The Huntsman

by Norman Belanger

Once upon a time, he was somebody’s little darling, today he was nothing to nobody.

I knew details about the kid I was to take into the woods, a lad who stole from the wrong person. Snow White was the name he went by, a young lamb from the Middle Lands with an angel’s face. He was cocky, brimming over with the bright hubris of sweet youth. He’d made a bad mistake, two bad mistakes really.

The first was to heist a kilo of prime market product worth 100K from his employer, a vicious dealer named Queenie. The second was not to get out of town as fast as possible. Queenie didn’t play. She was the meanest of them all. The old witch was willing to pay me a lot of coin to quash the errant thief.

“Ice the bitch,” was her last command.

To me, he was just a paycheck. I didn’t think about the work. This is no job for thinkers. I would shake the boy like a piggy bank. In another far away era, I might have been a dragon slayer. Alas. I set out to find him. It didn’t take long. Roughing up junkies and street punks is child’s play, and by the end of that day, I got a tip from one of the little pigs who sang like a bird when he saw the size of me and felt the back of my hand a few times. That’s the thing with pigs, they’ll squeal every time. A runner with that much dope gets noticed, and Snow White seemed to be too dumb to even try very hard at covering his tracks. Lucky for me, the pig was a rat, and I was on the hunt.

My mark was hiding in plain sight at one of those exclusive spots where rich brats go to dip their perfect surgically altered beaks in 40-dollar bourbon. I was definitely not on the list. The squat knave who was acting like a bouncer silently pocketed my silver and nodded me past the double doors. I slipped into the club, a glass cage that looked out on an expanse of river and star filled sky. At the bar with drink in hand I had a decent view of the crowd.

Cinderella Chandler, heiress to the hotel chain, walked around with her left boob hanging out of a knit halter top. She didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t care. She was high as the moon. She had a wonky eye and a cracked smile, still everyone said she was a maiden fair. A yapping shitzu poked its head from a bag Cindy carried that costs more than I make in a month. Rumplestiltskin, red faced and loud, was telling anybody who’d listen that he could spin straw into gold.

No one cared. There was the usual collection of trolls, an ogre or two, and two of the three bears. Goldilocks had been and gone. Some young damsel, about to get her heart broken, was kissing Bo Peep. They were dancing, a shuffling movement under strobe lights. Jack, nimble and quick, and coked to the gills on fairy dust, jumped over candlesticks. Lords were leaping. One of the fairy godmothers, the one with the chin wart and the sex tape that made her famous, pranced in jade earrings and black boots, and not much else.

In the middle of the floor was my job, screaming like a wolverine. He was shirtless and sweating, whiffing poppers and twirling to the pulse of music. I felt something thump in my thorax. It’s not often I have a pang. He was something to look at. And hey, I’m half human. I followed him when he drifted into the men’s room with a bevy of boys in tow, waited a few minutes for him to do whatever he was doing. There was a lot of giggling. Two dwarves left the stall, the door swung open, and there was the child with a straw in his left nostril. Even then, he was beautiful.

“Queenie sent me.”

The sneer died on his face. His skin was white as snow.

“This is no life for you.”

He shrugged. A flock of sadness clouded that young, lovely face. “Why should you
care?”

“I’ll never know.”

“I didn’t take it.” he said, looking at me dead on. His eyes were green, as green as the sea, but they were still the eyes of a liar. I’ve never been to the sea, never been out of this dismal berg. But I’ve seen plenty of liars.

“Too bad,” I sighed, “it’s a shame to kill you for nothing.”

He went to make a run for it. I grabbed him. His arm was stick thin. I could’ve snapped
him like a bundle of dry twigs right then. But I didn’t. I’d never hesitated before.
My insides flipped at the thought of the task at hand. This was the moment I fell.

“Please” he said. He was close enough that I can feel his animal warmth through my
leather jerkin. He moved.

“Don’t.”

“Let me go.”

“I got orders. I get paid to do a job.”

“I could pay you more.” He put a soft hand, smooth and paper thin, on my chest. It rested
there, feeling my heartbeat. “Please, Sir.”

“You got magic beans?”

“I got better than that. I got Queenie’s dust.”

“I thought you said you didn’t take it. You didn’t lie to me now did you, baby face?”

“I need to get rid of it, fast. There’s only one dealer in town big enough to handle it all. If you can get me in to see the Wizard, we could make a killing.”

“No one sees the Wizard.”

“We can split the score. Take me to see him.”

Something glittered in his look, as he calculated the situation. He knew right then, he had me. What a punch in the gut this would be to Queenie, who’d never done a decent thing in her life. She’d chiseled me once too many times, and maybe this was a chance to balance the scales. If you could have seen Snow White, that once innocent little thing, you might have considered it, too.

Weaker men than I have fallen for less. His free hand reached inside the back pocket of his ripped-up jeans. He pulled out a brass key. Some part of me wanted to take him and run away to someplace that isn’t cold or dirty or sad or ugly, someplace that’s green and clean, some place that doesn’t exist, except maybe in children’s stories, or dreams. I call Queenie.

“It’s done,” I say.

“Where’s my shit?”

“I don’t know. I was contracted to axe him. Period. It’s done.” She’s not happy. Maybe she knows I’m lying. I don’t care.

“I’m going out of town a while. I gotta get out of this hell hole.”

I don’t wait for her answer.

I board the coach just as its wheezing engine fires up. I make my way to the back seat.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

I pat the velvet bag at my belt. The Wizard’s money, the take we got from the sale of
Queenie’s stolen stuff, all those golden coins, makes a lovely sound. Snow White has his hand in mine, his head rests on my shoulder.

“I could sleep for a thousand years,” he says “I’m so tired.” He drifts off as he’s telling me all the things he wants to do, when we get to where we’re going, some place far, far away from the barren, blighted forest. Maybe we’ll go to the sea. Grand fool that I am, I almost want to believe him.

 

Artist: Kendrick Daye

Norman Belanger is a middle aged queer writer living a life of quiet desperation in Cambridge, MA. When not staring off into space he is frequently found at any local drinkery listening, observing, and writing. His works of CNF, fiction, essays and poetry can be found in Barren Magazine, Sibling Rivalry Press, Red Fez, and TransNational Queer Underground.