Red and Louis

Written by Elizabeth Castro

Once upon a time in the middle of a large forest in Western Massachusetts, there lived a little girl who was about 14 years old and who loved baseball. She thought that if she had grown up in the Midwest where there were hardly any trees, she would have been one of the best baseball players ever, but since she lived in the middle of a forest, there was no way for her to practice. She had tried once but every ball had headed straight for the trees and though she thought they probably would have been homeruns, she couldn’t tell for sure.

She begged her mother to let her go to baseball summer camp, or even to move out of the forest altogether, but her mother was poor and couldn’t move and furthermore was quite happy with her little cottage in the woods. Red, whose real name was Julie but who had re-named herself after her favorite team from Boston, complained all the time, especially about the forest.

“Mom, why do trees have to be so tall?” she would ask. “Why can’t they be like bushes? I wouldn’t mind them so much if they were only a few feet tall, then I could still play baseball here in the forest.”

“Sorry, Red, trees are tall. Why don’t you go outside and climb them? That’s fun.”

“Oh, Mom, you just don’t understand.” It seemed to Red that her mother never understood her. She didn’t want to climb trees, that was for kids. She wanted to play baseball. She wanted to join the Major Leagues.

Poor Red couldn’t think of anything else besides how much the trees were in her way. Finally, she refused to go outside because the sight of them made her so mad. She spent her after-school hours glued to the television, watching baseball games and aching for the open space of the field. But sometimes, when the wind blew, the trees would knock the television antenna, making it impossible to watch the game. Red would throw a temper tantrum and storm off to her room to study baseball statistics.

Louis

In another part of the forest, there lived a very eccentric wolf whose name was Louis. Actually, his full name was Louis Leloup, III, and he traced his roots back to an aristocratic wolf family from France. Louis still spoke French fluently but he rarely went to visit his family in France because he thought they were much too stuck up and worried about their position in the wolf community. He had left France at an early age and had found himself a home in the Massachusetts forest that he shared with Red and her family.

Although Louis’ family was quite well off, Louis lived very simply. His favorite pastime, and in fact it was much more like an obsession, was writing poetry. Louis, after a scary lightening storm, or upon seeing a new flower, could write the sweetest, most beautiful poetic verse. (He had quite a reputation in the forest although he was very modest and shy.) Once he was inspired, he would spend the next few days completely absorbed in the project and wouldn’t see any of his friends until it was perfect. Often, he didn’t eat at all when he wrote because when he thought of the beauty of the forest, eating seemed so common, that he thought it would spoil his poetry.

His best friend lived at the very opposite end of the forest. This, of course, was Red’s grandmother. She was an old woman of 70 or 75 and she was very wise and very kind. Everyone in the forest called her “grandmother” and respected her in every way. Grandmother did have one small problem, and that was that she was rather deaf. Luckily, because she was so wise, she often knew what you were going to say before you said it and so it didn’t matter so much that she was deaf.

Louis and Grandmother were very close friends. Louis brought her new poems as soon as he wrote them and they would talk about them for hours and hours. Grandmother always scolded Louis for taking such bad care of himself when he wrote, and would insist that he stay for dinner. Since she was so kind, he always stayed, and they spent the rest of the evening talking of the forest, or their mutual friends, or French poetry, or his own poems.

The Storm

One day there was a terrible storm. The rain poured down from the sky and the wind blew down several trees. From her window, Red happily watched the trees fall, wishing that they would all go away forever. Louis had a completely different reaction. Standing at the entranceway to his den, he too had been watching the storm when all of a sudden, a nest had shaken from an overhead branch and had landed in a bush a little ways from his den. He ran over to it and almost cried at what he saw. Two of the eggs had been broken, and he knew that the third would now never be found by its parents. He brought the egg carefully into his den and placed it in a warm, safe spot.

He was very sad about the whole thing, and angry at the storm. And as soon as he had assured himself that the egg was all right, he began to write furiously of how it affected him, and the way of the world, and the sheer waste of lives that the storm had brought. He wrote and wrote, erased, and rewrote.

