Once there was a girl, a mother, and a granny.
How or what happened to the father no one knew. It was a long time ago the villagers saw him and even a long time ago the mother did. Perhaps he died or went for some cigarettes or a drink at the pub but more likely he left because he wasn't in the mood to take care of a wife and child and sailed around the world.
The mother would love to travel too but men said it would bring them bad luck so she did what was expected from her and even more. She took care of her child, cooked and cleaned, milked the goat, and found herself a job. She had to work because someone had to make a living. Her daughter wasn't old enough and it was a good thing she didn't go to school. At least it saved her worries about how to pay the school fee, pencils, paper, decent clothes, and shoes.
The granny lived elsewhere and took care of herself.
Her world became small and after her dog was shot by a hunter she kept herself busy by baking and stuffing her house with whatever she found and thought it could be useful once too - if not her - someone else.
She never became such a great pastry chef like her sister who even builds a house out of pastry, pancakes, and candies, but it was good enough to kill the hunger and please some people with it willing to pay for it. She had a good life and was happy with where she lived. It was in the forest, far away from the villagers, where she liked to be most of all. Each night she sat at the open window and watched the owls flying up and down. Some young owl called and enjoyed her rocking chair on the veranda. The sight of these creatures filled her heart with happiness.
"Is granny sick again?"
The girl watched her mother while she packed a basket. She only used that basket to visit granny and in most cases the elderly woman was sick. Juice, bananas, salty cookies and Camille she recognized plus some chocolate.
"Can you pick some mulberries dear?"
She handed over a small container and the little girl nearly pulled it out of her hand. Picking mulberries was one of the best ways to eat as much as you like. With a big smile on her face the girl ran outside.
The mother smiled. It was easy to make a little girl like hers happy.
She better started with her work.
The laundry of a wealthy family, a family that clearly looked down on her, was piled up in her room. It was sent and she had to wash, dry, iron it all before the next daybreak. She filled the basins outside, sorted out the laundry by color, and sang while she worked. She had a beautiful voice and no matter how miserable she felt her voice always sounded like the voice of an angel.
A huge, grey dog stopped as he heard her voice. He looked hungry. For a while, he listened before he strolled.
A child's voice sounded from behind a bush.
" Are you hungry?"
"You like some berries?"
A red hand filled with something strange was held in front of its mouth. It sniffed at it but hesitated.
"You can have it, there's more."
Carefully it licked the berries of the hand.
"If you eat too much it makes you poop red." The girl grinned as she continued "I have had enough but you can take as many as you like."
She picked up the container and before the dog could answer she was gone.
As the woman saw her daughter she didn't know what to add more to these two spoken words. She stared at her daughter who turned red from head to toe. It looked as if she had paddled in a barrel of berries.
"We better wash you first and see if we still can wash it ou", she said while she stroked her little girl over her hair.
"I love red", she said.
" You made that clear."
It took longer than expected to wash the child but no matter how hard she tried her hair remained red.
"I need to get back at work now. There's a lot more laundry to do."
"What about granny?"
"I am sorry dear but granny has to wait. If I lose my job we have nothing ourselves and nothing to share."
"I bring the basket to her. I know the way. Let me do it, please?"
She hesitated. It was a long road and the basket was heavy, the old lady counted on her.
"Alright, but if it gets dark you stay with granny and won't walk the way back home. I can give you a light but the basket..."
"No need to I can do it. She kissed her mom, grabbed the basket from the table, and left. Granny could count on her.
"Are you leaving?"
"Granny waits for me, she's sick."
"She doesn't live with you?"
"No, she has a small cottage in the woods."
"I can keep you company."
The dog's eyes sparkled. He could use some company and liked walking around.
"I don't know. The forest isn't safe. If the hunter is around he will shoot you. It's what he did with my granny's dog. He looked a bit like you."
The dog heard her but had no intention to turn around he walked beside her and kept his eyes and ears wide open. If that irritating hunter would show up he would be prepared. He enjoyed the company and listened to the girl's story. They picked flowers, had a short break, and walked on but it was clear the little girl got tired.
"Let me carry that basket", the dog offered, " you can take it back once we are at granny's house. You do know the way, right?
"It's not far, we just need to follow this road and at the three oaks we go to the left and..." She yawned. "You know what doggie? You are red!" She giggled. "I think you ate too many berries, your hair turned red just like mine." She yawned once more and suddenly felt so tired.
The dog wasn't born yesterday and knew what to do. Those three oaks were at least one hour walking away.
"Climb on my back I carry you." He held the basket between his teeth and waited for the girl. "Come on I can have it. I am strong and if you show me the way we'll make it in a short time."
"It's not allowed. People will say I abuse you, it's animal abuse..."
"No, it's not because I invited you and offered it. I am a free dog, not one at a leash", he howled.
She had never had a dog or sat on one but it did sound exciting and her legs felt tired. Quickly she climbed on it's back and wrapped her arms around its neck. At first, the dog walked at a steady pace but as soon as he felt the girl felt more confident he increased his tempo and started running. "Close your eyes if it goes too fast for you", he groaned and she did. Not because she felt afraid but because she felt as if they were flying.
"Open your eyes red hair", the dog said. We passed the three oaks I went to the left where does granny live?"
For a moment she opened her eyes and thought... "Just follow the road till you hear the frogs it's there where you go to the right and see her house."
The dog ran off into the direction of the sound of the frogs. He felt worried because he smelt something else, something alarming. The hunter! A cruel man surrounded by the smell of blood and death - and not to forget to mention a flock of flies - came into his direction. What if he would hit him or worse the girl on his back?
He turned to the right and saw a small cottage. You needed a good sight to see it from such a large distance. She could be inside before the hunter arrived and after that, he would take care of him. It was time to stop the killing.
The basket banged against the door. The little girl woke up and smiled at him.
"Go inside quickly the hunter is here. I can smell he is near, the other animals their fear..."
"What about you", she stammered with tears in her eyes.
But he didn't answer while he pushed her with the basket inside and pulled the cord to open the door.
"Who's there", he heard an elderly voice ask.
" It's me, granny. I brought you some food, it's me I was riding through the woods..."
"My dear, are you wearing a red hood?"
Once there was a girl, a mother, and a granny.
This is really really good.
I did not particularly like the ending, it wanting to fight the hunter.
That being said,
This is the best non-professional short story I've ever read. And probably professional too. I had it saved to read later.
I noticed myself making some pauses, maybe because of being afraid of it not living up to the start, which was great. I needed not be.
This is a masterpiece, and left me some awe while reading it.
Details of the mulberries, the kid, the mother, the basket, their dialogues. The dog not having time to answer after kid had the berries, the mother's reaction after saying "oh, dear...".
It's cute and thoughtful.
Best short story I've read.