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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Christmas Claws

Mungo put the finishing touches on his Christmas tree and then plugged it in. Red, green, blue, orange, yellow and purple lights flickered as they wound through the needled branches, from the top of the tree down to the bottom. Round, glass ornaments hung by silver hooks, dangled colorfully, casting reflections of the lights, tinsel and glowing fire in the fireplace. "Weíve got a nice tree this year, donít we Ginger?" Mungo said to his cat. She purred and rubbed her body against Mungoís legs. "Time to put you in the other room." He carried Ginger through to the bedroom and laid her on the bed.

Mungo put another log onto the fire. Flames were flickering, embers burning bright orange, and warmth spread through the room like a woolen blanket. It was Friday night. The bairns would be coming soon. DING DONG! The front door bell rang. Mungo opened it. Andy stood shivering while snowflakes raged around him. "Come in, quick," said Mungo. Andy stepped inside. "Take your boots off right here and hang up your coat. Youíd better put your wooly gloves inside your pockets so youíll not get them mixed up," Mungo told him.

"This is for you, Mr. McGee," Andy said, handing Mungo a package. It was wrapped in red paper with white Santas on it and tied with a big white ribbon.

"Thank you, Andy," he said, taking the gift and putting it under the tree. The doorbell rang again. DING DONG! "Ah, itís wee Fiona and Gavin," he said, opening the door. Snow flew inside. "Hurry on in," he urged the brother and sister. "Itís a cold one out there tonight, is it not?"

"Itís freezing," wee Fiona answered. Seeing Andyís boots, they both took theirs off and hung up their coats next to his. "Hereís a present for you from Gavin and I," she said, handing him a gift wrapped in green and white striped paper and tied with a red bow.

"Thank you very much," Mungo said, putting it under the tree next to Andys. "Come and sit by the fire and warm up. Help yourself to the snacks while we wait for the others," Mungo told them.

They sat on the floor in front of the fire. "Yummy," said wee Fiona. There were so many sweets that she had a hard time deciding where to begin. She reached for a plate piled high with Cornish fudge. She picked a piece that was filled with walnuts. It was creamy and chocolaty and delicious. Gavin took a peppermint stick and licked it until the red stripes disappeared. Andy took a handful of marzipan fruits.

The doorbell rang again. DING DONG! Mungo opened it. There stood wee Hamish, Morag and Gregor. The wind was howling and snow blowing around them in every direction. "Hurry in," he said, shutting the door behind them. All boots were put nicely near the door and all coats were hung up. Wee Hamish, Morag and Gregor each gave Mungo a present. The one wee Hamish gave him was wrapped in dark green paper with a gold bow. Gregorís was wrapped in gold paper with silver and gold ribbons and a gold bow. Moragís was wrapped in white paper, with a red, green and gold bow. "Why thank you all," Mungo said, putting the gifts under the tree.

"Go and help yourself to the sweets," Mungo said, pointing to the trays of delicious goodies in the middle of the room.

"Gumdrops!" called Gregor. "My favorite!" He started licking the sugar off a large yellow one. "I love lemon too."

"Jellybeans!" cried wee Hamish. "I love jellybeans, even when they stick to my teeth. Mum doesnít like me to eat too many though," he said to Andy.

Morag walked up to Gavin. "This is for you. Merry Christmas," she said, handing him a present.

Gavin didnít know what to say or to do. "Thank you," was all he could mutter. "Iíll open it later on, if you donít mind."

"Of course not," she said and sat down to see what there was to eat. "Dundee cake, pastries filled with raspberry jam, licorice bites, jam tarts; so many things to choose from," she said, smiling at the thoughts of tasting them all.

"Time for our story now bairns. You can eat your sweets and listen at the same time. Find a place to sit," Mungo called to them. They scattered about, each taking a plate full of sweets to eat as they listened to his story. "Since itís Christmas time, Iíll tell you a Christmas story. Itís about Claws, the Christmas monster."

"This isnít going to be a scary story about monsters, is it?" Morag asked. "Remember how your last scary story frightened poor Andy."

Gavin looked at Morag. He was surprised to hear her say that. She smiled at him when she caught him looking. He looked down at the present and then back to Mungo.

