THE wolf who had a bad experience with Little Red Riding Hood was on his way to his lair to lick his wounds when he met a fox.
“Are you ill?” asked the fox. “You look more dead than alive.”
“Between you and me and the gatepost, I was almost killed by a decrepit human,” said the wolf blushingly. “I managed to escape only by the skin of my teeth!”
The fox pricked up his ears. “That’s serious,” he said. “Why don’t you give me the bare bones of what happened?”
“Well,” said the wolf, “I met a little girl named Little Red Riding Hood on a path beside the woods, but I couldn’t eat her then and there. You see, some woodcutters were working nearby.”
“So what did you do?” asked the vulpine listener.
The wolf said: “I asked her, ‘Where are you going?’ She answered, ‘I’m on my way to visit my grandmother, who lives in that little tawny cottage that abuts the cemetery. I have to give her this basket of food, for she is under the weather.’”
“Gee, I wish I had a basket of food now, I’m so hungry,” said the fox, and he immediately clapped a paw to his mouth. “Sorry – please continue with your story.”
Nodding, the wolf said: “I suggested to Little Red Riding Hood, ‘Why don’t you pick some flowers for your grandma?’
“She said: ‘That’s a good idea. Thanks a lot!’
“And she wandered into the woods to perform the task. I took a short cut and reached the old woman’s cottage while Little Red Riding Hood was busy picking tulips and whatnot.”
The lupine animal paused for breath and resumed his tale: “I rapped sharply on the door. Hearing no reply, I pushed the door open. I got into the bed and waited for Little Red Riding Hood, who arrived shortly and, looking at me (I was covered by a blanket up to the neck), cried, ‘Grandma, what big teeth you have!’ Leaping out of the bed, I cried, ‘All the better to eat you with!’
“Suddenly, her granny, who must have been hiding in the cupboard, whacked me on the head with a heavy object, thus frustrating my plan to make Little Red Riding Hood my square mealof the day.”
“That blow must have caused you much pain,” said the fox, underlining his assessment with a bone-cracking twist of his face. “Let me guess – you left the place like a bat out of hell.”
“Yes,” said the wolf, with a hangdog expression.
“You really put your head in the lion’s mouth,” said the fox teasingly. “And you are incredibly lucky to be alive!”
(Adapted from a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm)
Lick one’s wounds: To recover from injuries, disappointment, or defeat.
More dead than alive: Completely exhausted; in poor condition.
Between you and me and the gatepost/bedpost/lamppost/wall: Confidentially.
By the skin of one’s teeth: Narrowly.
Prick one’s ears: To listen attentively.
The bare bones: The mere essentials of something.
Then and there (also There and then): Immediately.
You see: As you will understand.
Under the weather: Indisposed.
Square meal: A substantial and healthful meal.
Like a bat out of hell: Very quickly.
Put one’s head in the lion’s mouth: To put oneself in a situation of extreme danger.