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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Goblin Wind

Mungo McGee loved to tell stories to the wee bairns in his village, Dunclive. Every Friday night was story night. The mums and dads would drop their bairns off at his house, which was near the edge of the loch. The moon shone down on the dark clouds that were floating across the sky, like puffs of gray smoke. Rain was sure to come tonight. Mungo stood at his door, welcoming the bairns. "Come in laddies and lassies. Hurry, before it rains. Sit down and listen to my story." His living room was soon filled with bairns of all sizes and ages. They sat on couches and chairs, or on the carpet. Mungo always had sweeties for them, along with an assortment of cakes, pastries, and biscuits. He put the trays, piled high, down in the middle of the living room floor. The bairns could get up whenever they wanted and eat whatever they wanted.

"Lassies and laddies, gather ‘round. I’ve got a story to tell you tonight," Mungo said.

"I hope it’s a scary one," said wee Hamish.

"I hope it’s a funny one," wee Fiona added.

"I hope it’s a love story," Morag said, smiling a flirty smile at Gavin, who was sitting on the other side of the room.

"You’ll have to listen and see for yourselves," Mungo said. He reached over and dimmed the lights. "Tonight I’m going to tell you a story about Grizel and Harry. Grizel was a lass, about ten years old. Harry was a laddie, about nine years old. They lived way up north in the Highlands, near Wick."

"My auntie Peggy lives in Wick," Gregor said. "She says it always rains there and is cold."

"That’s right, Gregor. It is cold there; especially when the Goblin Wind blows," Mungo said softly.

"The Goblin Wind? I’ve never heard of that before," Andy interrupted loudly.

"That’s because it’s so rare. It only happens once every five years when the Goblin Wind blows, that can only mean bad things are bound to happen." The bairns went silent and listened to the rain outside.

"Oh," Andy said, much quieter.

"Harry and Grizel lived with their father, Robbie, and their step mother, Agnes. Agnes wasn’t very nice to Harry and Grizel. She made them do a lot of work around the house."

"What kind of work, Mr. McGee? My mum makes me sweep the cobwebs from the corners of the ceiling. Did she make them do that?" asked wee Hamish.

"Yes, she made them do that and much more. They had to make all the beds and scrub all the dishes. She even made them empty all the trash cans and take them outside, even if it was raining or snowing." Mungo’s eyes widened as he told them. He nodded his head up and down.

"That’s a lot of work. My mum tells me to make my own bed. I don’t have to make any one else’s," said Morag.

"As I said, she didn’t like Harry and Grizel very much. She wasn’t very nice to Robbie, their father. She always was yelling at him and telling him he was lazy. He had to fix the tea and cook the meals. Agnes wasn’t a nice person at all. One morning Agnes asked Grizel and Harry to go to the other side of the loch to pick up some groceries. Robbie never made Grizel or Harry do that, but Agnes did," Mungo said.

"My mum doesn’t make me do that either. She likes to buy groceries and always does it," wee Fiona said with a smile.

"Well, I think Agnes is a mean woman. What happens next?" Gavin asked. He glanced quickly over to Morag, who smiled at him. He ignored her and turned to Mungo.

"Grizel and Harry had never walked to the other side of the loch before. They weren’t sure if they knew the way. There were a lot of beech, oak and rowan trees, growing all around the loch. Harry asked Agnes, ‘What if we get lost?’ Agnes simply said, ‘You’d better not get lost. Now go and get me those groceries. Hurry up!’ Grizel took her cardigan and Harry put a jumper on and off they went," Mungo said.

"Where was Robbie, their dad?" Gavin asked, curiously.

"He was out digging up peat. That is what they used to burn in their stoves to keep warm. They even cooked with peat fuel tae. It was hard work and Robbie was very tired. Agnes wouldn’t let him have any food until he’d finished with the peat."

"She was mean," wee Fiona said.

"Did Harry and Grizel have food?" Morag asked.

"No. She didn’t let them have any food. She told them that when they got back with the groceries, she’d give them a piece of bread. Harry and Grizel knew it would be old bread that was hard and dry," Mungo added, looking at all the bairns. "Off they went into the woods. As they walked along they heard noises in the bushes and behind the trees. ‘What’s that noise?’ Harry asked. ‘I don’t know," answered Grizel. Harry looked around. He saw some leaves moving. Just then a squirrel ran out from under them and up the oak tree. He sat on a branch and nibbled an acorn. Harry was relieved. They walked a little further, trying to stay at the edge of the loch, so they wouldn’t get lost. Just then a bitter cold wind began to blow. The trees bent over," Mungo said.

