This is the version that my dad used to tell me as a bedtime story. I've modified it over the years with each re-telling. For best results, find a kid and read this to 'em, out loud. Do the voices.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Gertrude. She had long, shiny, blond hair that was naturally curly and fell in ringlets. Her mother loved her long, shiny, blond, curly hair, and called her Goldilocks. Gertrude was not fond of the nickname, but ‘Gertrude’ wasn’t such a great name for a little girl, either.
Gertrude’s mother loved to dress her daughter in cute little dresses with lace trim, preferably dresses with flouncy petticoats underneath. She bought little white socks with lace trimmings for her Goldilocks to wear with her shiny black mary jane shoes. Gertrude preferred her old dungarees, her Petunia Pig t-shirt, and her red tennis shoes, but there were times when she just sighed and wore what her mother wanted. Today was one of those dress-up days. It was Gertrude’s grandmother’s birthday, and her family was getting ready to go pay Grandma a visit.
“Goldilocks!” Gertrude’s mother trilled, “Why don’t you go play in the back yard until it’s time to go to Grandma’s? Just be sure to keep your clothes neat and tidy!”
“Yeah, ma, okay,” Gertrude grunted, in her very-deep-for-a-little-girl voice. And out she went.
Gertrude eyed her treehouse in the back yard, before deciding it was a bad idea. She was sure to mess up her pretty lacy frilly white dress if she climbed up into her fort. She’d better stay on the ground.
“Goldilocks!” her mother sang out the kitchen window, “Make sure you don’t muss your pretty outfit!”
Gertrude just grunted. She wandered over to the swingset and sat down. She didn’t really feel like swinging, so she just planted her feet in one spot and swayed from side to side. The motion was comforting, and she began to wonder what kind of treats there would be to eat at Grandma’s.
Eventually Gertrude looked down, and realized to her dismay that she had scuffed up a fine layer of dust from the worn patch of earth under the swing, and her black mary janes and her fancy lacy white socks were coated in grayish brownish reddish dirt.
“Uh-oh” she said.
Now Goldilocks wasn’t the brightest kid on the block, but she knew that dirty shoes and socks were not going to go over very well with her parents, not when they would be leaving for Grandma’s at any minute. And her mother didn’t know she’d tie-dyed one half of her other pair of fancy socks last week as part of an experiment, and was storing her dead bug collection in the other one. She didn’t have any fresh white lacy socks to change into. She decided the best thing to do would be to rub her feet on the grass and try to wipe the dirty socks off.
Of course, this didn’t work. All that happened was that Gertrude managed to get grass stains on her socks as well. At least she missed, if just barely, the spot on the grass that Bingo the neighbor’s dog had recently visited.
“Hmmf,” Goldilocks grunted to herself, “What’m I gonna do now?”
Just then, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed something out in the road that ran in front of her house. A puddle. A pothole that had filled with rainwater was glinting in the sun. That might be just what Gertrude needed!
Of course, precious Goldilocks was not supposed to cross the road in front of her house, let alone play in puddles in the middle of the road. But she wouldn’t be playing, really, and she would act fast. No one would ever notice that she was gone. But hmmm, the gate to the fence around the backyard squeaked when it was opened, and Goldilocks certainly didn’t want to alert her parents to the fact that she was leaving the yard.
She’d just have to go over the fence.
The fence was wooden, and kinda high for a little girl to climb over. But Goldilocks managed, and she only tore her dress a little, and the leaf stains on the back from where she landed in her mother’s flowerbed weren’t that visible, at least not to her.
It had rained two days before, so the puddle had been there a while. Although there was some muddy sediment at the bottom, the top of the water was clear. In theory, it might have been possible to use the clear water at the top to clean something, if one was careful. Goldilocks was not careful. She just wasn’t that kind of girl.
She jumped in with both feet, bent down, and started rubbing her socks, trying to get the dust and grass stains off. Unfortunately, the force of her impact stirred the muck at the bottom of the puddle, and all that happened was that her shoes and socks got completely wet, and muddier. AND the back of her dress got muddy and wet.
