Red quietly closed the door and hung up her riding hood in the closet. She tiptoed into the kitchen and set the basket on the counter. The kitchen lights turned on. Her mom stood in the doorway. Red groaned.
“Tell me why you’re getting home so late,” Mom said.
“Well, you see, it’s like this,” Red said. “I would have come home on time, but I couldn’t.”
“Why not?” Mom asked.
“Ummm. I was eaten by a wolf,” Red said.
“You were eaten by a wolf on the way to Grandma’s house,” Mom said. She raised an eyebrow. Red hated it when she did that.
“No, really,” Red said. “A wolf ate me.”
“And yet you’re still here,” Mom said.
“A woodsman saved me. You know, the one who checks in on Grandma? He cut the wolf open and I was just fine, except for being late of course.”
Mom sighed. “The woodsman happened to walk by and cut open a wolf?”
“He probably thought it looked suspicious because it was wearing Grandma’s clothes,” Red said. “And it made a lot of noise when it ate me.”
“The wolf was wearing Grandma’s clothes,” Mom said slowly.
“Yeah, I imagine he put them on after he ate Grandma. You know, to trick me,” Red said.
“How did he know you were coming?” Mom asked.
“I told him I was going to Grandma’s house when I met him in the woods,” Red said. She patted the basket. “He asked about the basket.”
“So the wolf talked to you. And then he found your Grandma’s house and ate her?” Mom asked.
“Yup,” Red said. “Boy was it cramped in that wolf’s stomach. And dark and squishy. I felt really bad for Jonah. But I imagine he had a little more elbow room. After all, whales are a lot bigger than wolves, and he was in there by himself.”
“And the wolf dressed as Grandma to trick you?” Mom asked.
“He dressed in her clothes and hid in her bed and pretended to be her, so that I’d walk right up close,” Red said.
“And that worked?” Mom asked.
“Well, I noticed right away that his eyes were too big to be Grandma’s eyes. And his ears were too big to be Grandma’s ears. And his teeth…”
“Yes, yes,” Mom said. “Of course they were. And you didn’t notice that the face shape was wrong, or that he was covered in fur?”
“No,” Red said. “Mostly I noticed his teeth. They really weren’t like Grandma’s at all. They were all sharp and pointy.”
“And then he swallowed you whole and you ended up inside the wolf with Grandma,” Mom said.
“That’s why I’m late,” Red said. “All that time waiting for the woodsman while the wolf slept. He snored quite loudly. In fact, I think it gave me a headache. I should probably go to bed now. Maybe I should sleep in tomorrow, too. It was pretty traumatic to be eaten. We should probably never talk about it again.”
“Red…” Mom said.
“Oh, and don’t mention this to Grandma. She’s probably traumatized too. After all, the wolf ate both of us,” Red said.
“Elfreda Louise Renard,” Mom said. “Tell me the truth. Did you really meet a talking wolf that ate you and your Grandma?”
“Elfreda.” Mom raised her eyebrow again.
Red sighed. “No. There wasn’t a wolf.” She reached into the basket and pulled out a book. “I took my new book with me on my walk. I ate all the cookies you sent for Grandma while I read my book in the woods. Grandma never remembers whether I come of not so I thought it wouldn’t make a difference, but I lost track of time.”
“Thank you for telling me the truth,” Mom said.
“Does that mean I won’t be punished?” Red asked.
Mom frowned. “You ate Grandma’s cookies and told me a lie. To make up for that, tomorrow you get to help me make another batch of cookies, and I’ll go with you this time to deliver them.”
“But mom,” Red said. “I’ve got plans for tomorrow.”
Mom raised her eyebrow.
“Fine,” Red said. “But that eyebrow thing really isn’t fair.”