017. The White Snake

by crfricke

*This post is part of A Grimm Project, a series of short fiction pieces using each of the Brothers Grimms’ Nursery and Household Tales as writing prompts. For more information about the project, click here. For more about the story which inspired this freewrite, click here.*

I asked my dog today precisely what she thought of me. Be honest, I said. I won’t take offense.

I figured if anyone would tell me the truth, it would be her — am I generally a kind person? Do others appreciate my charisma, or am I simply annoying? A dog is an excellent judge of character. And as Ghandi said, you can tell a lot about a society by how they treat the weakest among them. As far as our society, me and the dog’s, she would probably be in a good position to let me know if I was on the right track, human-wise.

You smell like ham, she said.

Ok, I said. I’ll work on that.

No, I like that about you, she said, to clarify.

What else? I asked.

What else could there be? she retorted. Would you like me to sniff again?

No thanks, I said. I went outside. She didn’t follow me, and I remember thinking that she might regret that — a pair of squirrels were busy systematically investigating the fallen seed-pods in our yard, and the dog really has a thing for squirrels. I sat on the stoop and watched them. They seemed unconcerned by my presence. Maybe I could ask them, I thought. On the one hand, they didn’t really know me. But on the other, I’ve always been told that first impressions are the most important.

Hi there, I said to the squirrels.

They stopped their picking and stood straight up, bottle-brushed tails erect.

I’m Cate, I said.

They stared at me.

A bird hopped into the yard from the driveway and saw them, studied their stillness before looking to me.

You don’t really want to know what they have to say, the bird whispered.

I don’t? I asked.

The bird hopped closer. I held out my hand for it to alight, thinking at once both of Disney princesses, and bird mites.

They’re thinking that you smell like ham, the bird said, in a low, conspiratorial voice. And also that ham is delicious.

Cate Fricke
April 2014

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Illustration by Arthur Rackham