When she felt the damp dress against the back of her legs, Goldilocks knew the whole puddle plan had been a bad idea. Just then, she heard her mother’s voice calling to her from the back door.
“Goldilocks! It’s almost time to go, darling!”
Goldilocks panicked. She would be in a world of trouble if her parents caught her looking like this. She looked around wildly and then she made a decision, not the best decision, but a decision. She dove into the bushes on the far side of the road, pushed through them, and ran into the woods.
Goldilocks ran as if pursued by a bear. As she scampered, pine needles from the branches she was passing brushed her face, and some got stuck in her blond curls. She sprinted through spiderwebs that stuck to her face and clothes, and she kicked up dead leaves from the ground as she went. A couple of times, she tripped. Falling down did nothing to improve the state of her clothing.
Goldilocks imagined that she could hear her mother behind her, still calling. Up ahead she saw a huge fallen tree, an old hollowed out log. She dove into it.
The tree had almost completely decomposed, and what was left of the wood was very soft to the touch, and crumbly. As she crawled, Goldilocks was coating her hands and knees with reddish brown wood dust.
A hollow tree, even a fallen one, is a very popular item in the woods. This particular tree was the dwelling of a family of skunks. The youngest skunk, Alistair, was at home as Goldilocks made her mad dash on all fours, and he was not pleased to see her. Goldilocks crawled backward out of the trunk even faster than she had crawled in.
By the time she got out of the hollow tree, Goldilocks was a complete mess. Her hair had bits of pine needles and spider webs and dead wood and leaves and dirt in it, and her dress and shoes were an incredible mix of mud, grass stains, dirt, dust, and leaves. She was very well camouflaged, and no one would ever have recognized her as the little girl who had been playing in her back yard, waiting to go to Grandma’s. In addition to her appearance, there was the way she smelled. Alistair had left her with a lasting reminder not to disturb skunks at home.
As Goldilocks brushed at her skirt and tried to neaten herself up a bit, she saw a wee cottage way off in the distance. She knew it must be very far away, because it looked so small, and things that are a great distance away always appear tiny. She decided to investigate the cabin, to find out who lived there. Maybe they would help her clean up a bit, before she went home.
Almost as soon as Goldilocks started walking toward the cabin, she bumped into the front door. You see, it wasn’t really that far away—it was just really small. Anyway, Goldilocks bumped into the front door hard enough for it to swing open.
How interesting! In front of her was a cozy little room, furnished with three rocking chairs. The biggest of the three was massive in its construction. Goldilocks climbed into it and tried to rock, but it was too big and heavy for her, and she couldn’t get it to budge. She gave up and went to the second chair.
This rocker was smaller than the first, and much more delicate looking. It looked like an antique, the kind of chair that Goldilocks would not have been allowed to sit in at home. Goldilocks climbed into the chair, stood on the seat, grabbed the ornately carved wooden back, and pitched back and forth furiously as though the chair were a rocking horse. This was great fun until the chair broke underneath her. Fortunately, Goldilocks wasn’t hurt. She kicked the broken shards of antique rocking chair out of her way and waded over to the littlest chair.
Goldilocks fit just right in the little chair, but just sitting and rocking was not nearly as fun as riding the antique chair had been, so she got up, knocking the wee little rocking chair over in the process, and decided to explore the rest of the house. She walked through an archway to her right, and found herself in the kitchen.
There were three bowls of something that looked like oatmeal set out on the kitchen table. Goldilocks walked over to the biggest bowl and stuck her finger in it, to test the temperature of the porridge. She would have been scolded for doing that at home, but no one was here to correct her. She stuck her finger in the bowl, and then immediately pulled it out and wiped it on her dress. It was way too cold! She walked around the table to the middle-sized bowl.
This bowl had appetizing spots of something brown in it, as well as oatmeal—Goldilocks hoped they were chocolate chips. They looked like they might be. She used her finger to scoop up a mouthful, and chewed vigorously.
