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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Royal Pheasant

Jessie’s mum and dad worked in a pub. It was called ‘‘The Royal Pheasant’. It was in the country, on a quiet lane, next to an old stone Norman-style church. The pub was several hundred years old, and still had some of the original timbers across the ceiling. They’d been painted glossy black. There were a dozen or so wooden tables, also painted black, scattered about the room. Each was covered with a black, white, and red checked plastic tablecloth. A roaring fire blasted in the corner, keeping the customers warm and giving the pub a cozy feeling.

Royal Pheasant

Jessie and her parents lived in the upstairs rooms over the pub. Sometimes Jessie helped her mum wait on tables and other times helped her dad with the cooking, or choosing meals for the week’s menu. Jessie liked that because there were always leftovers and she got to eat them.

One morning Jessie’s dad called her into his office in the back room. "Jessie, what do you recommend we serve for specials this week?" he asked. The customers liked Jessie and often called her over to their tables. She noticed what they ate and what they didn’t.

"I think we should have bubble and squeak for today’s special, bangers and mash for tomorrow, toad in the hole for the next day, stovies…" she hesitated in thought, "and then for Sunday’s special, we should have pheasant, grouse, and partridge, with mint sauce, of course. Mr. Lamont, down the street, is going game hunting. Ask him to catch you a few wild fowl. They are good in pies," Jessie added.

"What a splendid idea, lassie," her dad said. "What about for sweets?"

"My favorite? Let’s see," she said, licking her lips as she thought. "Let’s have brambles and ice cream tonight, and then have rhubarb pie with clotted cream, toffee cake with treacle syrup, hazelnut chocolate pie, and oatcakes with heather honey on them."

"Brilliant," her father said, writing down her suggestions. "I’ll need your help though. Would you mind going out today and picking us a fresh supply of blackberries from the bramble bush?"

"I’ll go after I help Mum with the lemon curd," she assured him, then went to find her mum.

She was busy putting clean dishes on all the tables. "It’s a lovely day, isn’t it Jessie? Do you think we need the fire?"

"Yes, Mum. You know the customers like it to be warm. They aren’t as used to our Scottish weather as we are," she gently reminded her. "Did you need some help with the lemon curd? Daddy asked me to go and pick some blackberries for supper tonight."

"Go right ahead, Jessie. I’ll finish setting the tables and start on the lemon curd. Thanks for your help," she said, hugging her daughter.

Jessie picked up a basket and went outside. She turned and looked back when she got to the bottom of the hill. ‘’The Royal Pheasant’ looked very quaint. A tall willow tree’s branches hung over the top of it. Roses growing on trellises framed the entrance. She loved living there. She headed towards the meadow, climbed over the rickety wooden fence and walked to the bramble patch. Wildflowers grew and blossomed all through the meadow. There were so many bees buzzing about. The brambles were heavy with ripe blackberries. They were dark purple and hung on the prickly branches. Jessie picked them and tossed them into the basket. She only picked the ripest blackberries though. After she’d filled the basket up, she headed back to the pub.

The first customers arrived just as she walked through the back door into the kitchen. Her mum rushed out to greet and welcome the man and his wife. She seated them and then gave them each a menu to look at.

Jessie took the blackberries to the sink and washed them off. She placed them in a large glass bowl. She noticed some more customers entering. Soon the pub was full of hungry people, all enjoying the warmth of the fireplace and the good food. All day long they came. It was late at night before the last customers left. Jessie’s mum and dad were tired. Jessie helped them clean up. When she went into the kitchen, she noticed that there were no blackberries left in the bowl.

Her father, wiping the kitchen floor with a mop, stopped and said, "Jessie, your menu was a hit. We had a lot of orders for bubble and squeak. Everyone loved it."

"It looks like they enjoyed the blackberries and ice cream too," she said, holding up the empty bowl and laughing.

As she lay in bed that night, she heard the rain falling outside. Thankful to be somewhere warm, she snuggled under the down blanket, cuddled her stuffed teddy bear and fell asleep, tired, but content.

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