all had been warned

laughing as if on a lark.

 

She swung her basket to and fro

not looking through her eyes,

for dangers hidden in the trees

not thinking about a disguise.

 

Upon a hunter meek and mild

Little Red didst soon arrive.

With clear blue eyes she smiled

At him, so sweet, so clear, so alive.

 

He spoke of peace and gentle things

and she didst fall in love.

He promised not to hurt her heart

and swore to God above.

 

Red knew him not, but answered yes

despite what she’d been told.

And so struck out on her own

with step both confident and bold.

 

Ignoring signs of pending doom,

Red whistled as she skipped.

Right up to Grandma’s house

and in the door she slipped.

 

In bed poor Grandma slept

with fever and with cold.

Red tiptoed up to see her eyes

and Grandma’s hand to hold.

 

“What big eyes,” Red declared

when Grandma didst awake.

“To see, my dear,” she replied

and took a bite of cake.

 

“What big teeth,” Red did say

when Grandma opened wide.

“To chew, my dear, these lovely

cakes,” she sneakily replied.

 

“What furry arms you have,”

said Red, “but I remember not

when didst thou grow such

lengthy hair could be tied in a knot.”

 

“It keeps me warm on winter’s eve,

and dry during a spring rain.

I’d love to hold you in my arms,

to cradle you once again.”

 

“No, thanks,” said Red for she did see

that things were not all right.

For Grandma dear was way too dark

even in such poor light.

 

“I think I’ll go,” Red didst say

and hurried toward the door.

“You shall not go,” Grandma declared

and sprang feet on the floor.

 

She threw off her cap and gown,

revealing a wolf-like shape.

Red didst scream and run about

attempting to escape.

 

The wolf didst flash a mighty smile

and throw his arms out wide.

Intending to capture Little Red

without wasting even one stride.

 

Suddenly there didst appear

a man both tall and strong.

Red ran to him and told her tale

so he could right a wrong.

 

Listen now for you shall hear

the moral of this tale.

Go careful through yon forest deep

and whilst skipping through a vale.

 

Rescue might not come your way.

To perish could become your plight.

Unless you’re careful to observe

even on the darkest dark night.

 

While Little Red didst escape

and her story she soon didst tell.

You must listen and take care,

so for you things will go well.

 

You cannot walk and prance about,

with head adrift in the skies.

For on you might come, like to Red,

a murderous surprise.

 

Beware, my child, of strangers met

in forest, field, or glen.

For they might be a dangerous sort,

then we’ll not meet again.

 

 

 

 

 

Dapper Doesn’t Do

Wolfgang Von Schmidt, thinking himself the cat’s meow, combs out his wiry whiskers and brushes his bright, white teeth.  Taking his favorite top hat from his closet shelf, he places it between his lupine-like ears, taps the brim with one hand, and smiles.  Pulling on the lapels of his tuxedo jacket, he examines himself in his full-length mirror, thinking himself quite dapper.

He saunters through his penthouse apartment with practiced grace.  He picks up a mahogany cane, taps his right dress shoe three times and leaves.  While he waits for the elevator, Wolfgang hums a happy tune, a seductive tune, a winsome tune.

He walks jauntily through the front doors, waving good-bye to the doorman.

“Out for the evening, sir?’

“Of course,” he replies with a wink and a grin.  “If I’m lucky, I’ll return with a beautiful woman on my arm.”

“Good hunting,” The doorman bows goodbye.

Wolfgang strolls over to a sleek black limo. Wolfgang taps the brim of his hat at the driver before he slithers inside, smiling a wolfish grin.

“Where to, sir?” the driver asks.

“The usual.”

“Your woman’s waiting?”

“Of course.”

They head to the street of lights running through downtown Las Vegas.

Wolfgang knows that Rosa, his current girlfriend, is waiting at Jayto’s, the hottest nightclub in town.  He told her to be there no later than ten, knowing that he’d intentionally arrive thirty minutes later because he loves the grand entrance, smirking as all heads turn and stare while he struts his sexy body across the floor.  Wolf laughs as he imagines the men glowering while women squirm, unable to resist his animal attraction.

Wolf had told Rosa to order champagne and an appetizer to tide her over. But what Wolf had not counted on was that Rosa had little patience for sitting alone, a spectacle, a laughingstock of epic proportions.

