The little girl in the red cloak set the basket on the hall table. The cottage appeared to be empty but the little girl guessed her grandmother was taking a nap. Old people do that sometimes. In the afternoons. I’m too old for afternoon naps, the little girl thought proudly. Or perhaps I’m too young.
She approached the door to her grandmother’s bedroom and listened. She couldn’t hear the regular wheezy breathing of a sleeping old woman. Instead there was silence. As if grandmother was holding her breath…
Fearing the worst, the little girl turned the handle, suddenly feeling terribly alone. Out here in the middle of the forest, there was no one to help her, no one to whom she might turn for assistance.
She pushed the door open slowly; it gave a creak like Grandmother’s laughter, or like Grandmother’s joints when she got out of her chair.
The little girl approached the bed. The blankets were raised, covering a bump, like snow on a hillock. The little girl stepped closer.
“Grandmother…?” she said uncertainly; the word caught in her throat.
An eye opened, round and yellow. The hillock stirred.
“Grandmother!” the little girl stepped closer still, relieved to see movement, overjoyed to see – She stopped. “You’re not my grandmother,” she said.
The blankets fell back as the figure in the bed sat up.
The little girl’s eyes grew wide. She told herself to back away, to flee for the door, but her feet would not move.
“Your eyes!” she gasped. “How big they are! And your teeth! How big they are! And your – your –”
The wolf in grandmother’s nightie looked pained. He held out his paws, trying to calm the little girl in the red cloak.
“Please!” he urged. “Don’t scream! Don’t cry! I can explain.”
“Where’s my grandmother? What have you done to her, you beast?” The little girl stamped her foot. The wolf yelped.
“She’s – she’s visiting a neighbour, I expect. Or she’s gone to the day centre.”
“You’ve swallowed her! Gobbled her all up!”
“No – I would never! Please, you must understand.”
“I’m going for help. There must be a woodcutter near here. He’ll chop off your head and then you’ll be sorry.”
The wolf swung his legs to the floor, slipping them into Grandmother’s mules.
“Keep away from me!”
But the little girl was surprised: the wolf did not pounce. He just sat on the bed with his head in his front paws.
“It’s just – something I like to do at the weekends. Or when the old lady goes out. I don’t mean any harm. And I’m careful not to stretch the clothes too much. I just like to wear nice things once in a while. Don’t you? You’re always in that pretty red cloak. I’ve seen you.”
The little girl’s mouth hung open in shock.
“You’re a – a tranny!” she pointed an accusing finger. “A granny tranny! You disgust me.”
“No, please! I won’t do it again, I swear.”
“Animal! Filthy animal!”
The little girl looked around for something she might throw at the wolf in granny’s clothing.
She turned to flee, to run back through the forest and tell her mother what she had seen. She collided with the rough denim of a pair of jeans and looked up at a checked shirt and the gleaming blade of a woodcutter’s ax.
“Hello, Red,” said her grandmother, “How do you like my lumberjack outfit?”