The next day, Red woke up with a smile. She had been looking forward to this day for two solid weeks. Her favorite team was playing its most dangerous rival from New York and the game was going to be broadcast live from the stadium. She was just getting ready to watch when her mother called from the porch.

“Red, could you come here a minute?” she asked.

“Mom! I’m watching TV, can’t it wait?” Red was not the most considerate little girl in the world.

“Julie Ann Hood, come out here this minute, and turn off that TV,” her mother replied firmly. Red hated it when her mother called her by that “other” name but she knew that when her mother used it that it wasn’t wise to argue. She walked sullenly out to the porch.

“Yes, mother?”

“Red, I’m worried about your grandmother. I tried calling her this morning and there was no answer. I’m afraid that the storm may have cut out her telephone lines, or something even worse. I would like you to walk over there today, perhaps with some apple pie or a piece of the gingerbread I made yesterday, and make sure that she is all right,” her mother replied.

Red groaned. She had waited so long to see her team whip their rivals and now she was going to miss it. She knew that there was no arguing with her mother, but it made her so mad. She sulked into the kitchen and filled a basket with the apple pie and some other snacks and went into her room for her radio. She said goodbye to her mother and set off for her grandmother’s house.

As she walked, she listened intently to the play-by-play and ignored the forest. She walked very quickly because she didn’t like being outside around the trees that kept her from her favorite sport. And she was so absorbed in listening to the game on the radio that she tripped and fell over a big branch in the middle of the path. The radio flew from her ears and crashed to the ground. She got up and although she was fine, her radio was broken.

“Rats!” she said, “I can’t even listen to the game on the radio. I wish I didn’t have to go to Grandmother’s house today. I’m sure she’s fine. Doesn’t she have any other friends who will check on her? If Mom is so worried why doesn’t she go? How come I have to go? The one time that I want to watch a baseball game, and Mom says I have to go visit Grandmother. What a pain.” She muttered like this as she walked along, almost convincing herself that she didn’t even like her Grandmother, which wasn’t true. She happened to walk by Louis’ den but didn’t even notice it because she was in such a bad mood. Louis heard her talking to herself and came out to see who was there. At first, he thought she was reciting poetry because she had such a pretty voice, and he followed her, listening. He was very distracted by his thoughts about his own poem because he didn’t realize what she was saying until they were almost at Grandmother’s house.

He was instantly serious and worried. If Red went to see Grandmother while she was in this terrible mood, Grandmother would be very hurt. Louis tried to think of some way that Red could visit her grandmother without her grandmother knowing.

This was an extraordinary effort by Louis because not only was his mind completely focused on his poem, but he hadn’t eaten since the morning before and certainly hadn’t slept all night either. Finally, he thought of a plan.

Louis’ Plan

He took a short cut through the woods, leaving Red (who hadn’t noticed him to begin with) to the wide open path which she preferred to the thick forest. He arrived at Grandmother’s house a few minutes later and knocked on the door.

“Yes, who is it?” asked Grandmother.

“It’s Louis” replied the wolf. Grandmother opened the door.

“What are you doing here, Louis? After you checked up on me this morning, I didn’t expect to see you until you finished your poem about that poor nest.”

“I was worried about you, Grandmother.” Louis tried hard to sound convincing but he hated to lie and wasn’t very good at it since he got so little practice. “I decided to come back and make you some tea. Go sit on the back porch and I’ll bring it to you.”

“What?” asked Grandmother, who had only heard half of what he said. Louis repeated himself more loudly this time and she said sternly, “Louis, don’t be ridiculous. Go home this instant and finish that poem. I know how important it is to you and besides I’m perfectly all right and can make my own tea.” But Louis insisted, so she went out to the porch, protesting the entire time.

Louis quickly ran to her room, got out a night gown and cap, put it on, and jumped into bed. Red knocked at the door a second later.

“Who is it?” he called in his best grandmother voice.

