The Vagaries of Her Plot

Melissa Ostrom

Will the child know what to watch for
When she leaves her tame home
Of rosebud cup, glass ballerina
And broaches the forest
With her mission? Or did her father not
Warn her, for fear of inciting her fear?

Will your wolf exercise his duplicity
With flattery, an elegance
That invites the girl’s vanity
To defeat her, or will he act
On his starvation in a canine way,
With the growl and snapping jaw?

Will you impart some dignity
To our girl, give her intelligence
To tell foe from familiar, give her
The salt of endurance (to hack brush,
By choice, for her grandmother’s sake)
Or will you curse her with obedience?

Will you allow a huntsman’s ax
To mitigate the child’s discomforts
(Cut of teeth, swallowing
Throat)? Will she, released
From the wolf’s ribbed prison,
Return to the moldering path?

Will you let her devise, by cunning,
Her own escape, plant a knife
In her basket, show her
The jugular and permit her
To attack in swift defense?
Will you teach her to make sure?

Or will you have her wait, twinned
With the old mother in the belly,
For the huntsman to save
Them both? Or—think now—

Leave her in the roiling stomach
Until the gut finishes her,
Until she learns her lesson,
Whatever that is

Melissa Ostrom is the author of The Beloved Wild (Feiwel & Friends, 2018), a Junior Library Guild book and an Amelia Bloomer Award selection, and Unleaving (Feiwel & Friends, 2019). Her short stories have appeared in Wigleaf, Passages North, The Florida Review, and Ruminate, among other journals, and been selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019 and The Best Microfiction 2020. She teaches English at Genesee Community College and lives with her husband and children in Holley, New York. Learn more at or find her on Twitter @melostrom.