Little Red in the Hood
I remember it like it was yesterday even though it was far, far away and a long time ago. Red’s mom used to always send Red on her errands. It would be “Red, go down to the corner store and get me a diet coke” or “Red, pick up the dry cleaning, would you, and make sure that crook, Peterson, didn’t over-charge us again.” That day we were hanging in the back yard shooting the breeze, when her mom opened the back door to holler, “Red, take the leftover lasagna to your gramma’s house and be quick about it because I have a few things I need you to do back home.”
Red didn’t want to go. For starters her gramma was kind of strange. She wore bowling shirts and hung out with a bunch of crazy old ladies—dirty old ladies who liked to talk about sex and stuff. When you’re 13 there is nothing more disgusting than little old sex-obsessed ladies, unless one of them also happens to be your gramma. But besides that Red’s gramma would sometimes go out with this weird guy named Ed. Ed had a ginormous head with a great big wolfish smile. He sort of creeped Red out, even though Red’s mom said he was harmless.
“You be nice to Ed,” she was wont to say. “He’s good to your gramma and he’s a good friend.”
Red looked at her mom and set her jaw stubbornly. She actually looked kind of like her mom when she did that, but I wasn’t going to be the one to say so. “Aw, ma, I don’t wanna go. You go,” cried Red plaintively.
“Don’t take that tone with me, young lady,” replied Red’s mom. “Besides, I can’t go. My soap is on. Dirk is about to pop the question to Adrianna, and I don’t want to miss it.”
Red sighed and gave me a look that plainly expressed her exasperation. “Let’s go,” she said.
“Wait a minute,” her mom yelled. “Don’t forget your coat, it looks like rain.”
Red scowled. She hated that stupid coat with its stupid babyish red hood. “It’s not going to rain, Ma,” she said. “Besides Elizabeth’s ma isn’t making her wear a coat. Why do I have to?”
“Elizabeth’s ma will regret not making her wear a coat when she catches a cold and then dies. You don’t want to die like Elizabeth, do you?” she replied snappishly. And then to me, she said, “You aren’t really going to die, dear. I’m just making a point. Would you like to borrow one of Red’s old coats?”
“No thank you, ma’am,” I replied. Red’s mom looked for a moment as if she was going to force me into a coat, but she merely shrugged her shoulders and handed Red the red monstrosity with the baby hood. Red threw the coat on over her shoulders and raised the hood. “Happy now, ma?” she asked, her voice dripping with disdain.
“Yes, I am,” said Red’s mother, choosing to be oblivious to Red’s waspish reply. “Look sharp. I’ll see you soon.”
Red grumbled the entire walk over to her gramma’s. Now I gotta be honest. Red didn’t have too much to complain about really. I mean, yeah, Red’s mom gave her a lot of chores, but she got a lot of free time still. Plus three squares a day. I’m not saying my mom starved me, because she didn’t at all. What I’m saying is that my mom wasn’t a very good cook. She tried and all, and sometimes, she’d come up with something that was pretty tasty. But usually? Ever had an egg omelet with tofu? Well, if you haven’t, then don’t. That’s all I’m saying. Red’s mom was practically gourmet, and except for her obsession with the soaps and her tendency to dress Red a bit younger than Red would have liked, she was tops as a mom. So the closer we got to Red’s gramma, the more annoyed I got.
“Your mom doesn’t censor what you read,” said Red out of nowhere.
“Yeah, well you don’t read all that much, anyway,” I pointed out.
“So what,” said Red. “It’s the principle of the matter.”
“Okay, fine, you’re censored. But you get gourmet meals all the time. You are so lucky.”
Red scowled at me. “Is that all you ever think about? Food?”
“Have you ever had a tofu omelet?” I asked her, melodramatically.
“Enough about the tofu omelet. I’m sick of hearing about the stupid tofu omelet,” said Red grumpily.
We walked the rest of the way in silence. When we got to Red’s gramma’s house, it was shut up tight.
“Did she go somewhere?” I asked Red. “I thought she was expecting us.”
“I don’t know,” answered Red. “But there’s a key under the concrete statue of the three little pigs, there by the daisy patch. Grab it for me, okay?”
I handed Red the key and she opened the door. “Gramma?” called Red.
“C’mon,” said Red, “let’s just leave the lasagna in the fridge and go back home.” Red’s gramma had a nice kitchen. Lots of yellow gingham and a tin full of yummy-smelling cookies.
“Are those snickerdoodles?” I asked Red.
“Geez, eat one and shut up,” said Red handing me a cookie. “Let’s go.”
But just then we heard a peculiar sound coming from the bedroom.
“What is that sound?” Red asked.
I paused for a moment and listened again. “Sounds like someone snoring. Think your gramma is asleep or something?”
“That’s snoring?” asked Red incredulously. “Sounds like a freight train.”
“That’s what my step-dad sounds like when he snores. Seriously, it’s that loud. She’s probably just asleep. We should go.”
“But it’s the middle of the day,” said Red. “Maybe we should check on her.”
“Okay,” I replied. “You go. I’ll wait here.”
“No,” said Red. “You come with me. Please? Pretty-please?”
“Fine,” I said. We made our way down the hallway and to Red’s gramma’s room. Red tentatively opened the door. Red’s gramma was lying in bed completely obscured by all the blankets.
“Gramma? You okay?” asked Red.
“Mm-hm” came a muffled reply.
Red stepped closer to the bed. “You sure? Can I get you anything?”
“Nm-hm” came a muffled reply.
Red hesitated. “Are you sure, gramma? ‘Cause you have to be hot all smothered in that blanket. Let me fluff your pillows for you.”
Red’s gramma snickered funny and then replied in a high-pitched voice, “It’s okay, dear. You go home now.”
But Red had already crossed to the bed and grabbed the pillow at the top of the heap, only to expose Ed and his big wolfish grin. Red shrieked and backed away, still holding the pillow.
“Oh, for crying out loud,” said Gramma, emerging from the blankets. “It’s just Ed. You go home now. Hi, Elizabeth, didn’t know you were there. Go home, the both of you. And don’t tell your ma, okay? She wouldn’t understand.”
We turned on our heels and left as fast as we could. We were halfway home when Red started laughing so hard she had to stop and lean up against a tree.
“Gram and Ed,” she said, wheezing, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Ma is gonna die.”
“Don’t tell her,” I said. “Even dirty old ladies need some privacy every now and again.”
Red considered me for a moment thoughtfully. “Well I have to tell Ma something. She’s gonna ask.”
“Make something up,” I suggested.
And that’s how the fairy tale about Little Red Riding Hood was born. ‘Course nobody mentions how much trouble Red got into for telling the big whopper about her gramma and the wolf. But she kept her Gramma’s secret her whole life.