The sun was bright on the page and Rosie’s eyes ached from the glare. She squinted at the golden flecks of dust swirling in the light and gave up on the book. Her head was aching and she was too distracted to concentrate on the words. A sound from downstairs caught her attention and she strained to hear. A deep murmur followed by her mother’s voice, sounding irritated as usual. Rosie crept to her door and opened it a crack, but she was too late as the front door slammed and she heard her mother cursing. “Rosie!” she called, an edge in her voice that beckoned Rosie to hurry or risk her ire. With a deep sigh of annoyance Rosie skipped down the stairs to face her mother.
In the kitchen her mother was packing a basket. Rosie spied the basket. “Am I taking that to Granny?”
“Yes”. Her mother was short and continued packing food. She finished and wiped her hands on her apron, then shoved the basket into Rosie’s arms. She turned and headed out to the backyard, stopping to pick up laundry that needed hanging. Rosie followed, swept up in her wake like a fish in a maelstrom. She put the basket down and helped her mother hang the clothes, feeling the warmth of the sun thawing out her cold body. It was a beautiful autumn day and Rosie was happy to have an errand to run. They hung washing in silence for a few minutes until Rosie’s mother finally said “See you get that basket to Granny, Rosie dear.”
Rosie looked at her quizzically. It was a strange thing to say. What else would she do with the basket? “Of course, mama. Is Granny still ill?” Her mother’s face tightened.
“Yes.” They hung out the last of the clothes and Rosie picked up the basket. Her mother walked her around the side and to the front of the house. “See that she gets this basket, Rosie. If she doesn’t… I don’t know what we’ll do.” She looked at her daughter, dressed in her favourite red coat, sparkling green eyes full of concern and confusion. She kissed her, and went back inside. Rosie stared at the house for a few moments, then turned when she heard snickers and whispers from behind her.
“Get a life!” she snapped at the Wolf brothers, who were leaning on their hotted-up Monaro and leering at her. They laughed and elbowed each other.
“Aww Rosie, so sweet! You can have us both you know, we’ll share.” Andre smirked when she shot him a glare. “As if I would touch either of you! You smell like you’ve been rolling in the mud with the pigs. Get lost!” She hoisted the basket and walked down the path to the sidewalk. Andre stood straight and approached her, his expression tempered with avarice.
“What’s in the basket, sweetheart?” He went to grab it but Rosie swung it away from him and hissed “Touch me or it and I will scream so loud!” The threat worked and he backed off, his brother, Mario, whistling derisively. Rosie stared fiercely at them a moment more before whirling around and trotting off down the road.
Andre watched her go, a thoughtful look on his face. “Did you hear what Rosie’s old lady said to her? ‘See that she gets this basket. If she doesn’t I don’t know what will happen’. What’s in the basket Mario?”
Mario shrugged. He lacked his brother’s intelligence so usually deferred to him in matters that required thought. Andre sighed in frustration. “Rosie’s Granny isn’t the sweet old lady everyone thinks she is. I heard from a Gunn’s worker that she’s running a business on the side. They think she’s encroaching on their turf. I bet that whatever Rosie has in that basket is part of that business.” He glanced at his brother. “You get my drift, bro?” Mario grinned to hide his ignorance. Andre rolled his eyes and shook his head. Couldn’t get much past Andre. “Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna follow Rosie and when we can do it without anyone seeing, we’re gonna get that basket and we’re gonna deliver it to the Gunns. And maybe we can have a piece of that tasty ass while we’re at it.”
Rosie was heading towards the outskirts of town. The houses here were rundown and the grass overgrown, and every second house displayed a rusted old bomb in its yard. Curtains were pulled to the side then let drop as Rosie passed. She always felt scared here, and she wished her red coat wasn’t quite so obvious. “Why didn’t I pick brown?” she muttered to herself. It was early afternoon and she was starting to think it might be an idea to stay at Granny’s for the night. She’d never had a problem before, but her red coat made her stand out like a target and she was extremely anxious. As she turned down her normal shortcut, a lane that was shaded by evergreen conifers, she got a chill of fear. She continued walking a bit longer but decided to go the long way, reasoning that it was probably safer. She turned to walk back but saw a red Monaro pull up at the entrance to the lane. Panic set in immediately. She knew the Wolf brothers were sleazy and she knew they were capable of rape. Rosie spun and ran.
