“Take this basket to your granny,” the stepmother told her. “Visit with her, and help her out if she needs it.”
“Whatever,” Red sighed, because Granny always had work needing doing. But she pulled on her favorite red hoodie, the one with a large G on the front, stuffed a few essentials in her pockets, and took the basket. Getting out from under her stepmother for the day was worth the hassle, after all.
As Red made her way through the woods, a rather large and impolite wolf heard and saw her. He sat in the path and waited for her to approach.
“Good morning, little girl,” the wolf purred as Red stopped short.
“Don’t give me that,” Red growled. “I know you’re after my goodies.”
“Actually, I was more interested in that basket. But if you’re offering…”
Red reached into her pocket and pulled out a chrome snub-nosed .38 revolver, the only thing she had kept of her mother’s belongings. “Back off. I’m taking this to Granny’s.”
“Okay, okay.” The wolf slunk off the path, but ran on ahead. Red was a tough customer, but Granny was the baddest badass in the Strange Lands. It would take careful planning and a little luck to get that basket.
Arriving at Granny’s place, he saw her hoeing in the garden. “Get outta here!” she greeted the wolf, brandishing her hoe.
“Sheesh. I just came to tell you there’s five cows gone through the fence. Such gratitude.”
“Right.” Granny grounded the hoe. “Chase ‘em back in, and I’ll give you two chickens.”
“If I chase a cow, I’ll probably eat it,” the wolf said. “Nature just kind of takes over.”
Granny cursed. “If any of them chickens are missing when I get back, I’ll make your hide into a scarf for my scarecrow!”
The wolf stared at the scarecrow, the mummified corpse of a dragon stupid enough to cross Granny in the past, and gulped. “I don’t feel like chicken. I’ll make sure nothing else gets in there, either.” He laid in front of the chicken coop, but Granny was already gone, hoe and all.
Not long after, a fox came by. “Morning,” said the wolf, “what do ya say?”
“Oh, that’s original,” the fox sniffed. “Who let the wolf guard the henhouse? I thought that was my job.”
“The early wolf gets the goodies.”
“Whatever. I’ve got a taste for some grapes, anyway.” The fox trotted off.
The wolf hid in the grass as Red arrived. “Granny?” she called. Hearing nothing, she slipped inside. As the wolf peeked in the window, Red laid the basket on the table and took out her cellphone. She and the woodsman hadn’t seen each other for a while, after all, and he was working nearby.
Red searched the entire house, making sure Granny wasn’t hiding somewhere, until the woodsman arrived. “My,” said Red with a grin, “what big hands you have!”
“The better to grope you with, my dear,” said the woodsman, licking his lips.
“My, what a long tongue you have!”
“The better to taste you with, my dear.”
Nature took over, as the wolf would say, and they skipped right on by the last part. As they got down to business, the wolf slipped inside. He grabbed the basket, thinking so much for the goodies, and departed. He was long gone before Granny came back, fuming.
“Blame wolf was right about the fence,” she muttered, “at least the cows all went back in—” her old ears finally picked up on the noise, and stormed into the bedroom. “In my bed, of all things! If you two are gonna do that, take it out back of the woodpile or something! Of all the—you got two minutes to get dressed.”
It took them half that to throw their clothes on and agree to meet behind the woodpile after lunch. The woodsman slipped out the window to avoid Granny’s wrath, and Red walked out alone.
“Where’s your friend?” Granny demanded, glaring at the bedroom. “Out the window? Good. Too bad you didn’t get here sooner, I had a fencing problem. You brought lunch?”
“It’s on the table.”
“No it ain’t.”
“What?” Red ran into the kitchen. “I left it right here!”
“That wolf was skulking around,” said Granny. “He musta grabbed it while you and your friend were busy. Serves him right; that stepmother of yours can’t cook for squat anyway. It won’t take five minutes to fix something better than what she sent. Then after you change my sheets, you can help with the garden.”
Meanwhile, the wolf inspected his prize: ham, store-bought cheese, and home-made rolls. The rolls were hard as bricks, so he donated them to the birds and wolfed the rest. Red stayed on with Granny, until the woodsman divorced his ill-tempered wife and built a new cabin, then she moved in with him. They made sure Granny was well-supplied with firewood, and she had them over for dinner on Sundays. Except for a touch of indigestion on the wolf’s part, and occasional interference from the woodsman’s ex, they all lived happily… enough.
(“Happily ever after?” In the Strange Lands? Yeah, right.)