Fairytales have served throughout the centuries to teach children valuable lessons such as ‘don’t stray from the path or you may get eaten by a talking wolf.’ Yet often I find myself telling a story thinking “good god this is dated! What if this were happening today? How would events play out?” I wonder………
Once upon a time there was a stressed out mother with a part time job and a wayward junior school aged child who was determined to be a teenager before her time. Her own mother was a bit lonely since her husband had died and had been on the phone every hour for the past 2 days complaining about her gall stones. She was starving to death apparently. Too weak to go downstairs and cook for herself. The suggestion that she phone dominoes instead of her kin hadn’t gone down so well and now, riddled with guilt, the stressed out mother was in the kitchen with her daughter trying to make vegetable soup and have a bonding experience.
“Red, Will you take off that damned cloak and put an apron on – it’s not machine washable!”
The bonding wasn’t going well.
Carrots were chopped, spuds peeled, stock cubes dissolved and the soup was boiled & whizzed ready for consumption. The two of them packed it up into a flask ready to go to grandmas, with a few extra treats that grandma liked (vodka miniatures and a box of liquor chocolates that had been a gift in the secret santa – a perfect opportunity to get them out of the house!)
“Let’s go” yelled mum.
“I’ll take the soup” said Red.
“Red, I’m not letting you go on your own. I’ll drive you!”
“Mum, it’s less than a mile away. I’m sure nothing will happen to me. Also I’m now 9 years old which is super old. I’ll take my iPhone so you can track me on the app. Come on mum. Pllllllllllleeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
Mum thought about it. She should drive her. There are weirdos out there. She’d seen it on the ITV news. That said the current serial killer on the loose is targeting cats. Maybe Red would be OK. Grandma was being a total pain in the gall stones at the minute and with the girl out of the house she could catch up on e-mail.
“Straight there, text me when you arrive. And don’t go through the wood.”
“Yeah yeah yeah” she said. She flipped up the Red hood and slammed the door on the way out.
Mum watched her go out down the path. A feeling of doom in her stomach. Somehow this felt like a terrible plan.
Red Riding Hood as she liked to call herself (her real name was Rosie but ever since the new neighbours had moved in with a greyhound of the same name she’d decided it was time for a change) waved at her mum as she rounded the corner, waited 10 seconds, then back tracked and headed for the woods. She wasn’t going to go round. That would take ages and her legs were really tired. Plus The Chase was starting in 5 minutes which meant that whilst Bradley Walsh distracted Grandma with his boyish charms Red could nick biscuits out of her cupboard. Grandma knew of course, but she didn’t mind.
Red rounded the corner when she bumped into a talking wolf.
“Hello little girl. And where are you going in such a hurry?”
“Who the hell are you?” replied the little girl “and I’m not little, I’m 10. I’m top juniors.”
“Of course. But it doesn’t answer the question. Where are you going?”
“Push off weirdo”
‘I bet that’s the cat killer’ thought Red, a little spooked by the fact that a wolf has just spoken to her. She quickened her pace, rounding the corner past the old Oak that marked the half way point to Grandma’s. Her heart was racing. She regretted coming through the woods but there was no turning back.
As she rounded the next bend the wolf was there again.
“What’s the rush? You should be taking in the sights. Unless of course you have somewhere more pressing to get to. A dinner engagement perhaps?”
Red now felt panicked. This wasn’t in the plan. Could she get out her iPhone and call her mother? She would tell her the following.
- You were right all along
- I will listen to everything you say from now on
- I love you more than anything
- Please come and get me.
But she daren’t. The wolf was almost being nice. But not. But if she got her phone out he would be not nice in a not nice way. For now he was still being not nice in a nice way. What to do? She didn’t want to tell him where she was going incase he followed her there, so she said the first thing that popped into her head.
“I’ve simply come to pick some flowers and then I’ll go home, to my Dad, who is built like a brick shit house and is packing a shot gun.”
