Mal, the malamute dog, didn’t like the looks of the dirty old man. The ratty clothes and oily hair didn’t bother him much—many poor folks lived in the Ferny Forrest. The piercing yellow eyes were a different matter, they deserved his attention.
“Stop looking at that old man. He’s creepy and I don’t like him,” Mal said.
“You’re such a scaredy-cat Mal,” Amaranth giggled. “I have my protective amulet in my basket, so you’re not in danger.”
“I am not afraid of cats. I just respect their privacy.”
“And, their claws,” Amaranth said.
Mal chortled as only his kind can. “You know how your grandmother frets if you’re late. Let’s get going.”
They walked the road, more of a path actually. It meandered eastward through the forest. The trees became taller and the canopy thicker until they entered a shadowy world more akin to twilight than the late morning. They knew the road well, but still watched their step for the debris that rained from above. Not more than fifty feet from the fork that led to grandmother they came upon a fallen tree.
The trunk was, at least, five feet in diameter. No wagon would use the road until a team of foresters cleared it. Grandmother would be glad to hear of it because her forestry business depended on fallen trees. Sane people didn’t cut down trees in the Ferny Forest.
Mal reached the top of the trunk easily, but Amaranth had to climb using crinkles in the bark as finger and toe holds. She stood on the crest and felt like a giant looking down on a puny world. Mal stared at the darkness and growled.
A man’s silhouette stood before them, only his eyes clearly visible.
“My. What big yellow eyes you have.” Amaranth said.
“All the better to see you with, my sweet child,” said the stranger as he moved nearer. “I am Lou Pine a vagabond exploring our marvelous world. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
His gallant bow impressed her, but not Mal. He growled again and jumped onto the path. Amaranth quickly joined him.
“I too, am pleased sir. This is my good, but suspicious, friend Mal. I am Amaranth Pink. Tell me sir, from where do you hail?”
“Oh, from far and wide. I’m always looking for new and delicious experiences. Where are you two off to?”
“My grandmother’s house, it is but a short distance down the left fork in the road not far behind you. I’m sorry, but we must hurry along. I carry things of importance to her.”
With that said they parted. Not more than fifteen minutes later she arrived at grandmother’s house. Mal felt it safe to excuse himself and headed into the woods. Amaranth entered the house and found the strange man from the trail in the parlor.
“Sir, you surprise me. Why are you here and where is my grandmother?”
“Your grandmother offered refreshments and will return momentarily.”
Grandmother entered the room pushing a serving cart topped with a tray of sandwiches and a pitcher of apple cider. Seeing her granddaughter she stopped.
“I’m glad you’re here dear. This young man showed up unannounced and wouldn’t be put off. I felt I had to admit him. Did you bring my supplies?”
“I did grandmother, but please don’t run low of them again. It worries me.”
“I know dear and I’m sorry. It snuck up on me. All of a sudden I—”
“Silence! You blabbering fools,” bellowed Lou Pine.
Startled the females turned towards him. Through some strange metamorphosis, his shape changed from a handsome young man into a dirty old man and finally into a fearsome werewolf with long fangs and horrific claw-like fingers.
The rapidity of it all caught Amaranth off guard and she almost dropped her basket. She recovered quickly though and withdrew a large caliber amulet from it. The silver bullet entered three millimeters above but centered between Lou Pine’s bushy eyebrows. He instantly became a plasma that evaporated in an instant.
Amaranth put her large caliber amulet away and withdrew two boxes of Lone Ranger 45’s from her basket which she offered to her grandmother.
“Thank you, dear. Any news from the village?”
“Nothing much. Mal and I found a large downed tree, though. I bet your crew could get ten thousand board feet out of it, maybe more. I couldn’t see its length.”
“Wonderful. Where is it?”
“What’s my finder’s fee?” Amaranth asked.
Her grandmother smiled at her redheaded progeny dressed in a pretty pink cape. “Ten percent of net, twelve percent if the tree produces more than fifteen thousand board feet.”
By David P. Cantrell. This is a revision of a story posted on EWI in March 2015.