Before they started dating, Rosa warned him, “I know your reputation. You should know that I have a rule: You have three chances to impress me and if you don’t meet my expectations, I’ll dump you.”

“No worries, my dear,” he said with a tip of his hat. “I”ll never disappoint you.”

“You’d better not,” she said as she inhaled her cigarette. “I’m not kidding.”

Wolf intentionally made her wait two previous times just to test her resolve, and now he’s on his third. But he knows that Rose is so entranced by his charm, so enthralled by his wolfish good looks, that she’d never walk away.

Tonight, wanting to control every detail, no matter how small, he even went so far as to tell her what to wear, demanding her sexiest red dress, her matching stiletto heels and her mink stole.

What Wolf hadn’t counted on was that sitting has made Rosa angry and the champagne she guzzled in annoyance has given her a massive headache. When he finally arrives with an exaggerated flourish, she watched him tip his hat to the left and right, stopping to whisper in every woman’s ear who smiled his way.

Jealous at the attention that she felt should have been focused on her, her temper rises to a boil.  By the time he arrives at the table, steam is pouring from her ears and her cheeks are crimson with rage.

“Hello, my lovely,” Wolf says as he runs his ungloved hand down her arm and leans down for a kiss.

Rosa shrugs off his clammy paw.  “So, what’s your excuse this time?”

“These big teeth take a long time to brush.” He flashes his sexiest smile and slithers into his chair.

“And I suppose it takes an hour to comb that hair of yours.”

“I have to look my best,” he says.  “My huge eyes are only for you, you know.” He leans forward and bats his eyelids in suggestion of thrills to come.

She snickers.  “I’m not a fairy tale woman that falls for your wily ways.”

“Come on, sweetheart,” he pleads. “Let me hold you in my arms and kiss your soft cheek.  I’m your man, remember?  The one who fills your every need.”

“Not tonight, you jerk.” Rosa picks up her purse, slinging her stole over her pale shoulders, stands. “You can’t expect forgiveness this time. It’s not going to happen.”

“Sit down,” he says while looking around the club to see how much attention she’s garnering.

Wolf’s appalled when he sees people staring with open mouths.  He’s fully aware that his reputation, his suaveness are the talk of the town. His haunting darkness speaks of a wild and uninhibited energy.

He reaches for Rosa’s arm. “Hey, I’ve got a fabulous evening planned.”

“You blew it,” she says as she pulls away. “I’m not the kind of girl who’ll take being embarrassed lying down.”

Wolf wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her into his lap. “Kiss me. I promise it will be worth it.” He pulls her close, puckering his lips, expecting her to melt into his arms.

When Rosa realizes the power of the drama she’s creating, she says in a loud voice, “Get your slimy hands off me.”

“Stay, my lovely maiden,” Wolf pleads.  “Enjoy a nice dinner.  Talk awhile.  I promise to be charming,” he says as he blinks his large brown eyes.

“Look, Wolfgang,” Rosa says, “you love yourself too much and live only to satisfy your own ego.  Well, I won’t stand for it.  I have my needs, you know, and you don’t fit in the picture.”  Rosa stomps out, her gown rustling like the leaves on a forest tree.  Every eye follows her, wide open, for not every day does a gorgeous woman leave her date behind in a flutter of napkins and a chorus of muffled coughs.

As she saunters away, Wolf shrugs and signals the waiter. “Bring me a highball. And a bowl of nuts.”

By the time Rosa exits, he’s simmering. No woman has ever walked out on him. He is the one who dumps them after he tires of their winsome ways.  But this relationship was different and tonight, of all nights, the anniversary of his move to the city, was to be a celebration of a beginning of a new chapter in his life.

Since leaving his home deep in the forest, Wolfgang has never looked back on the family he left behind, the rustic cabin hidden in a waterfall-created cove, his “litter-mates,” as he teasingly calls his siblings, nor even his mother, whom he detests for being primitive in her ways. He loves city life; the adventure of the chase, the game-playing and risk-taking and especially the ladies.  Oh, how he loves the women!

Especially Rosa, who was supposed to be an important part of his future plans.

Because she is the most spectacular woman he’s ever been with, he intended to seal the deal with a visit to his penthouse suite and an aperitif of wolfish delight.

