Gretel Hams It Up

“Why’d you do that?” Hansel considered going after the chucked roll, he really was hungry, but decided he had low odds of finding it.

“Stop whining, you wanted a trail, we have a trail.” Gretel took out a grape and dropped it on the ground at her feet. Hansel looked at the grape, bright green and plump, and his mouth watered. Gretel’s stamping foot found it a moment before his fingers, and he snatched his hand back. “No, no eating the trail markers, Hansel!” Gretel smacked the top of his head with her flat palm.

Hansel slowly stood, his blue eyes full of the storm clouds of pure sibling hatred. He knew he couldn’t beat her in a fight. Her signature move, sitting on him until he nearly suffocated, always decisively ended their scuffles. He tossed back his head and ran fingers through his hair, “Don’t touch my hair.” Gretel smirked and turned to go in another random direction.

Hansel gave the smushed grape a last longing look and followed. Gretel trudged into the growing darkness, flinging a food item into the forest every few minutes. Hansel didn’t watch closely enough and was hit in the stomach with a can of baked beans. “Soooorrry,” she trilled, giggling. Hansel picked it up when she turned and put it in the large front pocket of his green hoody.

Most of the food went in random, irretrievable directions. There was a two pack of Twinkies in a tree. She threw another roll in a small ditch of water. A gallon of milk was poured in a long, disappearing line. The bark of a smooth madrone tree was buttered. All the while she hummed tunelessly. If Hansel never heard “Hot Cross Buns” again, it would be too soon.

CRACK! The children froze in their tracks. Silence broken, they heard footsteps, large heavy footsteps, and a sound like someone eating potato chips with their mouth open. The footsteps stopped and the chewing slowly resolved in a gulping swallow.

“Dad?” Hansel said weakly. He knew it wasn’t their dad. That dude was already home eating one of Hellen’s giant roasts and agreeing that the house was so much nicer without them in it. No answer.

Gretel peered around and decided that what you couldn’t see, couldn’t eat you. “Probably a squirrel!” she chirped, and tripped along her “path,” a meandering line through the worst of the brambles. Hansel listened for another few seconds and, hearing nothing, followed.

The food kept flying. A full-sized cherry pie hit a tree, red juice and cherries gleaming like entrails as they glopped toward the ground. More rolls went airborne. Gretel reached into the basket and pulled out a ham, studded with cloves and pineapple slices, and tossed it like a caber down a small hill, watching it roll end over end to the bottom.

“Geez, Gretel, what are we going to have to eat?” Hansel yelled. The ghost of ham smell lingering after its Highland fling made him want to cry with hunger.

“We’re going to eat plenty when we get out of these woods,” Gretel mumbled. Her mouth was…full. Hansel realized not all of the missing food was on the forest floor. He ran to his sister and roughly grabbed her arm, turning her to face him. Her face was a mess of powdered sugar, butter, ham juice, and cherries. She looked like she’d eaten a family of very small, greasy clowns.

“WHAT THE HELL, GRETEL?!?” She scowled at him, opening her mouth to scold about his language, but the words didn’t come. Instead, her mouth just kept going until it was hanging open under eyes as big as the dinner plates she’d thrown like frisbees. She was staring at something behind him. Hansel didn’t want to look. He stared at his sister’s round eyes, seeing movement in the reflections there. The thing behind them was huge, and dark, and ambling closer.

Hansel closed his eyes, listening to doom’s footfalls. The scent of a musky animal overdue for a grooming appointment reached him, along with a subtler note of ham.

“OH MY GOD, IT’S BIGFOOT!” Gretel screamed before collapsing in a heap on the ground. Hansel had been prepared to run from a bear, and this confused him enough to short-circuit his plan.

“I’m not Bigfoot,” a big, deep voice grumbled behind him. “Bigfoot is a dick.”