“Phtooey!” She spat out the oatmeal. “Raisins! I hate raisins! Nasty little dried-up fruit things! They’re like chewy little bugs! Yuck!” She pushed the bowl of oatmeal and raisins away from her with so much force that it slid across the table and fell onto the floor on the other side, where the bowl broke and cereal spattered across the floorboards.
Despite her distaste for the bowls of porridge she had tried so far, Goldilocks was feeling a bit hungry. She climbed up into the chair in front of the third, smallest bowl, which was still a good deal larger than the bowls Goldilocks ate out of at home. She leaned over tentatively and sniffed the contents of the bowl, and then stuck her finger into it, scooped up a taste, and put it in her mouth. Delicious! It was the right flavor and the right temperature, and there were no raisins in it. She stuck her head directly into the bowl and ate with gusto, making lots of appreciative little snorting sounds and coating her whole face and a good portion of her previously blond curls with sticky porridge in the process.
As soon as she had finished snarfing down the porridge, Goldilocks began to feel a little tired, and so she decided to explore the rest of the cabin and see if she could find a place to curl up for a nap. She went back through the living room, past the open front door, to the stairs that ran along the far wall. She climbed up the staircase, leaving a trail of porridge and dead leaves behind her.
At the top of the stairs, Goldilocks found a hallway with three doors, all closed. She walked over to the first door and opened it.
She found herself in what was clearly the master bedroom. In the middle of the room was a huge bed which looked quite inviting. Goldilocks took a running start and launched herself onto the bed.
The bed wiggled and rolled beneath her; it was a waterbed. Goldilocks had never been on a waterbed before, and she thought it was really cool. The idea of napping left her mind, as she wondered if waterbeds make good trampolines.
They do. Or at least, this one did, until it broke.
As the reader has probably guessed by now, the cabin that Goldilocks found in the woods belonged to a family of three bears, Mama, Papa, and Junior Bear. As is the case with most bears, Papa Bear loved salmon. He kept a secret stash of live salmon in the waterbed he shared with Mama Bear. When the bed broke, all of the water and the fish that had been swimming around in the water gushed out onto the floor, ran out into the hallway, and began to flood down the stairs. Goldilocks watched the fish flopping around on the stairs for a minute, and then moved on to the second closed door.
Opening the door, she found herself in the bathroom. The bathroom sink and the mirror hanging over it were directly in front of her, and when she saw her reflection, she screamed. In that first moment, Goldilocks had not recognized the glop-covered, dirty, leafy image in front of her, and she thought she had run into a horrible monster. Then she realized it was just her own likeness, and she chuckled to herself. She decided to try to splash some water on her face and tidy herself up a bit.
Washing her face helped a little, but Goldilocks’ hair and shoes and socks and dress were still a mess, and she still smelled like skunk. While she was bent over the sink, however, Goldilocks noticed a small shelf that contained Mama Bear’s makeup. Goldilocks was never allowed to play with her mother’s makeup—not that she wanted to use it to pretty herself up, exactly, but the bright red lipsticks and multicolored eyeshadows always looked like they would make good warpaint. This was her chance to give it a try. She used pink and red lipsticks to draw stripes on her cheeks, and she made her nose blue and her lips green using some eyeshadow. Goldilocks was very pleased with her warpaint, and wished that there was someone around to show it to.
Which reminded her—there was one more room left to explore. When she opened the final door at the end of the hall, Goldilocks found Baby Bear’s room, which was even messier than her room at home. When she saw the bed, she couldn’t believe her eyes. A racecar bed! Just the thing she had always wanted! Goldilocks waded through the toys on the floor over to the red and blue striped car that held the bed. Pillows and quilts and sheets and blankets were heaped on it in a big messy mound. It looked so inviting!
Goldilocks suddenly remembered that she was feeling a little sleepy. This would be the perfect place to take a nap! She burrowed in to the covers, disappeared from view, and was soon fast asleep.
