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Crying Wolf

Charity Tahmaseb has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She's worn both Girl Scout and Army green. These days, she writes fiction and works as a technical writer for a software company in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Her short fiction credits include stories in Deep Magic, Escape Pod, Cicada, and Pulp Literature. She blogs occasionally at writingwrongs.blog.

Everyone warned her, of course. Never go near the wolves. They would trick you, seduce you--this last always spoken in a hush. As if seduction were a bad thing.
Red knew otherwise.
He sat, so very still, so very perfect, like a gentleman, really. Better, actually. More refined with his silver-gray fur, more honest with those rows of teeth.
She'd prefer a wolf at her door rather than the parade of unrelenting suitors that wore a path to her front gate.
When Red stepped close, she saw the problem. The swelling in his jaw told here where; the soft whimper that it was bad.
"You'll have to open," she said.
And he did.
She held up the pair of pliers. A crude instrument for such an elegant creature, but it couldn't be helped.
"This might hurt," she added.
Yes, it would.
His fur held the scent of ripe blackberries and pinesap. Beneath that, she caught the fetid odor of infection. The tooth was near the back of his mouth, and his breath was hot and gamey.
His canines brushed the nape of her neck, flirted with her collarbone, the feel of it like a whisper.
"Hard and quick," she said.
A moment later, she yanked the tooth free.
Red held still. She didn't leap back, didn't wince. All she did was clutch the pliers tight in her fist and close her eyes. That way, she didn't have to see how much his jaw trembled in the aftermath.
He moved first, stepping back with a graceful sweep of his tail. He inclined his head in gratitude and vanished, the forest swallowing him up once again.
For a week, Red kept a stew simmering on the stove, let the chunks of meat cook until they disintegrated upon the first bite.
For a week, she left a plate of that stew near the woodpile at the edge of the forest. Every morning, the plate was licked clean.
For more than a week--months really, and into the New Year--fewer and fewer suitors found their way to her cottage door.
Such were the benefits of friendship.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, March 30th, 2020

Author Comments

I love fairy tales, and I love retelling them. More often than not, I write them out longhand in a notebook, and more often than not, I have favorites I return to time and again: in particular, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood.

- Charity Tahmaseb
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