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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Ian & Mac Bedtime Stories - The Thistle

The moon shone down on the woods. Ian and Mac had returned to their tree after a day of foraging for food. Mac was ready to go to sleep, but once again Ian wasn’t. “Mac, it really helped me to sleep when you told me a bedtime story last night. Will you tell me another one? I’m having problems falling to sleep.”

“Why is it that all of a sudden you can’t fall asleep? After all these years you’re now having problems?” Mac scoffed at his friend.

“Mac, it must be my age. I am older than you, you know.”

“Oh really. You were born on the same day as me. I think you were born an hour before me. That makes a big difference, does it?” Mac chuckled.          

“Oh yes, it really does. Please tell me another one. I loved the story about the fairy.” Ian glanced at the stars. “I’ll lie still and curl up in a ball. You won’t even know I’m here.”

“All right. I’ll tell you another story. A long time ago, my great great great great great great great grandfather, Malcolm, lived in the woods a bit further south than here. He was a brave raccoon, quite the hero in raccoon history books. Malcolm never was seen during the day. He only went out at night, when it was dark and he could hide from owls and hawks. There were a lot more of them in his time than there is now.”

“We’re lucky. We’re far enough north that the hawks think it’s too cold, but I know there are some owls in these woods.” Ian’s gaze darted to the other trees, hoping he would not see an owl.

“Let me finish. Stop interrupting me. Malcolm was out one night hunting for some blackberries. He loved blackberries. He saw a fire in the distance and wondered what was happening. He crept closer and hid behind a bush. A boat full of strangers pulled up onto the beach. They were Vikings.”

Ian whispered, “Vikings. Oh no.”

“The Vikings dragged their long boat onto the sand and grabbed their swords and clubs and other battle weapons. Malcolm, who was a loyal Scottish raccoon, knew what the Vikings had in mind. They were going to slaughter the men who were sleeping around the fire. He didn’t know what to do. Should he run over to the sleeping Scotsmen and wake them up, risking them chopping his head off with their axes, or should he just let things happen as they would if he wasn’t there.”

“He should wake them up, Mac. He should warn them about the Vikings.” Ian started biting his nails. “This story is sort of scary, Mac. It better have a good ending or I’ll never go to sleep.”

“Malcolm decided to wake the men up. He leaped from the bush and ran towards the men. What he didn’t know was that the Scotsmen had laid thistles all around their camp to keep the sheep in. When Malcolm ran over it, the stickery thorns jabbed into his paws. Malcolm screamed at the top of his lungs. He hopped about, landing on top of other thistles. His screams were so loud that he woke up the Scotsmen. They grabbed their swords and axes and ran to see who was making all the noise. That’s when they saw the Vikings, who were hiding all around the camp. They beat the Vikings in battle and not one Scotsman was hurt. Because of this, they made the thistle the national flower of Scotland.”

“That’s a great story, Mac. Is it true?” Ian felt a yawn growing.

“Yes it is true. The story in the history books the human’s read says it was the Vikings who stepped on the thistle and screamed, but we raccoons know better. It was Malcolm! He was so excited he went home and wrote a poem. Would you like to hear it?” Mac looked over at the sleepy Ian.

“All right, but don’t mind me if I close my eyes. I’ll still listen.”

“The Vikings came from far away,
 To slaughter the Scottish men while they lay.
 The fire burned bright, providing heat
 They slept with shoes upon their feet.
 A raccoon, so brave and sure
 Foraged at night for blackberries pure.
 He spotted the Vikings and their boat
 And wondered how it had stayed afloat.
 Should he warn the Scots, or should he not?
 Should he risk his neck if he’d be caught?
 Bravery and courage flowed thru his veins,
 The mighty Malcolm facing wind and rain,
 Rushed toward the flames to warn his fellow man
 And stepped upon the thistle as he ran.
 He shouted as loud as he could, poor raccoon,
 And shouted again under the light of the moon.
 The Scots woke up and saw their enemies
 And slaughtered them all and fell to their knees.
 The raccoon was a hero, the master of that night
 Who went down in history for choosing the right.
 So if you have to risk your life for another’s sake,
 Do it without thinking, but be sure you’re awake.”

Mac glanced at Ian. He had fallen asleep during the poem, as Mac had hoped. Mac lay there for a while thinking about Malcolm and how brave he’d been. He hoped that if he ever found himself in a situation like that, he’d be just as brave. As an owl hooted in the distance, Mac closed his eyes and fell asleep.

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