Mairi stood behind the counter putting pastries on the shelves behind the
glass windows. Jack and Jeffrey opened the door. “We’ve been sent to collect
some pastries and things. It looks like you just put some out,” Jack said.
“Come in Jack, Jeffrey. What are you doing here?”
“Angus sent us to get a few things for his stew.
What are you smiling at?” Jack’s head tipped to the side.
“You’re in luck. Mac just took these out of the
oven. He’s making a birthday…”
“What? What’s the matter?”
“I completely forgot until I just said the word birthday. Today is Angus’s
birthday. I’ll bet he doesn’t even remember,” Mairi gasped.
“And what do people do for birthdays in the 21st century?”
“We party! Do either of you know when your birthday is?”
“I was born in the middle of summer,” Jeffrey
said. “My mother often reminded me of the misery she felt carrying me in the
heat. Many summers have passed since then.”
“I was born in the dead of winter, not long
after the winter solstice,” Jack said. “That’s all I know.”
“I’ll have to ask Johnny if he knows his
birthday, and the others too. Okay, here’s what I need you to do,” Mairi
said. Jeffrey and Jack looked at each other, defeated once again. “Here’s
some money. I want you to go into town and pick up a few things.” She took a
few moments and wrote up a list. “You can find most of this at the grocers,
but you might want to stop by “The Perfect Bee” and see if they sell
candles. I’ll get Mac to make a birthday cake for Angus and then I’ll run
some fresh goods over to the croft to feed them starving men. Here,” Mairi
said, “these are for you.” She gave them each a vanilla cake and a piece of
baklava. “When you get everything, come back to the shop and pick me up.”
Jeffrey and Jack left. Mairi put her order in for a birthday cake and told
Mac she needed to run out for a while, but would come back. She ran across
the street to “The Party Shop”.
Nellie McAllister Crawford was inside, buying
something for her grandson. “Nellie! I’m so glad you’re here. Today’s
Angus’s birthday. He turns 50. I’m throwing a party at my house tonight. Why
don’t you come!”
“That’s very sweet of you. I’ll be there,”
Nellie said. Mairi kissed her on the cheek and ran out, carrying a bag of
things she’d purchased. “I’ll stop by McDougal’s B&B and ask Elsie, if you’d
like. She’s very fond of Angus.”
“That would be great. Let’s see, who else do I
need to invite? Oh, yes.” Mairi kissed Nellie on the cheek and ran over to
Elspet’s house. “Catriona, can you and Jaimie come to my house tonight for a
party? It’s Angus’s birthday. You can bring Elspet and the lads.”
Catriona wiped her hands on her apron. “I’ve got
some wool to dye, but of course, we’ll be there. Thanks for inviting us.”
Mairi rushed off. “I’ve got to get to Anne and
Malcolm’s. See you tonight,” she called as she ran down the road.
Anne and Malcolm promised to come, as did Elsie,
John and Susan and Jock. Mairi barely made it back to the bakery when Jack
and Jeffrey showed up with their arms full of bags and boxes. “Here are my
keys. Take the stuff to my house and leave it on the table. I’ll deal with
it later. Here’s some more money. Go over to the grocers and pick up some
food for Angus. You know what he likes.” She winked and the befuddled men
They left and headed back to the grocers. “Why
do I feel like a fetch-it-boy?” Jeffrey said.
“It’s the least we can do to help out. Come on,
let’s see what we can find for the stew,” Jack said.
They went back into the grocer’s shop and walked
down the aisles. “What exactly does Angus put in his stews?” Jeffrey picked
up a jar of pickles. “This looks like something he might use.”
“Put it in the cart with wheels,” Jack said.
“What’s this? It’s called Jelly. It says its
fruit flavored. It probably doesn’t go in stew, but I think I’ll pick some
up anyway. I’m curious as to what it tastes like.” Jeffrey dropped a box in
Jack stared at a jar of peanut butter. “Peanut
butter. What in heaven’s name is that?”