After Rose exits without so much as a glance back, Wolf picks up his napkin and casually drops it on the table as if these things happened every day.  No big deal.

Pushing back his shoulders he rises with elegance.  He winds his way through the tables, ignoring the smirks and guffaws.  He salutes the doorman with a tap to his brim.  Not wanting to wait for his limo, Wolf hails a cab, climbs inside, and gives directions.

He sulks home, dragging his not-to-be fairy-tale tail behind him.  For the first time in his life, a girl has bested him. What is he to do for desert?

Out of the Fire

Times had been hard since Julia’s father remarried. His new wife, Angelica, had no time and little to no interest in taking care of Julia, and so left her alone and feeling unloved. As an eight-year-old, this was painfully hard. More than anything, Julia yearned to be held in someone’s arms and hear the words, “I love you”. But day after day passed without a single encouraging sound.

Her father traveled a lot for work, so he was seldom home. Recently he flew off to Switzerland, a land that Julia longed to see, leaving instructions for Angelica to take his daughter shopping for new school clothes.

Like all kids, Julia loved new clothes. The first week of school everyone wore new stuff, showing off all the big-name brands that their parents had purchased. Before her father remarried, Julia was just like those kids, standing proud with her Nike shoes and Addidas yoga pants.

Angelica, however, did not take Julia to Macy’s or Nordstrom’s so that Julia could get the best clothes. No. She took her to WalMart and Target and hastily picked out the cheapest clothes she could find. Julia was given no say in what was purchased. In fact, when she complained about a neon orange t-shirt with a dinosaur covered in sparkles, she was told to shut up and be grateful for what she got. So she wore unpopular clothes and for the last two years had been the laughingstock of her class.

While her father was gone this time, without giving prior notice, Angelica moved in her three nieces, bulky teenagers with puffy faces and lumberjack thighs. The girls were haughty, rude and disrespectful to Angelica, openly ridiculing her and making fun of the way their aunt walked and talked, but it didn’t seem to matter as they were never disciplined. Because of this, the teens saw an opportunity to pick on Julia mercilessly, teasing her about her hair, her nibbled-on finger nails, and her dishwater-blue eyes.

One day a flyer appeared in their mailbox advertising a contest in which one singer would earn a full scholarship to Johnson School for the Arts in Denver, a residential school housed in a refurbished mansion.

Because Julia loved music, she dreamt of winning and of the escape it would bring. Every evening after she finished her seemingly endless list of chores, she retreated to her bedroom and sang every song that came to mind. She pictured herself on stage, standing before a panel of judges, hitting every note perfectly, so perfectly that she would be declared the winner right on the spot.

Her stepmother’s nieces also practiced. Not a one of them could sing on tune for more than a few notes and they had no sense of rhythm or timing, and even though they used a karaoke machine, they messed up the words.

Julia loved hearing them fail time after time. She knew that they would embarrass themselves on stage, probably earning a chorus of mocking chants similar to what they dished out to Julia. Julia pictured them turning beat red as the judges critiqued their performances, finding so many faults that there was much more negative than positive.

Finally after weeks of anticipation, the third Saturday in August arrived, the day of the contest. Angelica told her nieces to wear their best clothes and to do up their hair so as to look their best. Julia put on her only dress, even though it was practically see–through, combed out her shoulder-length hair and rubbed lotion on her arms and face.

When it was time to leave, Julia headed for the car. Angelica stood in her way, arms crossed over her chest, glowering. “You can’t go looking like that,” she said. “Go put on one of your new outfits.”

Julia went upstairs and changed as quickly as she could. Because she had no other dress, she wore her new pants, shoes and shirt. But she must have taken too long, for by the time she stepped out the front door, the car was gone.

Tears formed in her eyes. Julia thought about giving up and going inside, but then she remembered her dream. There was a chance that she might make it in time, if she was lucky and her friend Nat was at home. She walked as quickly as she could and when she arrived, Nat’s mom answered the door. Her mom invited Julia inside and offered her a glass of cold water.

After hearing Julia’s sad tale, the mom said, “Take Julia upstairs and have her try on a few of your dresses. When you find one that looks good, get dressed and come downstairs. Please hurry, though, as we have little time to spare.”

In the room Nat pulled out four dresses, and one by one, Julia tried them on. By consensus, they agreed that the pale green dress with a gauzy skirt was the best choice. Nat also loaned Julia a pair of black flats, which fit a little loose, but looked good enough that no one would notice.