The wolf smiled, and replied “How sweet. You should get him something fragrant…for his shit house. He’ll like that”.
The wolf didn’t move. He stared at Red. She stared back. He was clearly going nowhere, so she started to pick flowers, never turning her back and never dropping her eyes from his. She edged along the path in the direction of grandmas house. Could she pick flowers all the way there? She kept going, picking the flowers along the path until she was out of sight of the wolf and then started to run. The path was windy but she didn’t dare leave it. Besides, she might meet a grown-up on the path and then she could tell them what was happening and ask them for help. She ran and ran and ran, seeing no-one until she reached grandmas door.
Out of breath, her legs aching more than ever and her heart pounding in her chest, she reached for the door buzzer. Grandmas face came up on the screen. It was a bit hard to make out but it didn’t look quite normal.
“Grandma, are your eyes OK?”
“All the better to see you with” replied Grandma
“That’s not what I said! Just let me in. There’s a scary thing out here.”
The door buzzed open. Red went in, and as she did she texted her mum three little words.
Mum I’m scared
Mum jumped into her Ford Focus and ragged it like it was a Ferarri round to Grandmas. She ran into Grandmas house armed with two frying pans yelling a battle cry worthy of the New Zealand Rugby team’s Haka. The lounge was empty and the television wasn’t on. It was time for The Chase. Something must be seriously wrong if the old bag wasn’t getting her fix of Bradley Walsh.
Mum raced up the stairs hunting for her baby. She exploded into the bedroom and there on the bed was a cross dressing wolf with a massive stomach. She took a moment to take in the scene and think ‘WTF’, then bashed the creature over the head with her best Le Creuset cast iron pan. Killed him with a single bosh. No-one survives a blow from Le Creuset.
Mum raced downstairs and found a knife, then ran back up and started to cut open the wolfs stomach. Out popped Red Riding Hood. She hugged and kissed her little girl, relief flooding her body as she pulled the little girl free of the wolf.
“Where’s your Grandma?”
“I don’t know” cried the girl, tears streaming down her face “and the wolf ate my phone too. I don’t suppose we’ll see that again.”
“Let’s find Grandma first.”
Grandma was safely locked in her bathroom which doubles up as a panic room. Why does she have a panic room? Who paid for that? Oh and apparently when she heard the wolf come in she called Dad who is none too impressed that Mum let Red go to Grandma’s on her own in the first place. He’ll be here any minute. He’s had to leave work early and everything.
Mum is wondering if Grandma paid the wolf to take part in this scam.
Dad arrives in his BMW and takes Red home. Mum following behind after retrieving the iPhone from the wolf’s innards, disposing of the body and cleaning up although obviously not to the required standard of Grandma so she’ll have to ask her other daughter in law over to finish the job tomorrow. The liquors are lovely though, and luckily the Chase is on ITV +1.
Once the three of them are home and Red has been scrubbed clean they sit down to talk about what they learned today.
Red has learned that maybe Mum was right about walking through the woods. She won’t do that again.
Mum has learned that she still can’t trust her daughter, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to give up doing so. She’s also learned that her mother in law is a bag — oh hang on, she already knew that.
But Dad, well Dad has learned that he has two amazing ladies in his life. Faced with a wolf his daughter, aged 10, handled her fear with more maturity than some grown men would do but she also knew when to call for help. And his wife, WHAT A WOMAN!. Yes, she made a mistake trusting her daughter but she took on a wolf with a cast iron frying pan AND WON. Come on!
Red was put to bed and then Red wine was poured into two glasses. Then more red wine was poured into one of the glasses.
“So show me again how you beat up that wolf honey….!”
And they all lived Happily Ever After
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SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right. Infact 85% of the kids who come through STORY STORKS are right where they should be or ahead in terms of progression through the reading book scheme once they get to school and the ones who are behind are trying hard because they know that it’s worth it – that to read is to unlock a whole world of fun and adventure and learning and imagination and they might take a bit longer to get there but they’re determined that get there they will.