Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.
Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood
In one of James Thurber’s stories, Little Red Riding Hood
quickly deals with the wolf, because a wolf in a nightgown
looks no more like someone’s grandmother than the man in the moon.
She pulls an automatic out of her basket, shoots him dead.
Must’ve been an American girl.
But really, what big eyes you have? Are you kidding me?
I can see why Thurber had a problem with the story.
Red Riding Hood’s mother sends her out with goodies for grandma,
who lives in the middle of the woods. She’s sick, right,
so are there antibiotics in the basket along with the cake and wine?
What’s wrong with her anyway? A cold? Diabetes? Cancer?
They’re not sending an ambulance, so I’m thinking at worst the flu
or maybe a yeast infection.
Her mom warns her to stay on the path, not to talk to strangers,
which is good advice, but is it enough?
The wolf convinces her to pick flowers so he can run ahead to grandma’s house,
but why not just kill and eat her there and then go get granny?
And where was her dad? Is this a story about a single parent struggling to cope?
And why does grandma live in the middle of the woods?
Ok, I get that one, because one of my sons lives in the middle of the woods,
but when his daughters go to grandma’s they ride in a Subaru,
because, well, we all live in the Berkshires.
Many years ago when my dad first told me this story,
I asked why grandma and the girl didn’t get digested in the wolf’s stomach.
Some parents would have taken that question as a sign of precocious intelligence,
but my dad knew better. He was a gentle, patient man.
Listen Stevie, he said, don’t confuse mythology with biology.
We have hydrochloric acid in our stomachs (actually, I think he said gastric juices)
but the characters in these stories don’t. Anyone in them ever get heartburn?
Cronus swallowed his children one by one until Rhea deceived him
by substituting a stone for Zeus. Didn’t even burp.
Nearsighted? No, you gotta realize myths and folktales are full of dummies.
Like that idiot Cyclops. “No man has blinded me!” Who would fall for that?
My father had a lot of theories, which basically came down to this:
stories are just stories, and for him Science Fiction ended
after those guys failed to find any green men when they landed on the moon.