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The big bad wolf revisited
Short story

June 19, 2007

The woman in red saw the man in the woods. A deliberate accident. He was running and bouncing like an errant ghost, his head, that of a beast. "It is him," she cried to herself. The chilling afternoon breeze swept through the autumn leaves. Standing in the heart of the woods, her throat tightened with the desire to unravel her braids, to drop her dark sunglasses to the ground and crush them with her frantic feet. She did so. From behind the trees, the man glared at her and growled, "She must be another whore!"

Twitching her lips, she placed her backpack on the ground, took out her set of colour tubes and brushes, unfolded her easel and set it up towards the east. The fragrance of exotic flowers touched her long disheveled hair, flying the ashes of a phoenix. She stood determined, facing the canvas at a vital distance, a shaggy brush between her trembling fingers. Soon, she was covering the spotless canvas with so many layers of dark crimson colours, repulsive shapes, shattered, blackened eyes in a blue pond of tears, and a serene bird on a wooden cross. To all these, she gave her breath.

The man had been jogging through a rundown necropolis when a narrow path led him to the woods, against his will. He could not find his way out. "I am trapped," he shouted as thorny bushes bound around him. A ruffled vulture flew above the treetops, and the man kept on running in different directions for hours, then in many circles. The setting of the sun was imminent. The circles which were the space of the woods themselves became smaller and smaller. By the time night fell and the whispering shadows became unbearable to him, the man was circling around the spot where the woman was painting. The finishing touch on the canvas was erasing the shades of self-doubt from her soul.

"Stay where you are, Mister. Don’t you even think of stepping closer to me. What do you want? Are you lost?" the woman asked.

"Me? Lost? What makes you say that?" he replied.

"Oh, just a feeling. By the way, you look very familiar to me. Too familiar for my comfort. What is your name?" she asked.

"Woolf. Mr. Woolf," he answered.

"Ah, Woolf. How dreadful. And your eyes are lewd and luring. Say, are you by any chance the man who assaulted me three millennia past, at the dawn of the doomsday?" she asked.

"I have never attacked anyone," muttered the man nervously. His inner eyes witnessing an abrupt and enormous silence in his head.

"Who was Little Red Riding Hood, then?" she prodded.

"What?" hurled Woolf as his stomach turned upside-down. He had the sensation of falling through a hole in time and space.

"I am talking about the thirteen-year-old girl you abducted and ravished three thousand years ago, right here, in this same woods, in this very spot I am standing. Do you remember her? Do you remember tearing her red velvet skirt and wrapping it around her head, calling her "My Little Red Riding Hood", while she was crying her heart out?" asked the woman.

"You must be hallucinating, bloody bitch! Are you sure you are not under the influence?" muttered Woolf desperately.

"I'm under the influence, all right. I have been under the influence of fear for the last three thousand years," she replied.

"What do you want from me? What are you painting there?" cried Woolf, as he jumped before the canvas and froze.

"I am painting a scene of war, the last panel of all women's lore," she replied.

"It is absurd. A waste of time. And you are hurting me. Ah, your demented painting. So many eyes scattered around the woods, and the colour of blood all over the canvas. They are all hurting me," shouted Woolf.

"And, am I supposed to consider that? I cannot live without painting at sunset. It is all I know of life, my way to be. It remains, when all else has been taken away," said the woman.

"I detest the sight of revealing pictures, and more so if it's done by you," said Woolf, taking something sharp out of his pocket of permeating lies. The dagger, hidden within the layers of his pocket for long, had turned into a boomerang before his sightless eyes. He knocked the painting down, crying out his intention to shred it into pieces.

"How pathetic you are. As dangerous as before. You still want to hold my fate in your hands. I survived you three thousand years ago; I will survive you now. But, as I will keep all the big bad wolves away, you shall outlive me no-more," she said with great conviction while bending to pick up her backpack.

Woolf leapt back a distance of five trees and the woman looked up and anticipated the curved movement of the Woolf's right hand throwing the boomerang towards her in a flash. She dodged and rolled on the grass, breathless. Her back chilled by the frost, her terrified eyes fixed on a narrow patch of the lofty midnight blue, she heard the falling of a beast. Intrigued, she stood up and walked towards him, inexorably, only to witness his bloody guts offered to the earth.

Now lightened, she reached to her painting, placed it upwards on a batch of debris at the foot of an oak tree and looked at it with great delight: the reflection of the Morning Star was at the heart of the blue pond of tears. Headed for the coming day, the woman left the woods like a cat, self-possessed, purely herself. Comment

For letters section
To Azadeh Azad

Azadeh Azad


Stories From Iran
A Chicago Anthology 1921-1991
edited by Heshmat Moayyad

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