Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Arby's World

Little Red-cap
by The Brothers Grimm

Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved by everyone who looked at her. That was primarily because they looked at her. From a distance. They didn’t live with her. They did not live with her unmade bed, the dresser drawers that she could open but never seemed to close, the toys left on the floor and her dirty socks strewn throughout the house. They did not listen to the comments they might call “precocious” but were really sass. Most of all, the little girl was loved by her grandmother, and there was nothing that she would not have given to the child, which explains why the wee lass thought that the axis of the universe extended out of the top of her head. Once, grandmother gave her a little cap of red velvet, which suited her so well that she would never wear anything else. So she was always called “Little Red-cap.” It was a really stupid name.

One day her mother said to her, “Come, Little Red-cap, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother. She is ill and weak. It’s probably not a good idea to give a sick senior citizen a bottle of wine and a piece of cake, but it is still early in the nineteenth century. Doctors have just recently stopped bleeding patients to remove ill humors, folks rarely bathe, and nobody knows the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of diseases. Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may fall and break the bottle. That would be alcohol abuse. If the bottle breaks then your grandmother will get nothing, and we all know what a pain-in-the-ass a sober grandmother is. And when you go into her room, don't forget to say, “good-morning,” and don't peep into every corner before you do it. Nobody likes a busy-body.”

“I will take great care,” said Little Red-cap. She spit in her hand and extended it toward her mother, who did the same in return. They shook hands solemnly.

The grandmother lived out in the wood, half a league from the village, and just as Little Red-cap entered the wood, a wolf met her. Red-cap did not know what a wicked creature he was, and was not at all afraid of him.

"Good-day, Little Red-cap," said he.

"Thank you kindly, big hairy guy." It never occurred to Little Red-cap to question how the wolf could talk, or how it knew her name. She really wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box. At least she wouldn’t have been if crayons had been invented back then.

"I’m a wolf,” replied the wolf. “Whither away so early, Little Red-cap?"

“Whither away? I’m not withering away. I’m quite healthy, really, although the girls in town whisper that “healthy” is another name for “fat.” You don’t think I look a little thin, do you? Do I need to put on a little weight? Does my dress hang too straight? Can you see my hips? Damn! There’s never a mirror handy when you need one!”

The wolf rolled his eyes. “Where are you going?”

"To my grandmother's."

"What have you got in your apron?"

“That’s a bit forward.”

The wolf sighed heavily. “What are you carrying?”

"Cake and wine. Yesterday was baking-day, so poor sick grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger."

“You know, it’s probably not a good idea to give a sick senior citizen a bottle of wine and cake,” the wolf suggested.

“I know that, but it is still early in the nineteenth century. Doctors have just recently stopped bleeding patients to remove ill humors, folks rarely bathe, and nobody knows the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of diseases.”

“Too true,” agreed the wolf. “I never eat the hands. It takes a week to get the taste out of my mouth.”

“I beg your pardon?” Little Red-cap exclaimed.

"Never mind. Where does your grandmother live, Little Red-cap?"

"A good quarter of a league farther on in the wood. Her house stands under the three large oak trees. The nut-trees are just below. You surely must know it," replied Little Red-cap.

The wolf thought for a moment. “I think I know the place. A quarter league, you say? I never knew the length of a league.”

The wolf thought to himself, “What a tender young creature. What a nice plump mouthful! She will be better to eat than the old woman. I’m really tired of weeding out the old, the sick, and the weak. I must act craftily, so as to catch both. It would be silly to pass up a two-for-the-price-of-one deal.”

So he walked for a short time by the side of Little Red-cap, and then he said, "See Little Red-cap, how pretty the flowers are about here? Why do you not look round? I believe, too, that you do not hear how sweetly the little birds are singing. You walk gravely along as if you were going to school, while everything else out here in the wood is merry."

"I would like to be homeschooled," Little Red-cap replied.  She raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing everywhere, she thought, “Suppose I take grandmother a fresh nosegay?”

“That would be pleasing, too,” Little Red-cap continued thinking. “It might make grandmother’s house smell a bit more pleasant. The old lady doesn’t bathe often, and the last time I was there the house was a bit ripe. It is so early in the day that I shall still get there in good time.”

So she ran from the path into the woods to look for flowers. Whenever she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a still prettier one farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and deeper into the wood.

Meanwhile the wolf ran straight to the grandmother's house and knocked at the door.

"Who is there?" called a frail old voice from behind the door.

"Little Red-cap," replied the wolf. "I’m bringing cake and wine. Open the door."

"You’ve been hitting the ‘roids a bit heavily, don’t you think? Your voice is unnaturally deep. Still, I never have been able to pass up a nip out of the ol' bottle. Lift the latch," called out the grandmother, "I am too weak, and cannot get up."

The wolf lifted the latch, opened the door, and without saying a word he went straight to the grandmother's bed and devoured her.

“A bit mealy,” he thought to himself, picking a piece of nightgown from between his teeth with one sharp claw. “More bone than meat.”

Then he opened the Grandmother’s armoire, selected a nightgown and bed cap, put on her clothes, and looked at herself in a full-length mirror. “Not bad,” he thought. “Not bad at all.” It was the kinkier side of his personality that he had successfully kept hidden from his litter mates. He laid himself in her bed and drew the curtains.

Little Red-cap, however, had been running about picking flowers, and when she had gathered so many that she could carry no more, she remembered her grandmother, and set out on the way to her. The brothers Grimm, it seems, were quite stingy with periods.

Little Red-cap was surprised to find the cottage-door standing open. The smell coming out of the cottage was peculiar, but since there were no flies, she went inside. When she went into the room, she had such a strange feeling that she said to herself, “Oh dear, how uneasy I feel to-day, and at other times I like being with grandmother so much!”

