The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2017 Results

Through the Woods to Grandma's House

Copyright © Geoff Covey 2017

One day a fairly young girl, well a teenager really, was walking through the woods dressed in a red riding hood and carrying a basket.

Suddenly a bear jumped out on to the path in front of her. “Are you Red Riding Hood?” he asked.

“Uhh Duhh!” she replied, “Whatever made you think that? Oh let me guess? Could it be that I’m carrying a basket? Hmm… I’m sure it isn’t because I’m wearing a red riding hood is it?”

“All right, all right! I just wanted to be sure. And any way, if we’re going to be picky: Why are you wearing a riding hood, eh? I mean, you’re not riding are you. And it’s not very practical is it? I mean the long cape bit must catch on all the brambles and thorns and things!”

Red (as her friends called her) didn’t answer, but instead asked, “What are you doing here anyway? Isn’t it supposed to be a wolf?”

The bear was not to be distracted, “And red really isn’t your colour you know. Blue or green would suit you much better.”

“I SAID, where’s the wolf?”

“He’s got the flu, he says, so I’m standing in for him. All right?”

“S’pose so. Any way I can’t stop talking to you, I’ve got to go tripping through the forest – I wish the council would do something about all these trip hazards, it’s a disgrace!”

“S’your own fault; fancy wearing heels like that to walk through the woods!

“Any way, where are you going?”

“If it’s any business of yours, which I don’t see it is, I’m off to Grandma’s house.”

“And what have you got in that basket?”

“What are you? Something with the FBI or something? Goodies, if you must know! Honey cake, berries, condensed milk. Stuff like that.”

“Oh well, that’s good. I mustn’t keep you. Been nice meeting you.”

“The pleasure’s all yours!” said Red and continued on her way.

As soon as Red was round the corner and out of sight, the bear went hurrying off in the same direction. He wanted to get to Grandma’s house first. He knew that there were two paths so he lurked to see which one Red took and then he ran down the other. He figured that by running all the way he could beat Red there.

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. The bear was going to Grandma’s house for the first time, but Red had been lots of times. She knew about the short cut. So even without running she got to Grandma’s house long before the bear did. She knocked on the door.

“Lift up the latch and come in,” said Grandma from inside.

Red lifted up the latch and walked in. “Grandma. You really should lock the door. Anyone could walk in! And you didn’t even ask who it was.”

“Well, I was sure it was you dear, no one else trips over so often coming up the path!”

Red looked across and saw the elderly figure of her Grandmother propped up in bed.

“Grandma! Are you still in bed? Do you know what time it is?”

“Well I was late to bed last night, and there must have been something wrong with the second bottle of wine. I feel a bit poorly this morning.”

Red looked at her more closely and said, “Grandma, what big eyes you have got!”

“I know, dear, I was watching TV too much yesterday.”

“Grandma, what big ears you have got!”

“Not really, dear, just wearing the HiFi headphones squeezes them out of shape.”

“Grandma, what a big mouth you have got!”

“Well that’s rather rude isn’t it! I don’t gossip much hardly at all. Not like her at number 16 – the number of stories she’s forever repeating. Or Mrs Timkins, I never talk about the amount of time the milk man spends in her place each day, and that’s nothing compared with the post man. And if you want a gossip there’s Mrs …’

“I didn’t mean that, Grandma. I meant your mouth is large, or more to the point your teeth are.”

Grandma smiled, “Oh I see! Yes, new dentures; good aren’t they? Just got them from the dentist a couple of days ago. Do you want to see?”

Without waiting for an answer, she slipped two full plates of ferocious teeth into her hand and held them under Red’s nose.

Red suppressed a shudder and gave them the shortest possible inspection while remaining polite, “Yes, lovely Grandma. Perhaps you can put them back now!”

Grandma obliged and then turned back to Red, “Be a dear would you? Please pop down to the shop and get me some aspirin and some fags?”

“Alright, but it really is time you were up. You know.”

“I’ll do it as soon as you're gone.”

“You still want the full strength, extra bitumen cigarettes?”

“Yes please dear.

“And mind how you go – you’ll break your ankle one day in those silly shoes.”

So Red set off on her way, still carrying her basket.

She was just out of sight when the bear arrived, breathless from all the running and still thinking he had beaten Red Riding Hood to Grandma’s cottage.

He burst in through the door – much to the annoyance of Grandma who had kept her promise to get up and was now half-dressed.

“OY! DON’T YOU KNOCK?” she yelled.

The bear retreated panting an apology. He was now embarrassed and chastised on top of being out of breath. He considered giving up on his plan, but eventually decided to stick with it and called out, “Tell me when I can come in.”

“All right! You can come in now,” called Grandma.

When she saw it was a bear she cried out, “Oh mercy me! Have you come to eat me?”

