#notallwolves / Kelsi Long

A girl wrapped in sheets in a messy bed.
 

CONTENT WARNING: references to harassment.

i.

...Little Red Riding Hood walked home cheerfully, and no one did her any harm. 

the writer sets his pen down. how good it feels, he thinks, saving so many little girls from themselves.

ii.
she peers out her grandmother’s window, framed with yellowed lace strung up on the rod. the wolf floats, lily-like, in the big stone trough. the water is salty, sour with boiled meat. oily rainbows cling to his fur, his eyelashes, throwing sunlight back into the clean, wet air.

iii.
she watches her own hand beat a flat, heavy rock against the sheet. the river sucks lazily at the seam dangling into its mouth. the rock pounds, pounds, pounds, and the stain lightens but does not disappear. strung on a high, black branch, it will fade in the sunlight, rusty and faintly animal in its color, its smell. if i haven’t been a woman all this time, she thinks, what will happen to me now?

iv.
she cannot remember ever walking home cheerfully. always, there is the whisper of something in the bushes just behind her. always the delicate menace of a twig breaking in the shadows. always the glance over the shoulder, the picked flower slumping over itself in her slick palm.

v.
there are always more wolves, endless paths in the forest.

vi.
and no one did her any harm.

vii.
a wolf finds her at the house party. she is wearing the red cape, or she is not wearing it. seven times he asks her: would you like something to drink? it is like an incantation, would you like something to drink? a spell in some witch’s grimoire. would you like something to drink? there is a magic ingredient hidden in his pocket, or there is not. would you like something to drink? no thank you, she says, eight times, and just for tonight, there is no magic.

viii.
and no one did her any harm.

ix.
he is clean and respectable, with good job prospects. he brandishes a gun, a sword, a hunting knife. he is a bore at parties. someone tells her that he is a good, good man. nothing wolf-like about him at all. if he were left alone with the wolf, he knows what he would do. how good it feels, he thinks, saving so many little girls from their worst nightmares. 

x.
and no one did her any harm.

xi.
he is not a wolf, but an artist. he paints canvases the size of kitchen windows. he picks dry red paint from underneath one fingernail. she loves him instantly. the red cape pools in a shadow on the bedroom floor. i have to pee, she says, i don’t want an infection. she is about to sit up, walk away, when she sees it: a small patch of dry paint, clinging to the hair on his forearm. it is a shiny rainbow splotch, three different colors swirled together. it throws the moonlight back into the stillness of the bedroom air.

***

Kelsi Long Kelsi Long is an MFA candidate in Writing & Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She serves as a Co-Managing Editor at Hunger Mountain, the annual literary journal of VCFA. She’s also the Associate Poetry Editor at Mud Season Review, the online literary magazine of the Burlington Writers Workshop. Her work has appeared in Crab Fat Magazine, Memoir Mixtapes, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, she now lives in Montpelier, Vermont. Find her on Twitter @tweetsbykelsi.