Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Five

“What about the winter?” asks Pinocchio. “Do you like winter?”

“Not really,” sighs the Little Pig. “There’s too much snow.” He squints against the afternoon sun. They’ll have to camp soon.

“I’ve never seen snow,” says the wooden boy. His eyes brighten at the prospect. “Is it nice?”

“No. I told you, it’s very cold... what was that?” Something in the brush, an unexpected rustling. The Little Pig whirls around, a hammer clutched in his tiny hand.

He oinks in dismay at the dark specter rising from the grass. A trifle embarrassed at having been heard, the Big Bad Wolf grins slyly.

“Hello, Piggy.” He theatrically brushes a grass stem from his scraggly shoulder. ”Fancy meeting you here.”

“We don’t want any trouble,” says the Pig.

The Wolf darts his yellow eyes to the hammer, notes the Pig’s trembling arms, and his toothy smile widens. “But trouble always seems to come knock-knock-knocking at your door, doesn’t it?”

He strolls closer, one long stride, and the two skitter backward a few steps.

“Speaking of which,” says the Wolf, “what are you doing outside your nice, safe house?”

“We, we’re going to the Castle of the Door,” stammers the little puppet. To Pinocchio, the skeletal, stinking wolf is as tall as a giant. A fanged, clawed giant.

The Wolf pretends to notice the wooden boy for the first time. “Oh, really? And who might you be?”

“I’m Pinocchio... sir.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Pinocchio.” He holds out a massive paw, and the puppet is obliged to take it. The Wolf doesn’t let go. There’s something about the boy - the buzzing, tingling smell of fairy magic - that he instinctively dislikes.

Bending low to Pinocchio’s level, the Wolf finishes his introduction. “You might’ve heard of me, kid. I’m the Big Bad Wolf. I’m 'trouble,' you could say.”

“Oh, yes, sir, I’ve heard all about you.” Pinocchio struggles to remove his hand from the Wolf’s unyielding grip.

“I bet you have.” With a black-lipped leer, the Wolf quickly releases Pinocchio, forcing the boy to fall backward. He rubs his paw on the leg of his ragged trousers.

The Little Pig’s icy glare goes ignored by the wolf. Still holding his hammer, he rushes to Pinocchio’s side.

Unfolding to his full height, the Wolf slowly circles the two, casually kicking up dust from the road. “So, leaving the kingdom, huh? Pretty good idea.” The Pig has to constantly shuffle around to face the Wolf, lest his back be exposed.

“But then again, you were always one for good ideas, weren’t you, Piggy?”

“It isn’t safe here anymore,” coughs the Little Pig.

Nodding wisely, the Wolf says, “Yeah, you never know what trouble you might run into out here.” He leans forward and smiles, all teeth.

“It isn’t safe for any of us,” says the Pig pathetically. “Even you.”

The Wolf starts to roll his eyes, but then he thinks better of it. “Maybe you’re right,” he says in a syrupy voice. “It’s dangerous out here. Maybe I should go with you,” he offers grandly, and lounges a long arm around the Pig’s shoulders. “Safety in numbers and all that.”

“I, uh, I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” begins the Pig, but once the Wolf’s arm begins to tighten painfully, he adds, “but you’re more than welcome to join us.”

“Yeah,” says the Wolf. “Yeah.” He smells the Pig, and a drop of saliva drips from his dirty muzzle. “After I’ve eaten, of course.”

“We’ve got food,” squeals the Little Pig quickly, and the Wolf laughs.

“You are food, Piggy. First I’ve seen in weeks.” He leans forward.

There is a meaty thud, and the Wolf falls backward. The Pig ducks beneath his flailing paw and scuttles away.

The Wolf touches his stinging cheek, and is astonished to find he’s bleeding. He stares, wide-eyed, at the defiant puppet below.

Pinocchio already has another rock in his hand, ready to throw. “You leave us alone,” he says, in a low voice quite different than his usual lilting tone. “Or you’ll be sorry.”

Shocked that someone so small would dare stand up to someone so big, the Wolf decides to take a different approach.

He huffs and he puffs, and the stone flies into his sunken chest with a rib-splitting crack. The impact knocks the Wolf to the ground, and for a stunned moment he sits there, unsure what to do.

The Little Pig looks down at the familiar sight of a defeated Wolf. Slack-jawed and dazed, his old enemy can’t bring himself to meet the Pig’s gaze.

“Be careful,” says the Pig coldly. “It’s dangerous out here.” He turns toward the dirt road and begins walking. Pinocchio, after picking up another rock, follows his friend, though he continues to glance back distrustfully at the Wolf.