One day, Little Red Riding Hood was carrying a basket of goodies to her dear old grandmother, who lived deep in the woods. As she skipped along the path where it led through a small meadow, she idly picked flowers and sang little snippets of popular songs.
"Like a virgin, oohh!…."
There was someone else in the meadow that day, a large, vicious slavering wolf. He tensed his sinewy muscles, waiting for the right instant, bunched himself up, and leaped! His mighty jaws went 'SNAP!' and another field mouse became a bite-sized snack.
"Damn Farley Mowat, anyway," he muttered as he chewed the stringy little beast. "I still think elk would taste better than these things."
"Hello, there, mister wolf!" She called out cheerfully to the surprised animal.
He suddenly became aware of the little girl standing in front of him with a basket in one hand and a bunch of flowers in the other. And he thought to fall upon her and devour her right there, but hesitated for some reason. Young girls who would stop to talk to a wolf were rare enough. He gulped down the last of the mouse and replied, "Hello, little , little girl. You should be careful about talking to strangers you meet in the woods."
"Oh, I know all about you. You're the wolf. And my mother always says, 'Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet.'"
The wolf considered this, deciding to accompany her along her way. After all, he didn't have many conversations, and he could always eat her later. They walked along the path, Red blathering about her friends and school, the typical interests of a young girl; and freely dispensing homilies from her mother's seemingly inexhaustible supply of mindlessly happy sayings. The wolf was reconsidering his impulsive dietary decision, and making a mental note to look up the mother as well. Finally, they arrived at the grandmother's cottage. He was about to sink his teeth into Red's unsuspecting throat, when an old woman's surprisingly strong voice called out through the open doorway.
"Come on inside, Wolf! And you too, girl." He leaned back and closed his jaws in puzzlement, but felt somehow compelled to obey. The went inside.
"Grandmaw!" Red cried out. "Mom sent me to bring some goodies for you."
"Oh, she did, did she? Let's see what's in the basket, dear." She laid the spicy, cured meats and sweet pastries out on the counter. "Hmmm, her cooking's improved, if not her intent." She gestured over each item and nodded to herself, dropping them one at a time down the chute waste to the waste bucket. Hesitating over some cookies, she finally shrugged and offered them to Red. "These aren't poisoned. She probably figured to just let my diabetes get me."
While Red munched happily (and silently, the wolf thought with thanks) Granny looked at him thoughtfully. He regarded her back with an uneasy sensation, whose source he was sure was familiar, yet could not remember. He wondered at all the strange, complex thoughts he was having. "What's happening to me?"
"And why are you talking at all, huh? Didn't think of that one, didn't you. The spell's breaking down. You're remembering." She gestured at Red. "She'll be asleep momentarily. Then we'll talk." Soon, sure enough, Red curled up on the bed under an eider down quilt.
The wolf asked Granny, "What are you?"
She looked earnestly into the wolf's brilliant blue eyes. "I'm a witch! Why do you think a frail, old woman would live deep in the woods, young man? What kind of occupation do you think keeps me out here? It's not for my health!"
"What's going on? I feel strange."
"My daughter's spells have always used brute force rather than craft. Her original intent when she made you a wolf was for you to eat me and the little girl, then be immediately killed by a 'conveniently' nearby woodcutter, thereby ridding her of an unwelcome mother, daughter and husband."
"But what went wrong."
"Hah! My daughter is only an amateur witch. Turning you into a beast was easy, even sending you to my cabin. But the most powerful master magician would have difficulty making a father kill and devour his own daughter. It's unnatural, even if he had the mind of a beast. So it was easy to modify her spell with a minor spell of my own, so that Red would not flee you, an obvious wild animal, and to have you escort her through the woods every week to the house. That's the difference between power and skill, and I've got skill!."
"So I've been doing this every week? How long?"
"Ever since Red could walk. You would carry her on your back part-way when she was little."
"And you've let this go on. Why don't you break the spell?
"It suits me. I get to see my grandchild just often enough, and she gets plenty of fresh air and exercise. And my daughter is stuck at home in town, a single mother." She smiled, exposing crooked teeth. "I never said I was a Good Witch."
"But you can't just leave me as a wolf." He howled, and she waved her arm, reinforcing the spell. He felt his humanity fade, and leapt through the door, fleeing the strange enclosure of the cottage, into the woods.
"You make a much better wolf than son-in-law. I need a wolf. Woodcutters are a dime a dozen, so much so I'm running out of trees. And Woodcutters don't do a thing for the mouse population."
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