I’ve got a bad rap, you know? Murderer, monster, beast. They come, and they try to kill me, and then they end up dead. Self-defense isn’t a crime, you know? But that doesn’t stop them.
Generations have been sprouted and bred just to kill me.
I’m just a guy trying to make a living in the forest. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, is there?
But here she comes, a little girl wearing a red hood. Why is it red? Hell if I know. Is it supposed to tempt me or something? What am I, a bull?
Nah. I’m much more complex than any farm beast. I’m a creature of the forest. King of the forest, actually.
And it’s best not to mess with me. I’m sure the kid will figure it out soon enough.
She’s sitting in front of me. Seems to be tracking something. Probably me.
Leaning against a tree, I say, “What you lookin’ for kiddo?”
Surprisingly, she isn’t startled. I tell ya what, I’ve got to hand it to ’em, these hooded kids get tougher and tougher every generation.
“A wolf,” she says.
I swallow my chuckles. “A wolf, eh? He big?”
“He’s supposed to be.”
“He’s supposed to be the baddest.”
“So I’m told.”
“You ever seen this wolf before?”
“Has anyone you know seen ‘im before?”
“Hmm. Sounds like you’re chasing after a goose to me,” I tell her. Pushing off the tree, I say, “I’d head to your grannies house kiddo. Wolves are mean creatures. Tricky too. Wouldn’t want somethin’ bad happening to you.”
As I walk away, I hear her quiet footsteps trailing after me.
Internally, I sigh.
This is a new jacket, and new boots too. I hate to muck them up so soon with blood.
“I’ve never seen the wolf before, but I’ve seen other wolves before,” she says.
I’m a bit perplexed at the way she sidelined stealth like that. Maybe she knew I could hear her. Either way, addressing me directly again just seems like a bad tactic.
Being the polite guy I am, I turn back to face her.
She isn’t holding a weapon, much to my surprise. Honestly, that’s what I was expecting. Why would she stop me if she didn’t have a weapon?
“Other wolves, huh? What’re they like?”
“Well, for starters, they walk on all fours and are covered with fur.”
That earned her a smirk. Clearly she knew who I was.
“Yeah? You prefer a wolf with fur and fangs on all fours then?”
Scrutiny shot into her eyes, sharp and focused right on me. “I haven’t been around any wolf long enough to know which kind I prefer.”
A bird calls out somewhere nearby. It’s passing the message along quickly: The Wolf is going to take out another Hood kid. In my mind, I can hear echoes of sighs.
I really didn’t want today to end up like this. It was a Saturday for crying out loud!
“You’re tricky,” the new Little Red says.
I shrug. “Law of the jungle kiddo. Gotta be rough to survive.”
“This is a forest.”
Peering at me again, she blinks once. Twice. I feel her sizing me up. This is building up to a fight, I just know it is.
And then, she makes her move.
She walks away.
Dumbfounded, I stare for a moment. Utterly shocked. Although, I’m glad to avoid the fight, I can’t just let it end like this. It’s so… unsatisfying. Why wasn’t she fighting me?
“Hey kid!” I call out and follow after her, stomping through the bushes like an elephant. “Where ya goin’?”
“Home,” she calls behind her shoulder.
That clears things up as well as an oil rag clears glass.
“Why? Didn’t you come out here to kill The Big Bad Wolf?” I ask.
“Then why’re you leavin’?”
Stopping, she looks halfway at me and says, “Because I haven’t found him. All I’ve found is an old wolf looking for a relaxing weekend. That doesn’t seem big and bad to me.”
My jaw nearly disconnects it drops so hard. Picking myself up, I say, “Well… yeah. Doesn’t everyone want a relaxing weekend? Being bad doesn’t have anything to do with that.”
Her face scrunches up a bit, looking a little cutesy. “If you’re suggesting I come back Monday, I will, but I still don’t think it’ll make a difference.”
“And why’s that?”
With a thoughtful look that could create clouds, she says, “I think my ancestors were wrong. You don’t seem all that bad to me.”
And for the first time in six generations, a Hood kid walked right out of my woods scratch-free.
What a beautiful Saturday.