* * *
It was about that time that the Bear family returned from their mid-morning walk. As they neared their cottage, Papa Bear noticed that the front door was open.
“Sthweetheart, did you lock the door when we left?” he asked his lovely wife. “I could have sthworn the door was shut tight.”
“Oh, dear,” said Mama Bear. “I thought I had closed it . . . ”
“Well, don’t you worry your sthweet little head about it,” said Papa Bear. “You and Junior just wait right here, and I will go check and make sure everything ith okay.”
“Can I come with you, Papa?” Baby Bear asked, dancing in a circle around his parents. “Can I can I can I? I’ve got sharp teeth and claws, and if there’s a burglar in our house, I can help you chase him out.”
“No,” his father answered. “I’ll go. You sthay here and protect your mother.”
With that, Father Bear ambled away from his wife and child and toward the cottage.
Dum de deedle dum de deedle dum de deedle. . .
Papa Bear pushed open the front door and peeked inside. He immediately noticed that Junior’s chair was overturned, and his wife’s was in little shards on the floor. He turned around and walked back to his waiting family.
“What’dja see, Dad? Huh? Is there anybody in there? Is it a bad guy? Is it a gang of bad guys? Can I help you chase them? Mom says I’ve got a scary growl. Listen to me growl, Dad! Grrrrrrrrrr!”
Papa Bear ignored his overeager son and took his wife by the hand.
“Sthweetheart, I have sthome bad newths for you. You know your antique rocker, that your mother gave you? Well, it appearths that sthomeone has been sthitting in your chair, and has broken it.”
Mother Bear gasped. “Oh, no! Are they still there? Have they been in the other rooms? Is it safe to go in the house?”
Father Bear looked blank for a second, and then answered, “Oh. I forgot to check. Wait here, I’ll be right back.” He turned and sauntered back toward the house.
Dum de deedle dum de deedle dum de deedle. . .
This time, Papa Bear walked through the living room into the porridge-spattered kitchen. He looked around and sucked in his breath. “Uh-oh.” He walked back outside to his wife and son.
“Sthweetheart, you were right. Sthomeone has definitely been in our kitchen. Sthomeone has been eating our porridge, and they’ve made a huge meth. Don’t worry, Junior and I will tidy it up.”
Baby Bear was beside himself with excitement. “Did you see anyone, Dad? Didja? Did you look for clues? If there’s someone in our house I can help you chase him. I can run really fast. Watch me run, Pop! Watch!”
Mama Bear looked panicked. “But what about the rest of the house? Is someone still in there? Did you check upstairs?”
“Oh,” said Papa, after a long pause. “Good point. Wait here; I’ll be right back.”
Dum de deedle dum de deedle dum de deedle. . .
This time, when Papa Bear entered the house, he turned right, toward the stairs. He noticed a trail of dead leaves, dirt, and porridge leading up the staircase, and he smelled what smelled like skunk. Halfway up the stairs, he noticed that there was water flowing down, and salmon flopping about. Hmmm. Salmon from his waterbed?
He walked into the bedroom he shared with Mama Bear and noticed right away that the bed was broken. Water was everywhere, the bedclothes were sopping wet, there were mud and porridge stains on everything, and salmon were floundering around on the floor. He picked up a salmon and munched, as he surveyed the mess. Then he turned around and went back downstairs and outside to his worried wife and impatient child.
“Sthweetheart, sthomeone hath definitely been in our room. In fact, sthomeone has been jumping on our bed.” He leaned closer to whisper, so Junior wouldn’t hear. “You know that sthecret stash of snackths I keep in the bed? Well, the bed is broken and the sthecret stash is flopping around on the stairths. Our room is a meth.”
“What secret stash, Papa? Are you hiding something from me? I want some of the stash! Is it fish? Do you have some kind of fish you’re not telling me about? I love fish! Um, Dad, did you know you smell kinda like skunk? Is there a skunk in our house? Lemme at it! I could cremate a skunk! It would be no match for me and my claws. Look at my claws. Let me at it, Pop!”