“Jeffrey picked it up and turned the jar upside
down. “It says it’s made of crushed peanuts and all this other stuff that I
have no idea what it is. Should I put some in the cart? Peanuts might go in
“I think so,” Jack said. “It looks interesting.”
They bought spicy mustard, a box of cereal, a
package of cream cheese, a bag of potato crisps, a jar of jalapenos, salsa,
and a package of cinnamon bears and red hots. “I remember the traders coming
to Burill with cinnamon. King Kegan’s cooking staff used it in their foods.
We might as well try some. That’s interesting how it comes in the shape of
small bears and these tiny red dots,” Jeffrey said.
“We’re about finished. What’s this?” Jack picked
up a six-pack of soda pop. “It’s a drink in a can. Sounds interesting.” He
tossed it in the cart, paid for it at the checkout and went back to Angus’s
* * *
Mairi ran over to school and caught Fiona,
Callum and Elspet as they were leaving the playground. “Fiona! You three get
going to the next place. I need you to be back as soon as you can. It’s
Angus’s birthday and we’re having a party tonight. Run along.” She kissed
Fiona on the top of her head. “Be careful and watch out for spiders!”
When Mairi arrived at home, she saw Julian
kneeling in her flower garden. She walked over to him. “Julian? What have
Julian stood up and brushed the dirt off his
pants. “I beg your pardon, Mairi. Is something unsatisfactory to you?”
She threw her arms around his neck. “Julian,
it’s marvelous. Look what you’ve done. My flowers look beautiful. Thank
Jimmy heard Mairi’s voice and came out of the
house. “Jimmy? What are you doing here?”
“Why don’t you come in and see for yourself,” he
On the table sat a dozen jars of honey. Johnny
and Jesse were trying to put labels on them. “You emptied the hives? You
strained the honey and put it in jars? How can I thank you both?”
“I can think of a way,” Johnny said. He squeezed
her around the waist and gave her a kiss on the lips.
“Thank you both so much. You’re so very kind. I
hope none of you got stung,” she said.
“If we did, we didn’t feel it. We’re all too
sore from our beatings last night.” Johnny tried to laugh, but didn’t do a
very good job of it.
Mairi kissed Jimmy’s and then Jesse’s cheeks.
“Thank you both.”
Johnny saw all the packages in her arms. “What’s
all this for?”
“This,” Mairi said, holding up a lamp,” is for
my bedroom when I move into the castle.” She put it on the table. “The rest
of this is for later. Today’s Angus’s birthday. I want to give him a
surprise birthday party. Can you three stay and help me set things up?”
“Of course. We’ll leave Julian to the flowers.
What can we do?” Johnny took a few bags from her arms.
“Start by blowing up these balloons.”
“What are balloons?” Jimmy took a bag marked
balloons from her. He ripped it open and held the flat, rubbery, blue thing
up. He stretched it. “It’s made of rubber.”
“Well, sort of. It’s called a balloon. Here,
give me one,” Mairi said, taking it from him. She put it to her mouth and
blew into it. When it was full, she pinched it at the end and then tied it
“Amazing. Can I hold it?” Jimmy laughed when
Mairi hit it into the air and it flew to the ceiling. “It flies. It’s
lighter than air?”
Jesse took one and blew it up, but as he went to
tie it, it slipped from his fingers and flew across the room. “I think I’ll
try that again.” He reached for another.
“Try it again.” Mairi handed them each one. She
had to sit down from laughing hard when she watched their cheeks puff up and
their faces turn read. Blubbery noises came from their mouths, but no air
went into the balloon. “Here, watch me.” She took another balloon and put it
to her mouth. It blew up slowly as she forced air into it. “You try.”
Johnny gasped when he saw his blowing up. “I did
it,” he said, tying it off at the end. Jimmy and Jesse still couldn’t do it.
“You two had better let Johnny be the balloon
blower upper. You can string ribbons around the house.” Mairi showed them
what to do.