Stories

Red Riding Hood – Elizabeth Victoria Aldrich

“You have a weird face.”

“All the better to eat you with,” the guy purrs and Rusty wrinkles his nose in disgust. He’s not gay or anything, but even if he was, that is just. Well, it’s a bad line, isn’t it?

“What is that, like. A euphemism?”

“No,” the guy says, smiling, showing off a row of slightly-yellowed, sharp teeth. They come out of fucking nowhere, honestly, like goddamn sharks’ teeth or something, and it throws Rusty for a minute before he is able to settle, and by that point, shark boy is trying a new tactic, going, “There are drugs.”

“What?”

“In the water.”

Rusty gives that one a minute to sink in before he says again, “What.”

It isn’t a question. There’s a reason for that: he isn’t so sure that he wants an answer.

The guy doesn’t get it, reaches forward to tap at Rusty’s red plastic cup. And really, that should’ve been a sign in the first place. Rusty makes a point of not going to places that employ the use of the universal party cup, honest to God, he does, but.

Sometimes Rusty gets really bored.

 
 

He got fired, right, is the thing.

It wasn’t even a big deal, just folding lame V-neck hipster T- shirts that look label-less but of course cost fifty bucks and he only got paid eight dollars an hour but he met a lot of girls so he figured, you know.

Whatever.

But today, right, he got fired for forgetting one too many times to put sensors in pairs of denims before hanging them up, and also for getting to work late, and for failing to “look presentable”—whatever the fuck that means, so he had stains on his shirt, whatever, it was cranberry juice, not blood or anything—and he got yelled at and he sneered, very reasonably, “Oh my God, go get fucked, they’re just jeans” at his boss and the bitch fired him so now he doesn’t have a job.

Which is cool, you know.

Whatever.

Just, he was a little irritated about the indignity of it all, yeah? And so he wasn’t thinking properly walking home and ended up walking straight past his house and right into an absolute mess of a party two blocks over, and so.

You know.

Whatever.

 
 

There are drugs in the water but not in the alcohol and Rusty’s been drinking vodka all night, shitty Smirnoff that he doesn’t even want to admit to calling vodka.

But it’s vodka nonetheless.

He tells this to the guy and the guy smiles at him, teeth and all, like it wasn’t creepy enough the first fucking time.

He makes his excuses to leave and the guy who, of course, lives in the house, hands him a plain brown paper bag before he leaves, like he’s a kid going off to first grade and he needs a packed lunch. Rusty saw a couple of people leaving with these, so he figures it isn’t so strange.

He walks down the drive, opens the bag to find a red velvet cupcake, boxed up and pretty, along with a bottle of what looks like fucking blood until he opens it and is assaulted with the sharp smell of alcohol.

 
 

At the end of the street, as he makes to round the corner, he sees a couple making out on top of a car, right next to what looks like a puddle of boiling water. It’s fucking crazy shit and he thinks that maybe there were some drugs in his vodka after all, because.

Well.

The boy pulls away from the girl and grins at Rusty, eyes dark and wicked, like somehow they’re sharing a secret, and stage-whispers, “Watch out for the wolves, man.”

And the girl laughs like a fucking lunatic.

 
 

Rusty stays at his grandmothers’ house during the school year because his grandmother lives closer to the subway station than his father does. And anyway, his grandmother enjoys his company, his sparklingly witty little personality, so he figures, whatever.

There’s a lot of that in Rusty’s life.

A lot of whatever.

He thinks, sometimes, that he would die happy if something interesting would just happen to him for once.

 
 

Nothing ever happens to Rusty.

 
 

He walks into his grandmothers’ house and it’s quiet and dark but it’s late and this is expected.

He peels off his clothes, throws his hoodie onto the ground by his bed, and passes the fuck out.

 
 

He wakes up to the police at the door.

This is unexpected.

Like, come on. This is really something.

 
 

His grandmother is dead, throat slit, blood all the fuck over the place.

Someone says that they’re really sorry, to Rusty, like they think he cares, and all he can think is, God, that’s going to be a bitch to clean up.

They won’t let him see the body. His father gets there, and they only let him in to see to identify her, and when he comes out he’s in tears because his mother, his fucking seventy-year-old mother has been raped and killed and the cops think that actually, maybe she was killed and then raped, and there’s a caricature of a smiling anthropomorphic wolf on the wall in the hall outside of Rusty’s grandmother’s room and it wasn’t there before.

 
 

Watch out for the wolves, man.

 
 

It isn’t a mystery, though. A mystery would be if Rusty had no idea what was going on. He has some idea, he knows it has to do with that crazy fucking party and that cupcake that he has yet to eat and that blood red wine that he has yet to drink and he does not want it because he loved his grandmother’s house and now he has to move.

This is kind of shitty of him, maybe, that his first concern is where he is going to live, but.

But he doesn’t care.

 
 

She was old.

She was going to die anyway.

Whatever.

 
 

But still, he’s a good son, always has been. He tells his father that he’s so sorry, he’s so fucking sorry, he should have been there, he should—

 
 

And then he is confused because how did the cops even know before he did? They knocked on his door, after all, and he had been sleeping, and who would’ve called them in the first place, and.

And.

What the fuck.

 
 

And so, because there is simply no avoiding it any longer, on the third day after his grandmother’s death, Rusty goes to the house, wearing his red hoodie because it’s February and it’s kind of cold out, carrying the little paper bag he got from the party that he is aware makes him look like a junkie or an alcoholic or something, like he’s carrying around a bottle of whiskey.

He walks three blocks, then turns back when he remembers that it was two last time, then realizes that it’s not there at all.

The house isn’t there. Of course, that doesn’t make sense, right, you can’t. Well, you can’t move a house.

But.

It’s there.

It’s just that no one’s in it. It’s not trashed, it looks clean enough, just.

Abandoned.

 
 

Rusty doesn’t understand what’s going on.

 
 

He tells this to the cops when they arrest him, too. That he doesn’t understand what’s going on. They don’t seem to believe him, but.

But he doesn’t get it.

His father is there, crying, and all Rusty can think to say is, “Watch out for the wolves, man.”

Because that’s all that really matters, though, isn’t it.

Watching out for the goddamn wolves.