This one came about as an entry for a flash fiction contest at SFF World whose theme was “Two sides to every story.” Taking more than a little inspiration from the Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog Warner Brothers cartoons, I whipped up this tale of where the fairy tale wolves go when they’re not prowling after pigs and little kids.
The word hung in the air of the Den for a moment, until a snort led to a chuckle, and finally a roar of laughter from the listeners gathered around him at the bar.
“Oh, sure, go ahead and laugh,” B.B. said, “but I know what I saw!”
Herman slapped a reassuring paw on his shoulder. “B.B., I want to believe you. I really do. But pigs learning masonry? Come on.”
B.B. shrugged Herman’s paw away and took a long drink from his glass. “I HAD ‘em, Herman! Blew their little houses right down! But the little bastards made it to their brother’s house before I could grab ‘em.”
“Is most sad tale,” Sergei said, his accent making him even harder to understand after the prodigious amount of vodka he’d been downing. He stood, wobbling a bit. “But is time for me to go. Little boy has been playing outside near woods again.” He pounded his chest with a broad paw. “This time I shall have him! Or at least duck he plays with.”
Sergei staggered towards the door, encouraging howls rising in his wake. Herman thought he heard three horns playing somewhere in the distance, but figured it must have been the ale. He turned back to B.B., who stared morosely into his drink.
“Hey, cheer up, pal! You’ll get those pigs eventually.”
“How?” B.B. moaned. “They’re locked up in that brick house of theirs. Singing that song.” He turned pleading eyes to Herman. “Don’t make me talk about the song.”
Herman nodded. “Okay, buddy. Let’s get you another drink.” He waved a paw at the bartender, who slid two tall glasses of ale their way. The Den was always crowded, but today it seemed especially busy. Wolves were packed in haunch to haunch along the bar, and every table was filled with furry revelers. The smell wafting from the kitchen gave the reason – fresh mutton, thanks to Bernie, who held court over in a corner by the fireplace. “So the kid is screaming, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ But nobody’s coming!” he was saying as Herman turned his ears that way. “Snatched those sheep up just like that!” His audience howled appreciatively, and Herman couldn’t help but smile. He noticed B.B. staring as well.
“That Bernie’s something else, huh?”
B.B. didn’t respond. He simply stared at the fireplace, a toothy grin slowly spreading across his face. “The chimney,” he said softly.
“The chimney! I can get in through the chimney!” B.B. said, rising quickly and slapping a few coins down on the counter. “These are on me, my friend. Tomorrow, we dine on pork!” He rushed to the door, ignoring the derisive calls of “Bricks!” that followed him outside, and nimbly dodging another wolf who was entering at the same time.
The newcomer padded up to the bar next to Herman and called for the bartender. “Hey, Marvin,” the bartender said jovially. “What’s shaking?”
“Not too much,” Marvin said. “I did see the damnedest thing on the way in here though.”
“What was that?”
“Little girl in a red cloak skipping through the forest.”
Herman’s eyes narrowed. He calmly downed the rest of his ale, pushed back his stool, and stood.
Four hours later, all eyes looked up as the door to the Den thumped open and Herman stamped inside.
He saw B.B. already at the bar, large patches of fur missing, and what little was left black with soot. Silence accompanied Herman as he made his way to the bar and sat down heavily next to B.B., although every pair of eyes followed him.
“B.B.,” he replied tersely.
B.B. paused, unsure of where to go next. “I –”
“Don’t really want to talk about it.” He grabbed the drink offered by the bartender with both paws and just stared into it.
B.B. nodded and looked around awkwardly, then decided to change the subject. “Sergei’s in the zoo.”
“Really,” Herman said blankly.
“He managed to get the duck, but these hunters came along right as he was about to get the kid. Carted him off to some zoo. A couple of the boys went off to see if they can bust him out.”
“Sure is.” He sighed. “The chimney didn’t work out so well.”
“Yeah, the whole fire thing should have been pretty obvious, now that I think about it.”
“Well, that fur should grow back soon enough.” He finally took a long pull from his glass, draining almost half of it before setting it down with a thud.
“B.B., why do we do it?”
He looked at B.B. “You and the pigs. Me and the little red girl. Sergei and that kid. There’s got to be easier ways to get a meal.”
“And less embarrassing ones,” B.B. said.
“Exactly. But come tomorrow, I’ll be keeping my ears open for any word of that girl, you’ll go after those pigs again, and as soon as Sergei gets out of that zoo, he’ll go right back to prowling around that kid’s back yard.”
“We’re wolves,” B.B. said. “It’s what we do.”
“It’s the definition of insanity, doing the same thing and expecting different results.”
There was a long silence between them. Laughter floated through the room as Bernie re-told his tale of triumph for what must have been the hundredth time.
“Hey,” B.B. said, “look at Bernie. How long did he hang around that village until he finally got those sheep?”
“A month or so, maybe?”
“Yeah, and we all gave him grief for it, and look at him now. He won’t have to pay for a drink in this place for weeks.”
“So we just gotta stick with it. One day, that fireplace won’t be lit.”
“You really think so?” Herman asked, his spirits rising at his friend’s optimism.
“You bet I do. Herman, I can’t help but notice you’re wearing a nightgown.”
“I know, B.B.,” Herman sighed, finishing off his drink with another long pull, “I know.”
Copyright © 2009 by Richard F. Dickson. All rights reserved.