“It’s Red,” said the granddaughter with a scowl. “Mother made me come and see if you are okay.”

“Oh, come in dear,” said Louis. Red came in with an angry look on her face. She walked over to the bed.

“Mother said to bring you these treats. She made me miss my favorite baseball game to do it and it’s all your fault and now I’m going home.” Even Red was surprised at how nasty she was being since she usually tried to be nicer to her grandmother than she was to other people. Louis, for his part, was glad that Grandmother wasn’t there to hear this and was happy that his plan was working so well. But he was angry at Red for being so selfish and self-centered. Red came over and looked at Louis curiously. She almost forgot what a bad mood she was in, but her voice was still full of anger.

“Grandmother, I don’t remember you having such big eyes.” Louis got a little bit nervous, and hoped that she had not recognized him.

“Why of course, Red, they are all the better for seeing the true feelings of your heart.” Louis hadn’t meant to sound so poetic but it was a hard habit to break. His heart was racing now and he felt kind of dizzy. The smell from Red’s basket drifted over to him and he promised to eat as soon as she left. He looked up and saw that Red was still staring at him.

“But, Grandmother, I don’t mean to be rude,” and her voice had lost most of the anger and gained a questioning tone, “but what big ears you have!”

“Granddaughter, ” replied Louis, trying to keep his voice just like Grandmother’s, “my large ears are better for hearing the truth in your voice.” Louis was worried now. Red was staying much longer than he thought she would and she was being much too curious. Grandmother would be wondering where her tea was. And he was feeling quite ill. His head had started spinning and he felt sick to his stomach. He wished Red would stick to her plan and rush home to see her baseball game but Red was more curious than ever and she was getting suspicious.

“Grandmother, what huge teeth you have, I don’t think I ever noticed how big they were!” Red said.

At this point, Louis began to lose his cool. He struggled to speak. “My teeth, ” he groaned, “are all the better to eat” and he was so hungry that he forgot to disguise his voice and almost began to scream, “APPLE PIE,” and then he collapsed from the effort.

Red Finally Gets It

He lay very still in the bed. Red, very frightened and very confused, ran to the kitchen for a glass of water, a plate and a fork. She was so worried that she completely forgot about her baseball game and gently tried to wake up poor Louis, whom she had finally recognized.

She gave him the water and then cut him a large slice of pie. Louis, feeling much better, but a little sheepish, gladly took the pie and ate it quickly. Red patiently waited until he was finished and then offered him another piece. He shook his head no.

“Louis, what on earth are you doing in Grandmother’s nightgown in Grandmother’s bed? Where is she? Mother and I were worried,” she asked quietly. Louis was very embarrassed but was also surprised because it was the first time that he had ever seen Red try to be kind.

Grandmother, meanwhile, wondering what was keeping Louis so long, and hearing (a little bit of) the commotion, came in to see what was happening. Seeing Louis in her bed and Red at his side offering him pie might have seemed strange, but she was most puzzled by the fact that Red was completely involved in something that had nothing to do with baseball and that she was actually helping someone else. She decided to leave them alone and went quietly back to the porch.

Louis finally began to answer Red’s questions. He told her how he had heard her grumbling in the forest and how worried he was about her grandmother and how he didn’t want Grandmother to be hurt.

Red was very ashamed and began to cry. “I’m sorry,” she said in a very small voice, and then with real concern, “Where is Grandmother?” He pointed to the veranda and she slowly walked out to see her grandmother.

She was surprised to see her grandmother watching television. Red didn’t even know that she had a TV. But she was even more surprised when she saw the familiar shape of the baseball diamond and her favorite team on the field.

“Grandmother?” What a confusing day she was having...

“Hello Red,” answered her grandmother innocently, winking at Louis in the doorway behind Red, “would you like to watch the game with me? We’re winning by two in the fourth. Perhaps Louis will join us for a walk in the forest after he finishes his poem and we finish watching the game.” Red almost fainted from her grandmother’s words but she sat down much wiser than she had been that morning and they all lived happily ever after.

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