“Nah, you’d be tough and stringy! It was the goodies in Red Riding Hood’s basket that I want. I’ll wait for her.”

Grandma was a little peeved at the “tough and stringy’ and decided not to let on that Red had already arrived once.

“Well, she’ll run off as soon as she sees you.”

“No, she won’t! I’ll hide in the bed and pretend I’m you!” He started to put on the nightie that Grandma had left on the bed.

“No! you can’t do that!” cried Grandma.

“And why not?”

“Because it’s too small for you and you’ll tear it. It’s my second best one you know!”

“Then what am I supposed to do?”

“Put on my bed jacket and pull the covers up to your chin … and maybe wear my night cap.”

The bear followed these suggestions and muttered, “Whoever wears a night cap these days?”

“It was a present. OK?”

“Huh,” grumbled the bear. “Get into that wardrobe, so Red doesn’t see you and thinks it’s me in the bed.”

Grandma climbed into the wardrobe, muttering, “Hiding in the wardrobe at my time of life. The idea!”

She pulled the door but left it slightly open so she could peep out.

Almost immediately, there was a knock at the door.

“Lift up the latch and come in,” said the bear doing his best “old lady’ voice. This was one of those occasions when 'best’ couldn’t see 'good enough’ in the distance.

Red walked in and looked at the bed and its occupant. Her eye was caught by her Grandma making strange signals behind the bear. They were a little difficult to follow, but the import seemed to be That’s not me in the bed – It’s a bear!

Gee thanks for warning me, Grandma! thought Red, I would never have noticed the difference for myself!

She decided to play along, “Hello, Grandma! I’m back from the shop with your aspirin and extra strong cigarettes. I expect you’d like to smoke one now, wouldn’t you?”

The bear was a non-smoker, in fact a paid up member of the Anti-Tobacco League. He looked horrified as Red started to open the packet.

“Err, not just at the moment dear.”

Red looked down at the claws which were holding the bed clothes up to the bear’s chin. “Oh Grandma, what big finger nails you have got!”

“Um … Err … Yes, I forgot to cut them this morning.”

“Never mind, Grandma. I’ll do it for you,” said Red picking up a pair of garden shears.

“Um… Err… Not just at the moment dear.”

“All right then, but don’t worry I promise I’ll do it before I go!”

She came closer to the bed, “Oh Grandma, what a hairy face you have got!”

“Oh! Err … Yes, I forgot to shave this morning.”

“Never mind, I’ll do it for you now,” said Red picking up her grandfather’s cut-throat razor, which for some reason Grandma kept on the bed-side table.

“Um… Err… Not just at the moment dear.”

“But we can’t have you looking horrible and hairy like that Grandma. Let me do it straight away!” She opened the razor and started brandishing it near the bear’s face.

His voice went high enough that now he could have been mistaken for an old woman.

“No! No! Not yet! How about some of those goodies first?”

Putting on her best innocent voice, Red asked, “What goodies, Grandma?”

“The ones in your basket dear.”

“Oh! You’re interested in my basket are you?”

The bear nodded eagerly.

“Well, here you are then!” Red gave the basket an almighty swing and brought it down hard on the bear’s head.

“Oww! Oww! Help!!” cried the bear in a mixture of pain, rage and fear.

“Get out of bed, you stupid bear! Did you think you could fool me? Grandma’s face is much hairier than that!”

The bear leapt out of bed and at the same moment the door burst open and in rushed a woodman.

“I heard someone calling for help!”

He glanced round the room and saw the three occupants.

“Don’t worry ladies! I’ll kill the bear with my trusty axe!” He raised the axe and moved towards he bear.

“Wait a minute!” yelled the bear, “Don’t hurt me! I was the one calling for help. Red Riding Hood there was hitting me over the head with her basket … and it’s got tinned milk in it; it hurts!"

“Ah, but …" That was as far as the woodman got. Something made him look at Grandma. She was gazing at his muscular arms, his broad, hirsute chest and tanned legs. But what stopped his speech was the look on her face; an expression quite unseemly in one of her age.

“Well, um …" he tried again, but Grandma interrupted him.

“Well, thank you dear. Such a big, strong, handsome man as you. So kind coming to rescue poor, old, little me.

“Everything is under control now. Why don’t you come and sit down and let me thank you properly? And we can get to know each other.”

She turned to Red and the bear, “It’s a lovely day out there; why don’t you too youngsters take that basket of goodies and have a picnic?”

The way it was said, there was no question of arguing.

Shaking their heads, Red and the bear picked up the basket and walked out the door, leaving the woodman to his fate. This time they heard Grandma lock the door behind them.

As they strolled down the path, Red turned to the bear and said, “Sometimes I don’t know why I bother!”