It was a beautiful spring day. The birds were singing, and the grass was green as could be. I, Cornelius Wolf, was going for a peaceful stroll along the path that led past my den. I make it a habit to do so, especially since I have steadily been gaining weight in my old age.
So along I walked, enjoying the fresh air and peaceful woodland sounds. Suddenly, I heard something extremely strange. I heard the voice of a little girl singing. I must admit that I was intrigued, since I had never met a human before. I simply had to go and investigate.
I followed the voice until I came into a clearing through which the little girl was walking. She was quite young, probably only eight or nine years old. She was wearing a little satin dress, which was covered by a red hooded cloak. She was also carrying a basket that smelled of delicious baked goods. Slowly, I walked up to her and introduced myself.
"Hello, little girl. If you will excuse me, I really must introduce myself. My name is Cornelius Wolf. I was passing through this area on a stroll, and when I heard your singing, I was intrigued. I sincerely hope that you will not think me rude, but I was not aware that there were any little girls in these woods."
I really think that I had taken her quite by surprise. She did not say anything for a full thirty seconds, but simply stood staring at me with her mouth hanging open. Remembering that a human was a rare thing in this area, I excused this moment of rudeness.
Finally, she overcame her shock and responded to my salutation. Her response, however, was certainly less than neighborly.
"Get away from me, you big dumb animal!" she screamed in a shrill voice that turned every eye in the woods toward us.
I looked slowly around, thoroughly embarrassed. Determined not to let her win, I softly returned, "I was simply trying to be friendly. You are, of course, welcome to go on your way. But, before you go, could you be so kind as to tell me where it is that you are going?"
Reluctantly, she told me that she was going to her grandmother's house to bring her some food to help her through her illness. Excited by the thought of actually meeting another human, I offered to go with her. When I put the question to her, it seemed as if I would get an instant refusal. At the last moment, however, I saw a vicious little light appear in her eyes.
"Well, sir," she said sweetly, "you are welcome to come, but it is a long trip."
Convinced that she had had a change of heart, I immediately accepted. And so we left.
The trip to grandmother's house was quite long indeed. As a matter of fact, we soon came to a part of the woods I had never seen before. The girl's conduct was vastly improved from our first meeting. As soon as we were under way, she introduced herself as Red Riding Hood. As we walked, she chattered on happily about one thing and another - the blue sky, the green grass, the fresh air. She also apologized for her rude conduct earlier, saying that she was simply frightened.
"But now we're friends, aren't we, Mr. Wolf?" she said sweetly. I heartily agreed, delighted to be in the presence of an actual human. When she thought that I wasn't looking, however, that vicious look kept returning to her eyes. Puzzled, I assumed that it was nothing.
After what seemed like a lifetime of walking, we came to a patch of berries. As soon as they came into sight, my companion uttered a cry of dismay. "Oh no!" she exclaimed. "How I would love to pick those berries for my grandmother! Too bad my hands are full with this basket."
Only too glad to help, I offered my assistance. The girl readily accepted my offer, and stood aside as I moved up to the bush. I picked twenty or thirty berries, but when I turned around to hand them to my companion, she was gone!
I stood, bewildered, for about five minutes. Why would she leave me here? I had no idea where I was or how to get home. Finally, I convinced myself that the girl had to leave, and that, for one reason, she could not tell me. Why? I simply did not know. The idea that the human might betray me was completely unacceptable.
The problem remained, however, that I did not know how to find my way home. I certainly could not stay there all day. So I decided to try and find my way.
I walked for what seemed like an eternity, but I did not see anything familiar. Finally. I came upon the semblance of a path. I followed it until I came to a clearing. In the center of it was a cottage.
Thinking that I could ask for help, I knocked on the door.
"Hello?" answered a feeble, quavering voice from within the house. I politely answered; "Hello. My name is Cornelius Wolf. I was wondering if you could help me find my way home."
"Come in, young man," answered the voice. I slowly entered the small, one room house. It was simply furnished, but neat and orderly. In the bed was a little old lady. I approached and said to her: "Ma'am, I was wondering if you might tell me how I could get to Pinewood from here."
The lady responded: "Young man, I have no time for such things. Can't you see that I'm dying?"
Shocked, I asked her, "Is there anything that I might do to help?"
"I am afraid not. My time has come. I only wish that my granddaughter, Red Riding Hood, had been here to share my final moments with me. She will be devastated when she finds out that I am gone."
"You are Red Riding Hood's grandmother? I met her when she was on her way here."
"You are a friend of hers? Please, do this for a dying lady: do not let her know that I am gone. I simply can't bear to imagine her dismay when she finds out that she barely missed my passing. Please, promise that you will do that much for me."
"Of course, ma'am," I answered. With that, she died.
I realized that I had little time left. Red Riding Hood would be here at any moment. Quickly thinking of what I could do to keep her from finding out about her grandmother's passing, I came up with only one solution. I must pretend to be her grandmother.
I quickly found a nightgown in the lady's trunk. I put it on, and respectfully put the body of the lady into the box. Suddenly, I spotted the girl through the window, approaching the cottage. Realizing that I had little time left, I dove into the bed and under the covers just as I heard a knock at the door.
Doing my best to emulate the voice of the lady, I responded with a feeble, "Come in." The girl entered, and did not seem surprised that my face was almost completely buried under the covers.
"I brought you some food, Grandma."
"Why, that was very nice of you, dear."
"You look very different today, Grandma."
"Oh? It must be because of my illness."
"Yes, maybe. But what big eyes you have!"
"The better to see you with, my dear."
"And what a big nose you have!"
"The better to smell you with, my dear."
"And, what big teeth you have, Grandma!"
"The better to eat with, my dear!"
"Wait a minute! Now I know! You aren't my grandmother! You're the mean old wolf that I saw in the woods! Help! Help!"
Realizing that my ruse had been discovered, I leapt out of the bed to comfort her and to tell her the truth about what had happened. She was much too disturbed to listen, however, and persisted in her cries for help. Unfortunately for me, a passing woodsman must have heard her cries, because the next thing he had burst into the cottage, an ax in his hand. Seeing me with the crying girl, he must have misunderstood and thought that I was attacking her. The next thing I knew, he had chased me out of the house, and I was fleeing for the safety of the woods.
I ran until I was tired, and by then he must have abandoned the chase. I learned a lot that day. I learned that I would never speak to strangers again, human or not. I also learned never to interfere in the affairs of others, but to simply stay in my den and enjoy the peace and solitude of my home. And that is exactly what I have done, all these years.
That is the was it really happened. 1
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.