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Dmitra Gideon

When Hansel and Gretel entered the forest, it was with a hatchet.  


They needed wood for a fence, to tame the savage land.  


There wasn’t much to fear in the forest by then; most of the wolves were gone. After all, they were dangerous, might eat little girls or grandmothers, might clean their teeth on the bones.  


They had to go deep into the wood to find a tree that was not a stilted corpse. Along the way they left a trail of Styrofoam. They’d take a different path home, the oak body heavy on their backs. Later, they’d throw the extra flesh into the stove, watch it exit the chimney as smoke. 


The house they found was not of gingerbread but animal skins. Instead of a witch there was a man—the last of his kind. When he would not tell them his name, they called him Ishi or Ota Benga. They led him into town, where the sheriff took him into custody for his own protection —they were paying for brown scalps those days. Fifty cents each. Five dollars if you could get a whole head. 


Because he was the last —his family lost to massacres and influenza—he was precious and treated as such. Anthropologists and linguists took turns plunging their teeth into his neck. They put him in the zoo and fattened him with biscuits and gravy. People came to witness his savagery and were disappointed when he only sat and stared at the bars. 


Eventually the novelty wore off. They forced his feet into leather shoes, his skin into cotton.  He died a few years later of tuberculosis. Hansel and Gretel lived happily ever after, having banished all traces of wildness. 


But some nights Gretel woke, looked out the window to see Hansel crawling in the dirt, sifting the moonlight for one final white stone. 

Dmitra Gideon is a writer, educator, and community organizer living in Pittsburgh, PA. A graduate of the Chatham University MFA Program, they currently serve as Director of Youth-Centered Programming and Community Collaboration for Write Pittsburgh and Disability Justice Advocate for the Abolitionist Law Center. Their work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Cold Mountain Review, Pink Panther Magazine, and The Fourth River, among others. 

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