Papa Bear glanced down at Baby Bear, dancing around his knees, and then over at his wife. “Sthweetheart, has Junior had hith medication yet today?”
Mama Bear, meanwhile, was wringing her hands with anxiety and beginning to lose her patience with her well-meaning but slow-thinking husband. “Darling, did you check THE OTHER ROOMS? Is it safe to go in the house? Are you sure there’s no one in there?”
“Oh,” said Papa Bear. “I’ll look. You wait here.”
Dum de deedle dum de deedle dum de deedle. . .
This time, Papa Bear made it as far as the upstairs bathroom. The floor of the bathroom was under a few inches of water, because Goldilocks hadn’t turned the tap completely off, and the sink was clogged with bits of dead leaves and spiderwebs and hunks of porridge. The water was slowly flowing out into the hall, joining with the small stream still leaking from the waterbed, and trickling down the stairs. Papa Bear noticed a few of his wife’s tubes of lipstick and other containers of makeup on the sink and floor. He shut off the water, cleared the sink the best he could, put his wife’s makeup back on the shelf, and started back down the stairs and outside, to report what he’d found.
Before he got to the bottom of the stairs, however, Papa Bear remembered that he had forgotten to check Junior’s room. He turned around, scooped up another salmon, retraced his steps up the staircase and down the hall, and peeked in his son’s bedroom.
“Hmmf. Nobody here. Good. Now the houth is sthafe.” He moseyed back to the staircase and strolled outside to deliver the good news.
“All clear,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of tidying up to do, but thereth no-one in the houth now.”
Baby Bear pushed past his parents and ran into the cottage. He stood for a minute in the living room, looking at the broken furniture and the trail of porridge from the kitchen. The house still smelled vaguely of skunk. “Wow! Look at this mess, Ma! Someone really did a number on your chair. What will we eat now? Is there more porridge? Hey, look, there are fish on the stairs!”
Without waiting for a reply, Baby Bear ran up the stairs, two at a time, and down the hall to his bedroom. He took a flying leap across the toy-strewn floor, and landed with a thump on his bed.
He landed right on top of the sleeping Goldilocks.
Goldilocks woke up when something big and furry landed on her. She sat up and found herself face to face with a bear. “AAAUUUUGGGGHHH!”
Baby Bear found himself looking at a dirt-covered, leaf-covered, skunk-smelling SOMETHING with warpaint across its face. “EEEEEAAAAAAIIIIIIIIKKKKK!”
Mama and Papa Bear heard the shrieks and started running up the slippery wet, fish-covered stairs.
By the time Mama and Papa Bear reached the upstairs hall, Baby Bear had realized that the monster in his bed was just a little girl. When he made his scariest face at her, she laughed, and then tried to pet him.
By the time Mama and Papa Bear reached Junior’s bedroom, Goldilocks had told Baby Bear how much she liked his racecar bed, and the two had decided they liked each other.
“Ma, Pop, this is Gertrude. She’s my friend. She’s sorry for the mess she made, and she says she’ll help clean up. Umm, can she take a bath? She needs to clean up, too. I like the warpaint but the skunk smell is Phew-wee! Do you think she could stay for lunch?”
Goldilocks introduced herself to Papa and Mama Bear, apologized for the mess she had made, and helped the bears clean up the mess in the kitchen and the living room and on the stairs and in the hall and in the bathroom and the bedrooms. Papa Bear washed her clothes for her while she took a bubble bath, and Mama Bear made them all a nice lunch with no raisins in it. Junior gathered up all the salmon and put them outside, in the rain barrel.
After lunch, the Bear family walked Goldilocks to the edge of the woods and waved goodbye to her as she crossed the road back to her house. Right before she went into her house, Goldilocks turned, waved, and yelled that she would be back soon for a visit. Then she took a deep breath, opened the front door, and called out, “Mom! Dad! What’s taking so long? I’m ready to go to Grandma’s!”