"Was it the Goblin Wind?" asked Morag.

"It was. When the Goblin Wind blows, that means something bad is going to happen soon. The icy wind blew hard and the loch became choppy and covered with small waves. Harry saw something moving in the water. It was heading right towards them."

"Was it a fish?" wee Hamish asked.

"Was it an otter?" asked Gregor.

"No, it wasn’t a fish and it wasn’t an otter. The water began to get all bubbly and this huge creature lifted out of the water. It had weeds and grass hanging from its pointed teeth. Harry and Grizel were terrified. They started running into the woods, screaming," Mungo told the group.

"A monster? Was it Nessie?" Morag asked.

"Was it bigger than Nessie?" Gavin wondered.

"It wasn’t Nessie, because they weren’t at Loch Ness. But it was a monster, like Nessie. When it saw the bairns run into the woods, it slipped back under the cold, dark blue water and disappeared. Harry and Grizel kept running for a long time. When they finally stopped they realized they were lost. They didn’t know what direction to go. To make matters worse, it started to rain. The Goblin Wind blew the freezing raindrops against them and soon they were drenched. Harry’s jumper was ringing wet and Grizel’s cardigan was soaked right through to her skin. They started walking in the direction they hoped was the right way to the village for the groceries. After a while they came to a house. There was no wind blowing and no rain falling anywhere around the house. Smoke was billowing out of the chimney. A pile of wood sat next to the front door. Harry and Grizel walked up to the door and knocked on it. KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! The door slowly creaked open. An old woman called to them to come inside. Grizel looked at Harry. She didn’t want to go inside but did anyway. She was cold and wet. There sat an old woman dressed in black. She was sitting in a rocking chair. Next to her on the floor lay a gray and white cat. It hissed at the children. The old woman held a wooden stick in her hand. ‘Come in, bairns,’ she called to them. ‘Shut the door,’ she said. Harry closed the door behind them.

"Was she a nice old woman?" asked wee Fiona.

"I bet she’s not nice," added Gregor.

"You’re right, Gregor. She wasn’t nice. She was a hag, a witch, pretending to be a nice old woman. There was a roaring fire in the fireplace inside her house. A big black pot, hanging from a metal pole, was hanging over the fire. Grizel and Harry could hear something bubbling inside of it. ‘Won’t you stay for some stew?’ the hag asked the bairns. ‘If you take your cardigan and jumper off, I’ll dry it over the fire for you. Take off your shoes and put them in front of the fire too and they’ll get dry quickly,’ she told the children. They took off their shoes and did as told and removed their jumper and cardigan and hung them over the fire. Harry managed a peek into the black pot. He gasped."

"Why did he gasp? What was in the pot?" wee Fiona asked.

"Fingers. Harry saw fingers bubbling in the pot," Mungo said softly.

"Fingers? Human fingers?" asked Gavin?

"Yes, human fingers. Harry was scared. Why did the old woman have fingers boiling in a pot? He started to get scared. The old woman called them over to her. She reached out and took their hands. Hers were very cold. ‘Sit at the table and I’ll bring you some food,’ she said to them. They went to the table. Harry whispered to Grizel about the fingers in the pot. Grizel got scared too. The old woman walked slowly with her cane. She put plates piled high with chocolate-covered shortbread, pastries filled with apricot jam and covered with white, buttery, sugary icing, black licorice filled toffees, black currant biscuits and glasses of juice. Harry and Grizel never had food like this. Agnes never let them have any sweets. They gobbled them down. Harry ate every single pastry, licking his fingers afterwards. Grizel ate all the toffees and biscuits. They each had some shortbread and drank three glasses of juice. ‘Would you like more?’ the old hag asked them. They asked for more and she brought more. This time she gave them slices of chocolate cakes, marzipan, small chocolates filled with hazelnut cream and bowls of strawberry ice cream covered with colored sprinkles."

Mungo looked at the bairns. Their mouths were watering. Several of them got up and took a few pieces of the sweeties he’d left out for them. "Those sweets sound delicious. Why did she give them so many?" Gavin asked, munching on a ginger biscuit. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Morag holding her hand over her heart and swooning over him. He ignored her again. Gavin didn’t like girls!

"She wanted them to be full, so that they couldn’t run as fast. Wouldn’t you be full if you ate all that food?" Mungo asked the bairns.

"I would be," laughed wee Hamish.

"Me too," giggled wee Fiona.

"I’d want something besides sweets. Why didn’t she give them sausage rolls and bridies, or perhaps some mince ‘n tatties?" Morag asked.

