Professor Eotvos's kids were already in bed when Rom came in to the darkened room to check on them. Guided more by the cubs' musky sweet smell then by their tawny hair or lambent gray eyes, he padded toward their bed. He checked that they were safe and turned to leave.
"Am I old enough to be in your Cub Scout pack yet?" asked Robby.
"What?" said Rom, startled, "No. Not yet. Go to sleep."
"Tell us a story, first," said Elizabeth.
Rom's mind went blank but then, drawing inspiration from Robby's fireman-red pajamas, he said,
"Do you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood?"
The cubs shook their heads 'no'.
Rom sat down on a corner of the bed and began.
"Once upon a time there was a little girl.."
"A little werewolf girl?" asked Elizabeth.
"No. There was a little girl named Little Red Riding Hood."
"What's a riding hood?" Robby asked.
"That's just her name."
"Why is she red?" Robby asked.
"What? No. She's not red. It's just her name, or political persuasion, or something. Do you want me to go on with this story?"
"O.K. One day her mother sent her off to deliver a basket of cookies to her grandmother."
"What kind of cookies?" asked Robby.
"Chocolate chip, silicon chip, oatmeal, and cheeseburger."
The cubs giggled.
"Anyway. On the way she met a young wolf with a knapsack on his back."
"A nice wolf?" asked Elizabeth.
"A werewolf?" asked Robby.
"Yes, a nice werewolf. He smelled the delicious cookies that Red Riding hood was carrying."
"How did he know they were delicious?" asked Robby.
"Well, they smelled delicious."
"What was the wolf's name?" asked Elizabeth.
"His name was uh, William Wilfred Wolf. Anyway, he asked if he could have a cookie. Little Red Riding Hood said 'no' because they were for grandmother, but maybe her grandmother would give him one if he said 'please'. William looked down at his paws and didn't say anything."
"Why?" asked Elizabeth.
"Because he was very shy. Anyway, Little Red Riding Hood said he could walk with her to grandmother's house, but he'd have to change back into a boy because her grandmother didn't like wolves."
"Why?" asked Elizabeth.
"I don't know," answered Rom wearily, "Maybe because we're different."
"People try to hurt us," said Robby.
"That's why we mustn't ever tell," said Elizabeth.
"That's why we must never tell," repeated Rom. "Anyway, the wolf changed back to a boy and got dressed in the clothes in his knapsack. When they got to grandmother's house, Red Riding Hood introduced her new friend, William.
'William. What big ears you have.' said the grandmother. William blushed because he was embarrassed that he might have big ears.
'and William. What big eyes you have.' said the grandmother, harshly. William squinted to make his eyes smaller and to hide the fact that he was starting to cry.
'and William. What big teeth you have.' said the grandmother. William ran out of the room crying and shouted back that he was going to get braces now, real soon."
"That grandmother person wasn't nice," said Elizabeth.
"I would have eaten her," said Robby.
"Good werewolves never eat people," said Elizabeth, intoning the oft repeated precept.
Rom smiled gently at the exchange and then through the window, noticed the moon rising full across the valley. Although the cubs were still too young to feel its pull, Rom thrilled to the shining orb's wild call. He anticipated the feral exhilaration of gliding through the woods on all fours, hearing, smelling, and feeling the living woods. Yes, it was time to run out and snap up a few rabbits for dinner or maybe he could even bring down a deer if he were really lucky.
Rom finished the story, tucked the cubs securely in, and went outside.