There were two paths. Little Red Riding Hood stood at the fork in the road in her long red cape with her basket that held treats for grandma. The trees almost choked the paths. One to the right led out into rolling, open fields and another to the left into deeper, darker parts of the forest.
A tall, man leaned against the biggest tree betwixt the two, chewing on a long piece of grass. He hadn’t shaved in days. His eyes were a bewitching green. Little Red Riding Hood smiled long and slow. She was glad she painted her nails before leaving on this hasty errand.
“I’m Tom Wolf.” He had a deep voice and looked almost dangerous, like those men grandma warned about who owned most of the land east of town.
“I don’t talk to strangers.” Red stated and focused on re-tucking in the small, cloth napkin around the treats in her basket.
“Where are you headed?”Tom was tall. He flexed his muscles.
“Grandmas. She’s a little north of the old watering hole.”
“Then, you want to go that way.” Tom nodded towards the more appealing path to the right. “There’s this field of flowers still blooming. Grandmas love flowers.” He walked back towards town.
As he brushed past Red, she smelled his cologne. Anyone who could afford that brand ought to be reliable. Red listened as he whistled a merry tune that eventually faded and she began to walk towards the right. Summer’s last bounty carpeted the hills like gold. Red laughed and rolled in the flowers. She picked them until her basket could hold no more without crushing the delicate cookies her mother spent all yesterday afternoon baking.
The sunlight slanted over the hills, touching the wall of trees and Red paused. Her heart siezed. Grandma expected her an hour ago! How could she have forgotten the time!
Her face shiny with sweat from running, Red arrived on her grandmother’s property at dusk. Smoke wafted into the air from the stone chimney. A warm light escaped from the crooked window into the forest, hardly blighted by the tattered curtains. Red took a deep breath and knocked. She twisted the knob and walked inside the cabin when no one answered.
A pot of water bubbled over the fire in the hearth. A plate of half-eaten dinner sat on the table with an overturned chair nearby.
“Grandma?” Red’s voice trembled.
The door shut and a lock clicked. Red turned around.
“Well…it’s mighty fine to see you, Red.” Tom Wolf’s green eyes smiled.
“Where’s grandma?” Red backed away slowly. The flowers and her basket fell to the floor.
Tom deliberately stepped on the flowers. The petals scattered. “I came here to rob the place. She always has plenty. Me…I don’t have plenty. Stupid, rich folks. There’s nothing here. She left out the bedroom window. Ran like a coward, screaming.”
“What do you want?”
“You little do-gooder. I’ve watched you. Always taking care of people, always being around the sick, and such a good daughter. I’m going to change that with you.” Tom started walking towards Red.
Red backed away until the wall pressed into her flesh. She clutched her hands together and began praying, “Dear Heavenly Father…”
“Stop praying! There’s no rescue for you here.” Tom grabbed her arms and forced her hands a part.
“…this man is troubled. Please Lord, rescue me. Rescue him…”
Tom shook Red until Red thought her neck would snap in two.
“Stop that!” Tom shouted.
“…I lack the words for what I need to say, Lord Jesus, only you have power here.”
The door splintered. It bounced off the wall.
“Get your hands off of my granddaughter!” A high pitched and shaking voice screamed.
Then, the deft click of a bolt slamming a bullet into the chamber caused the color to come back into Red’s face.
Tom turned with his hand still gripping Red’s arm. He went ashen.
“Let her go.” Grandma still wore her house dress–the one Red hated with the big, giant flowers peppered all over it. Her hair was protectively wrapped in plastic around the pink curlers. She had the butt of the rifle nestled into the soft part of her shoulder and one eye squinted as the other looked through the sites. “Now!”
Tom let go of Red.
Later, Red lay down on the couch with the afghan wrapped around her body. “I’m sorry, grandma.”
The police had taken Tom Wolf away an hour ago. Grandma sat near the fire now, humming a hymn and reading the Bible. She looked up with a gentle smile.
“God gives us choices and whatever choice we make there are good and bad consequences to bear.” Grandma said.
“I made a bad choice. I thought it was a short cut and it looked easier. The other path looked scary. It didn’t look like some place where God would want me to go.” Red blushed. “I mean, where I went was appealing. So sunny and so many flowers. I brought you flowers…” Red pointed and her arm dropped back to her side again.
The flowers wilted a while ago, and were now in the trash bin. Their browning stemps poked up out of the top.
Grandma nodded. “God gives us paths to walk that sometimes look scary and dark. It’s tough to walk them, but the easiest path isn’t always the one you should take. Had you taken the correct path, Tom Wolf would never have entered the house.”
“I know.” And Red would remember that advice even as she became an adult and faced many more difficult choices. Red would have to choose some dark and scary paths in order to follow what she thought was God’s purpose for her life. But she would always remember a verse when things got too scary or too hurtful:
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:35-37