"She knew bairns liked sweets. Since Grizel and Harry hadn’t had any before, she knew they’d eat them all up. She knew they’d soon be so full that they couldn’t run," Mungo said.

"Why didn’t she want them to be able to run?" asked a curious Gregor.

"She wanted to cut their fingers off and use them in her stew. She wanted to give some of their toes to the cat," Mungo said. He noticed the bairns making faces. "Grizel wondered the same thing. She told the old woman thank you, but it was time for Harry and she to leave. She walked over to the fire and put on her shoes and told Harry to do the same. She grabbed Harry’s jumper and threw it at him and told him to put it on quickly. She put her cardigan on. Just as they were about to open the door, the old woman started laughing. A puff of smoke appeared and she’d changed into an ugly hag. She had a long, pointed nose with three warts on it, green skin, purple eyes, and long black hair. Half of her teeth were missing and those that she had were sharp and pointed. The cat leapt at Grizel and scratched her. Grizel screamed. She grabbed Harry’s hand and opened the door. They ran as fast as they could away from the house into the woods. They ran and they ran and they ran and didn’t stop until they were at the loch. Feeling safer there, they walked towards the village. Grizel could see it up ahead. Just then…."

KABOOM! All the lights went out. A bolt of lightning flashed and thunder shook the house. All the bairns screamed at the same time. SCREAMMMMMMMMMM!

Suddenly they heard a cracking sound. The lightning bolt had hit a tree near Mungo’s house. It split and fell down near the house. The children screamed again. SCREAMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Mungo took a match and lit a candle that he kept on the table near his chair. "All right, lassies and lads, calm down," he said.

"It’s the monster from the loch!" cried wee Hamish.

"It’s not! It’s the hag with three warts on her nose," cried Morag.

"It’s just a storm. Settle down now. I’ll light some more candles," Mungo said, trying to calm them all down. Soon the room was ablaze with candles. Mungo got the bairns something to drink and encouraged them to eat some more sweets.

"You’re trying to get us fat so we won’t be able to run. Are you a witch too?" asked Gavin. The rest of them stared at Mungo and screamed. SCREAMMMMMMMMMMM!

"Now don’t be silly. I was only telling a story," Mungo assured them.

Just then someone knocked on the door. "Is it Agnes?" asked wee Fiona.

Mungo got up and opened the door. A gush of wind roared into the house, along with some of the parents. "We heard the lightning hit your tree and thought we’d come to help," said Morag’s father.

The bairns ran and hugged their mums and dads. "Mr. McGee was telling us a scary story," said Gregor to his dad.

"Well, since everything’s under control here, perhaps you’d like to hear the end of the story now," Mungo said to everyone.

The bairns turned around and came back into the living room, with their mums and dads. "All right, I’ll finish now. Just then they saw the hag appear behind them. She was cackling and laughing an eerie, horrible sound. ‘I’ll get you now,’ she said to them. She was moving closer and closer to them when the monster rose out of the water. It grabbed the hag in its jaws and went down under the water. Harry and Grizel could hear her screaming even as she went under. That was the end of the hag. Harry and Grizel ran to the grocery shop and picked up the things Agnes had ordered. Neither of them wanted to walk home through the woods or go there ever again, even if the hag was dead," Mungo said.

"What did they do then?" asked Gregor.

"They weren’t sure what to do and just stood there, looking across the loch. The door to the shop opened and in walked their father, Robbie. He explained to them that he wasn’t going to take them back to Agnes, but that they were leaving to go and live somewhere else. Harry and Grizel were happy. Robbie took the groceries, paid for them, and the three of them left. They found a cottage near the village and lived there. Nobody ever saw Agnes again. Some say that she was the hag that the loch monster ate," Mungo said.

"I hope so. She was mean!" said wee Fiona.

" From then on, Robbie and Harry and Grizel played games and ate sweets and good food. Robbie bought a cow and some sheep. Grizel took care of the sheep. She learned how to knit cardigans for herself and jumpers for Harry and her dad. Harry took care of the cow. He milked it and made cheese and butter. Both of the bairns helped their dad with the work. From then on, they lived happily ever after. The end."

The bairns clapped their hands. "We’ll be back next week to hear another story," Gavin said. The group waved goodbye and then left. Soon Mungo’s house was empty. He went over to the plate and picked up a pastry filled with apricots and covered with white, creamy, buttery icing. He sat in his chair, eating the pastry, and pulled a photograph out of a book on the table. "Good night to you, father," he said to the photo. When he put it down on the table, written across the top were the words, ‘Robbie, Harry and Grizel at the cottage’.

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