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by Jacqueline Doyle

Everyone knows the story of little me, or thinks they do. They know about the hungry wolf, but not that Grandma was mean as a snake, or that I was wily as a fox.

I was never one of those fearful girls who shrink from every snapped twig or rustling in the underbrush. I like the way everything looks different in the woods after dark, unfamiliar. That night, shadows loomed across the path, moving as the wind blew through the trees, and I could barely see the moon through the thick canopy of branches overhead. I swung the basket of food to and fro as I skipped to Grandma’s house. My stomach growled. I longed for a snack, but Grandma was strict, and I knew she’d scold me if food was missing. I stopped to eat a muffin anyway, rearranging the basket to cover up my theft.

When I arrived at the cottage, Grandma was huddled in her bed, looking even meaner than usual. “What big eyes you have,” I said to her, before she could complain that I was late. “The better to see you with,” Grandma said, her voice curiously husky. The room was cold and dark, only a few glowing embers left in the fireplace, and she seemed to be wearing furry gloves. “What big hands you have,” I said. “The better to hug you with,” Grandma replied. Which was very unlike Grandma, who, believe me, was not the hugging type. She beckoned me to come closer, but I pretended not to see. “What big teeth you have,” I said, gnashing my own, for I was ravenously hungry after my long trip. I hoped she would offer me another muffin from the basket, maybe some meat and cheese. She leered and leaned forward. “The better to eat you with,” she replied. “You’re joking, Grandma,” I said, stepping nimbly aside as the hairy wolf threw off the bedcovers and lunged at me.

Some say he ate me anyway. Which is possible, but after all, someone’s living in Grandma’s house now, and I’m here to tell the tale.

Some say a handsome woodcutter arrived to save the day. That seems pretty doubtful to me, but you’d be surprised by the number of young girls who still favor the male rescue plot.

Hardly anyone believes that I gutted the wolf with the knife my grandmother kept by her bedside and ate him for dinner myself. My cape and clothes were stained red with blood and from that day on they called me Little Red Riding Hood. So the old wives say, some of them.

There are others who claim that I was always feral, ferocious as my grandma. I mated with the wolf and rode him long into the night and we lived happily ever after. I’m not saying we didn’t, but that seems least likely of all.

Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her flash chapbook The Missing Girl was just published by Black Lawrence Press, and she has recent flash fiction in Wigleaf, matchbook, and Midway Journal (winner of their 2017 flash contest, judged by Michael Martone). Find her at www.jacquelinedoyle.com and on Twitter @doylejacq.