The sound of heavy pounding footsteps warned her they were in pursuit. She was fit and fleet of foot but the basket bumped against her side and slowed her stride. She contemplated dropping it but remembered her mother’s words and gripped it tighter. The shadows cast by the conifers reached out to her, her breathing became ragged and she stumbled over a rock. Casting a quick glace backwards she realised with relief the brothers weren’t gaining on her: they were heavier and slower than she. Rosie took a chance and ducked into the first cross street they came to and hid in a dirty shed. She tried desperately to slow her breathing and be as quiet as possible. The effort made her faint but she struggled to remain aware of her surroundings. A minute later she heard the brothers blunder loudly past, and she held her breath. After a few minutes she heard nothing else and poked her head out of the door. The street was deserted bar a mangy ginger cat. She crept out and dashed quickly back into the laneway and scurried off for Granny’s house. Thankfully she was almost there.
After five more minutes of uneventful journeying, she approached Granny’s house. It was late afternoon and long shadows crept along the ground. As she ascended the steps to the verandah she noticed Granny’s door was open a crack. Stopping dead, Rosie clutched the basket and looked around her. Something was wrong. Granny was paranoid about security and would never have left her door open. Grass rustled behind her and her heart faltered as she looked upon the triumphant faces of the Wolf brothers. She backed up the stairs, basket hugged to her stomach. As her feet touched the verandah the wood creaked, and she found her voice. “Stop.” The word shook terribly. Andre chuckled and Mario sneered. They both lunged for her at the same time, and she scrambled into the house before she could register that she was now trapped. A smell hit her and she gagged and dropped the basket. Mario reached her first and grabbed her arm, wrenching her body towards him. Andre picked up the basket as Mario forced his tongue into Rosie’s mouth. She fought to free herself but he was almost twice her size. His hands groped and squeezed and Rosie let out an inarticulate cry. He was ripping at her coat, trying to tear it off her, but suddenly she was pulled away from him and thrown to the ground. Andre was yelling. The sound had no meaning and as if time had slowed she finally located the source of the stench.
Granny was dead. Had been for at least a day, and no prizes for guessing how. A bullet wound in her forehead crawled with ants. She reclined in her comfy chair, sightless and lifeless. The brothers were fighting, but Rosie was having trouble making sense of their words. She crawled towards Granny. Mario snarled at Andre and started towards her but the front door banged open and a large intimidating man stood in the doorway. He had crazy red hair and held a gun pointed at Andre. Everyone froze, including Rosie. She stared up at the man. “Mr Gunn? From the woodworking factory? What are you…?” Gunn swung the pistol towards Rosie, and she stopped. He aimed it again at the brothers, and keeping it trained on them he bent down to pick up the basket. “Thanks boys” he said. He looked over at Rosie. Faster than she could follow he aimed the gun at her and pulled the trigger. At first she felt nothing but then a fire roared from her belly, a burning pain that she clutched at with her hands, trying to put out the blaze. She sobbed at the redness on her hands, the dark blood leaking out of her, the river of her life pooling on the floor beneath her. She looked up in time to see Gunn toss the pistol at Mario, who stupidly caught it, then dropped it like it had burnt him. Gunn walked out, with the basket, away from the carnage. Everything was going dark. The brothers were yelling again, then ran out the door, taking the pistol with them. Rosie was alone. She was cold. “I guess I’m staying the night then” she whispered into nothingness.
This is my second Fiction Friday. The prompt for this week was “Use a McGuffin in your story.
McGuffin: An object or person in a movie that has no use other than to drive the narrative forward. (originally coined by Alfred Hitchcock)
examples: The Maltese Falcon in the movie of the same name; the suitcase in Pulp Fiction”.
My McGuffin was obviously Rosie’s basket. This week I took a slightly different tack, and once I worked out the McGuffin and the setting, the characters and the beginning of the story I sat on it and didn’t write the ending in my head. When I wrote it I just let the story unfold, which I admit was a little harder than last week when I had the ending already predetermined. I’m not entirely happy with the writing, but I can’t edit as per the rules so it is what it is! Even though I was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood the ending was never set in stone, in fact I rebelled against killing Rosie. Eventually I realised that I just had to go with it, sorry Rosie! Expect a few more fairytale inspired stories in the future.