She called out, "good morning," but received no answer. So, she went to her grandmother’s bed and drew back the curtains. There lay her grandmother with her cap pulled far over her face, and looking very strange.

"Oh, grandmother," she said. "What big ears you have."

"The better to hear you with, my child," was the reply.

"But, grandmother, what big eyes you have," she said.

"The better to see you with," my dear.

"But, grandmother, what large hands you have."

"The better to hug you with."

“And all that hair! Yikes, grandmother, the change really wasn’t very kind to you. You certainly would benefit from hormone replacement therapy, but I guess that’s still two hundred years into the future.”

“Honestly, is that any way to speak to your grandmother?”

"Oh, but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have," as if her grandmother had not spoken.

"The better to eat you with," my dear, the wolf replied, secretly pleased that he wouldn’t have to talk to the mouthy whelp any longer. And scarcely had the wolf said this, than with one bound he was out of bed and swallowed up Little Red-cap. He finished off the wine and cake for dessert.

When the wolf had appeased his appetite, he lay down again in the bed, fell asleep and began to snore very loud. The huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself, “How the old woman is snoring! And I thought the other hunters were loud. Still, she’s been a widow for a long time. She has needs. I have needs. Maybe if I gently wake her we can pass the afternoon pleasantly as we’ve done so many times in the past. I must just see if she wants anything.”

So he went into the room, and when he came to the bed, he saw that the wolf was lying in it. “So, the old lady is getting a little action on the side,” he thought to himself.

“Do I find you here, you old sinner?” the huntsman asked. “I have long sought you.”

Then just as he was going to fire at him, it occurred to him that the wolf might have devoured the grandmother, and that she might still be saved,so he did not fire, but took a pair of scissors, and began to cut open the stomach of the sleeping wolf. The wolf must have been one seriously heavy sleeper, and a well anesthetized sleeper, too. A bottle of wine will do that to a guy. He did not feel the huntsman’s scissors pierce his skin.  After the Huntsman had made two snips, he saw a shining, little red cap. He made two snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying. She reeked of wolf, grandma, digestive juices, and cheap wine.

“Wow! And I thought grandma’s smelled bad on the outside! How frightened I have been. How dark it was inside the wolf. How cheap my mother really is, sending over Boone’s Farm. Obviously, she saved the good stuff for herself."

After that the aged grandmother came out alive also, but scarcely able to breathe. Red-cap, however, quickly fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf's belly, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead, which was probably good, since an infection from unlicensed surgery would probably have a killed him a few days later, anyhow.

Then all three were delighted. The huntsman looked over Granny and decided that she’s looked better. He settled for skinning the wolf and leaving with the hide. The grandmother ate some of her stale, older cakes and drank some wine from a secret stash underneath her bed.

Red-cap thought to herself, “As long as I live, I will never by myself leave the path to run into the wood when my mother has forbidden me to do so.” Then she stepped outside to dispose of the wolf carcass that the Huntsman had carelessly left behind.

It is also related that once when red-cap was again taking cakes to the old grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and tried to entice her from the path. Red-cap, however, was on her guard, and went straight forward on her way, and told her grandmother that she had met the wolf, and that he had said good-morning to her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had not been on the public road she was certain he would have eaten her up.

“Grandmother, we really need to move to a better neighborhood,” she said when she finished telling her tale. “This subsidized housing sucks, and the wolves are really pulling down property values.”

“Well,” said the grandmother. “We will shut the door, that he may not come in.”

“That’s it?” asked Little Red-cap. “That’s all you’ve got? Shut the door? That’s the best you can do?”

Soon afterwards the wolf knocked, crying, “Open the door, grandmother, I am Little Red-cap, and am bringing you some cakes.”

“You’re sounding a bit husky there, Little Red-cap,” Grandma called out. “Have you been visiting your trainer for a “vitamin” shot again?”

But they did not speak anymore, or open the door, so the grey-beard stole twice or thrice round the house, and at last jumped on the roof, intending to wait until red-cap went home in the evening, and then to steal after her and devour her in the darkness. But the grandmother saw what was in his thoughts.

“I always knew my crystal ball and Tarot cards would come in handy one day,” she told Little Red-cap.

In front of the house was a great stone trough, so she said to the child, “Take the pail, red-cap. I made some sausages yesterday, so carry the water in which I boiled them to the trough.”

“Excuse me?” exclaimed Little Red-cap. “There’s a wolf on the roof who wants to pounce on me and eat me, and you’re suggesting I offer up myself as bait? This is the last time I bring you cheap wine and cakes.”

Red-cap carried buckets of sausage water until the great trough was quite full, thinking the entire time that the old lady sure did eat a lot of sausage. That was one big trough! Then the smell of the sausages reached the wolf, and he sniffed and peeped down, and at last stretched out his neck so far that he could no longer keep his footing and began to slip, and slipped down from the roof straight into the great trough, and was drowned, because we all know wolves can’t swim, and that really was one big trough! But red-cap went joyously home, and no one ever did anything to harm her again.

The End



Michelle said...

Hilarious!! Boones Farm!! that brought back fond memories of my innocent teenage years!! Boones Farm tickle pink. All my neighbors were older than me, so I was influenced at an early age! have a great weekend!

Kathleen said...

Oh my goodness! Thanks for the entertainment. I wonder if the kids would notice if I replaced the "other" fairy tale with this one?

Papa Bear said...

Another classic!

Brownie said...

Loved it! Love the mix of fairy tales with a twist! :)

L. said...

THAT is a good one, Arby. I love the updated version/twists.

Oklahoma Granny said...

You've done it again. Thanks for the entertainment.

Marlis said...

My my Arby, you do have a lot of time on your hands. Or perchance you are a fast typer indeed. LOL. I enjoyed reading your take on LRRH. Thanks!