“You look wonderful,” Nat’s mom said. “We’d better hurry as it will take us a good twenty minutes to get there.”

When they arrived, Nat’s mom filled out the required paperwork, claiming herself to be Julia’s guardian. It was a little bit of a lie, but not a huge one, because Nat’s mom happened to be a cousin on her mom’s side of the family. Since her mother died, Julia hadn’t seen much of her aunt, but whenever Julia needed something, she always came through for her.

Julia waited backstage for her turn to sing. From where she was seated, she could not see the stage or hear the music, but she could see Angelica’s nieces. They took turns preening before a floor-length mirror and smoothed out each other’s hair, sticking pins in here and there to keep unruly areas flat.

One by one they left. One by one they returned with sour looks on their faces. Angelica hugged each, wiping away tears of humiliation, and then shuffled them out of the mansion.

Because Julia had registered so late, she was the last performer. As she waited, she sang quietly, going over how she would stand, move her arms, and allow her eyes to look out over the audience with a confidence that she felt down to her toes.

After a long, long wait, when no one else was left, Julia’s turn came. She was escorted to the side of the stage and told to wait. She peeked around the curtain and saw that only about fifty people remained. That gave her hope. The other kids must have done so poorly that their parents knew they’d never get accepted to the school and so left in despair.

When told to do so, Julia walked proudly to the center of the stage. She bowed and then stepped to the microphone. “Hi. My name is Julia Smythe. I’m eight years old and I love to sing.”

“Welcome, Julia,” one of the judges said with a smile. “Are you a good student?”

“Yes,” Julia said. “I never get in trouble, do all my work, and get good grades.”

“Excellent. You’re the kind of student that we’re looking for.” The judge picked up a pen and wrote something on a paper in front of him. “What are you going to sing?”

“Beauty and the Beast.”

“Please call up the soundtrack,” the judge said to some unseen person. “Julia, when you’re ready, nod and the music will begin.”

Julia took a deep breath to steady herself, raised her eyes and looked at the back wall of the auditorium. She nodded and when the music began, she gave the best performance she had ever done. She hit every note and followed the beat. When the music ended, she smiled a satisfied smile.

The audience clapped and clapped and then people stood until even the judges were on their feet. Julia blushed and bowed her head. It felt good to have so many people standing just for her. She loved it when they shouted her name over and over.

When the audience quieted, Julia turned to leave. While she was pleased that so many liked her performance, she believed that was because she was only eight. She thought she didn’t stand a chance at getting that cherished spot in the school.

Before she had taken the second step, the judge said, “Where are you going?’

“I thought I’d go home.”

He smiled at her. “Don’t you want to hear our comments? Aren’t you interested in knowing how well you did?”

Julia looked down at the stage floor. “Yes, but I’m just a little girl.”

“You’re a little girl with a powerful voice,” the judge said. “In fact, you have the best voice that we’ve heard all day. How does that make you feel?”

“Fantastic!”

“Well, then, we have some great news for you. Are you interested in knowing what we have to say?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Julia Smythe, we are prepared to offer you a complete scholarship to the academy. It will cover your tuition and your room and board for as long as you succeed and wish to stay.”

Julia clasped her hands and bowed. “Thank you. Thank you so much!”

“All we need is for your parent to complete the paperwork and the deal is sealed. Is one of them here with you?”

“My mother id dead and my dad is away, but my aunt brought me here today.”

The judges took Julia, her aunt and Nat into an office. When they gave her aunt the paperwork, they said it had to be signed and returned within two weeks, and then Julia would begin school August 24.

Julia and Nat skipped all the way to the car. They sang “Beauty and the Beast” over and over until Nat’s mom couldn’t take it anymore. When they got to Nat’s house, her aunt sent Julia upstairs to change.

“I contacted your dad,” her aunt said when the girls came down for lunch. “He said to say that he was proud of you. He won’t be back in time to sign the papers, so he asked me to fax them to him. I can do that on my computer, so I’ve already sent him the paperwork. We should get it back later today.”

Julia smiled. In her borrowed clothes she had beaten out her stepmother’s nieces and all the other kids. Within a month she would be out of her miserable home and into a cherished academy. Life was turning out to be good after all.