In the dim, narrow corridor, leading to the nursery school, a small boy waited.
“Stand right there while I park the car,” his mother had told him, “I will take you up the stairs and into the school.”
He waited. He was not afraid. He knew she would come back. She always came back. He just wished he was not alone in that huge space. The walls towered over him. He wished for his best friend so they could hold hands and give each other courage.
He couldn’t wait to get inside the cheerful, noisy schoolroom. His little blue plastic knapsack was full of sweets his mother had packed as a special treat and he was eager to share them with his best friends. He had not eaten a single one, though it was hard to resist.
He watched the entrance and the bright street outside. The corridor was dark and quiet. He strained his ears, hoping to hear familiar voices or his mother’s footsteps. It seemed to take so long, hours and hours.
Then he heard an unfamiliar sound.
It was coming from the other direction, the stairs.
Click, click, clickclick, thump, went the sound.
He froze. He turned to see what it was but he already knew.
It was the sound of claws.
The head came first, a big grey head, then the rest of a large, shaggy creature. When it reached the ground he could see how big it was. With its head raised it was taller than he was and its paws were huge, as big as plates, and full of nasty looking claws.
He pressed against the wall, hugging his teddy bear. A wolf, he thought, it’s going to eat me.
The wolf turned its long haired head and looked at him.
The boy trembled. His hands left marks in the fur of the teddy.
The wolf did not attack. It lowered its head and sniffed at a corner. It turned its hairy back to the boy and pawed the ground.
That gave the boy some courage. His legs felt too weak to run, but he did not want to be eaten. He waved a hand, “Shoo.”
The wolf looked up and around at him. It wagged a tail and took a step forward.
“Shoo, shoo, shoo,” cried the boy, desperate now.
Confused, it paused and cocked its head.
“Go away,” cried the boy, his eyes filling with tears.
The wolf did not move. It just stood there, looking at him.
The boy and the wolf stared at each other.
“Go away, go away.”
The wolf opened its mouth and he saw the great white teeth. He pressed back against the wall, shaking.
Then the wolf began to move forward slowly, a step at a time. Step, pause, step.
The boy threw the teddy bear at it. The teddy hit the wall and landed right in front of it, face down. The wolf jumped back, then slowly stretched forward and bent down to sniff. It nuzzled the teddy, flipped it over with its muzzle, investigating thoroughly. Then it lost interest.
It took another step forward.
The boy shut his eyes, waiting for the jaws to crunch on his head, waiting for the inevitable, wondering if it hurt very much to be devoured by a wolf.
A great weight descended on his shoulder. He twisted trying to escape but his tiny strength had no effect. He whimpered, too frightened to scream. He waited for the large white teeth to tear into his tender skin.
The wolf was pulling his arm out. He wondered if it would pull out his other arm too. How would he play if he had no arms? How would he throw a ball?
“Come,” a voice said.
Did wolves talk?
He opened his eyes. It was his mother’s large, warm hand grasping his shoulder. The wolf was on the other side of her and she was bending to scratch its head.
“Did the big, friendly doggie scare you?” mother said.
He still had both his arms.
His mother straightened. The wolf wagged its tail once and trotted out into the sunlight, vanishing from view.
“Come on,” mother said, “We don’t want to be late.”
“It didn’t eat me,” the boy said, “I can still play ball.”
Mother was not listening. She was wondering what excuse to give this time. The traffic? Work? She had run out of excuses. She retrieved the teddy and gave it back to him. She took his other hand and led him to the school. He looked back once but the corridor was empty and the wolf was long gone.