She was almost out of wood. The woodman was supposed to come by later. She needed wood for the winter and wood for the cook stove. Grandma was almost sure she’d told him so. She was almost sure he’d said he’d come. But had she really told him, or had she just meant to? She was down almost to whatever was left in the box of kindling she kept out back under the eaves. These were hard days. And the larder was nearly empty as well. The coldest autumn she could remember. She rolled over, pulling the counterpane unconsciously over her head. The woodman would certainly come. The woodman brought his ax down fast, chop, chop, chop. Chop chop chop. The wood was flying, knock knock knock, knock knock knock…
That wasn’t the ax of the woodman flying. It was someone at the door. Someone was knocking at the door, a very strong, firm, masculine knock.
Grandma tried to sit. But she was too tired or too ill. She wasn’t sure. The headache that had sent her to bed early was still faintly there, ready to wake up. And she had to blow her nose. That could mean sick, but it could be from the cold. She swallowed hard.
Knock knock knock.
“Oh, Grandma? Are you there?”
Grandma shook off the clouds of sleep as best she could.
“Is that you, Red?” she called, or tried to call, but her voice was thin and apparently didn’t reach the door.
Knock knock knock.
“Grandma? Are you asleep in your little cabin, in your little bed?”
That wasn’t Red. A friendly male voice. Perhaps it was the woodman.
“Just leave the wood outside,” Grandma croaked.
“Oh, Grandma, open the door. I have a message. A message from Red.”
No, it was not the deep, businesslike voice of the woodman. It was a male voice, higher pitched, but friendly. And it had a message from Red.
“Please, sir, do come in. The door isn’t locked,” Grandma said.
Knock, knock, knock.