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Little Red In The Hood
by Irene Radford
A saucy and irreverant take on the traditional Red Riding Hood in the big bad city. Just who is the wolf and who is the hero?

Fantasy, 10 pages.
Originally Published in DAW Anthology Little Red Riding Hood In The Big Bad City, 2004

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“Don’t tell me you are taking meals to that dirty old man!” Melissa, Friday supervisor for Mobile Meals, Inc. said. “I won’t let you go there.” She shook her head vigorously so that her gray corkscrew curls bobbed. A woman of her age should never try wearing that look.

A thrill of excitement ran through me. I had to fold my red lacquered fingernails against my palm. They seemed to grow longer by the minute. Not so unusual this time of the month.

I was sure everyone in the dining hall could hear Melissa over the clank of kitchen utensils, irate cooks screaming, and the chatter of six dozen hard-of-hearing honored citizens.

“Hush, now, Sugar. I volunteered to help wherever I am needed,” I replied. “Mr. Jason Hanstable needs a hot meal today. I shall deliver it.” I adjusted the drape of my brand new Italian wool red coat so that I would not have to meet her gaze.

“You don’t understand, Red.”

Everyone called me Red at Mobile Meals, Inc. because I always wore red. Red coat, red leather pumps with a sensible two inch heel, red print skirt and blouse. They did not know that my undies were also red. Silk. Ever so sensuous and not at all proper. Possibly no one at the city’s largest geriatric charity knew my real name.

“The last time a woman took a meal to Mr. Hanstable,” Melissa said sneering in disgust, “he fondled and harassed her so bad she ran away screaming and never volunteered again. We refused to deliver meals to him for two whole years until his doctor and social worker intervened. They threatened a lawsuit actually. He’s supposed to be a shut in and helpless. Helpless he is not.”

“Maybe he has learned his lesson.” I shrugged.

“Maybe the big bad wolf should meet a real wolf. Then he’d learn a lesson,” muttered the color-blind cook’s assistant in the corner.

That idea set me to drooling.

“You have no one else to deliver to Hannibal the Letcher today. I shall go,” I countered Melissa.

“Let him go hungry for a day. Monday we’ll have some extra hands to send someone with you.”

“Melissa, sweetie, I am not without defenses. I promise you I will be safe.” Safer than Hannibal of the Many Hands if he tried anything untoward with me.

“I’ve heard that one before. You got a black belt in Karate or something?” Melissa propped her hands on her hips in a good imitation of an indignant den mother.

I’d never let her in my den, but that is another story.

“More likely a ‘red belt’,” the black-haired assistant cook muttered. She was just jealous because she had no fashion sense what-so-ever. She always wore a boxy yellow-green sweater over faded sagging polyester slacks in a clashing turquoise.

“Or something, Melissa. I will be all right with Mr. Hanstable,” I reassured the boss. I grinned at Melissa, working hard to keep my canine teeth from showing.

“You know she’s not really a volunteer,” little-miss-color-blind added. “She’s here doing community service. I bet her crime was prostitution. She won’t mind at all if Mr. Hanstable fondles her.”

I rolled my eyes at Melissa to let her know that guess was totally off the mark. I would never stoop so low as to accept money for sex. But it was just too unfair of that little lingerie chain, “Victor’s Whispers” to jack up their prices so high that I could no longer afford to shop there. I had to have that blood red teddy and garter belt. No one else deserved it. No one else could flaunt it with the same aplomb as I could.

Too bad I did not notice their security camera and the burly uniformed officer in the mall before I slipped said items into my red designer tote.

Good thing for the security people that happened at the dark of the moon.

With a few more reassurances that if Mr. Hanstable, or Hannibal the Letcher, tried anything hinky with me he’d get a big surprise, I left Mobile Meals, Inc with a stack of piping hot meals packed into Keepithot plastic boxes. These packages really do keep the meal warm. It always pays to buy name brands.

“Remember it’s Friday. If any of our clients complain about the baked fish, remind them that our biggest sponsor says we must not eat meat on Friday,” Melissa called after me.

“Friday. No meat. Gottcha,” I replied and ducked into my little red convertible bug of a car. No meat today! Oh, what cruel and unusual punishment.

Noon time traffic in the city is a nightmare. I jigged and zagged my way through knots of cars, fender benders, people yelling, horns honking. One time I even had to go up on the sidewalk to get through. My little stack of plastic packages would not have a chance to chill their tootsies before I delivered them. I take my volunteer work... er... community service, very seriously.

Finally I wended into a familiar neighborhood. Tall buildings on either side of the road made this a dark canyon, even at noon. I could almost see the moon rising full. He -- [End of Preview.]