"No, itís not scary. Listen carefully. Claws was covered with light brown hair. He walked on two legs and he did have very sharp claws. He looked almost like a bear, but not really. Claws lived in a cave in the hills. During the winter, when it snowed and was cold, Claws rarely left his cave, but one day he felt like going for a walk. He left his cave and walked to the edge of the hill. He stood looking down at the village below. He saw lots of bright colored lights and wreaths made from pine branches, just like the ones that grew near his cave. He decided to go and see for himself what was going on. It had snowed the night before and the ground was carpeted with a layer of white. Ferns and bracken jutted up through the snow. Even the village had snow on the ground. As he entered the village, Claws didnít want anyone to see him so he crept from tree to tree and hid behind bushes," Mungo said.

"Did Claws like to build snowmen?" asked wee Hamish, holding a lollipop and licking it between sentences. "I like to build snowmen."

"Claws didnít know what a snowman was. He was a monster," Morag explained.

Andy thought for a moment and added, "I built a big snowman once and put a carrot in for a nose."

"Thatís very good, Andy," said Mungo. He continued with the story, "Now, Claws came to a house. It was covered with lights and had a wreath with jingle bells on it hanging on the door. Claws crept up to it and hit it. It went JINGLE JINGLE JINGLE." Mungo had a set of bells in his pocket that he rattled as he said that.

"What was that?" asked wee Fiona. "I heard bells ringing," she giggled.

"Me too," said Gregor.

Mungo ignored them and went on with the story. "Claws stood at the door playing with the jingle bells and laughing a funny monster laugh. GRRREEE! GREEE! GREEE! He looked in through the window. Nobody was home. He lifted it up and went inside. A Christmas tree, decorated with all sorts of colors, stood near the fireplace. Claws walked up to it. He saw his reflection in one of the glass ornaments. When he put his face close to it, it got big and ugly. When he pulled it away, he got smaller, but still was ugly," Mungo said. "Why donít each of you go to my tree and look at your faces in an ornament and see what it was like for Claws."

They jumped up and ran over to the tree. Wee Hamish looked in a blue ornament. He put his face close and burst out laughing. "Thatís funny." HA! HA! HA! HA!

Wee Fiona looked at a gold ornament. Her face got huge and her nose looked like a pumpkin. "Look at my nose, Gavin," she said to her big brother. "Itís big." She giggled and giggled.

Andy picked a green ornament. It was shiny. He pulled his face away. It got small. When he put it closer it made his eyes gigantic. He started laughing, going in and out, in and out, away and closer to the ornament.

Gavin was looking at a silver ornament. He was watching himself and saw something coming up behind him. It was Morag. She put her face right next to his. Gavin screamed, "Argh!" Sheíd frightened him. She started to laugh.

Gregor was looking into a red ball. He imagined Claws face and how he must have felt seeing himself.

"Thatís enough for now, bairns. Come on back. Thereís more storytelling." The bairns ran back and sat down. "Claws saw the lights on the tree glowing. Not knowing any better, he reached up and grabbed hold of a blue light. What do you think happened?"

"He burned himself," whispered Andy.

"Thatís right, Andy. He burned himself. Some of the hairs on his fingers sizzled and curled up from the heat. Claws didnít touch another one. Instead, he went exploring. He found a stack of presents under the tree. He ripped some of them open. One was a fire engine that made sound. He shook it and it broke into pieces. He didnít like the siren. He opened another one. It was a doll. When he shook it, the doll cried, ĎMama. Mamaí. Claws threw it on the floor. Just then he started sniffing. He smelled food. He was very hungry and went into the kitchen. On the table sat a gingerbread house. It had a wafer roof, gumdrops along the path, peppermint sticks standing near the front door, and all kinds of sweeties and frosting all over it. Claws picked it up and took a big bite out of it," Mungo said. CRUNCH! GOBBLE! CRUNCH! GOBBLE!

"I have a gingerbread house at my house, Mr. McGee. My mum told me not to eat any of it or else Iíd be in big trouble," said wee Hamish.

"Weíve got one too. Itís pretty. Mum worked hard making it," said Gavin.

"Well, Claws didnít care about that. He was hungry and it tasted good. He ate the whole thing. He ate every shingle, and every tree, and the sides of the house, and even the roof. He was still hungry. He ate the chocolate chip biscuits, he ate the shortbread, he ate the raisin scones and a whole carrot cake with cream cheese frosting!" Mungo let his voice go louder and higher as he told the children this.

"Was he finally full?" asked Gregor.

"He was full. He couldnít eat another bite. When heíd finished the last bite of carrot cake, he heard a car pull up in the driveway and childrenís voices. He had to hide before the people found him. He ran and hid in a closet. The family came into the house and saw the mess. The wee lass started to cry. She was sad that her doll was broken. The wee lad saw his present and cried too. The mum and dad hugged the bairns and then cleaned up the mess. ĎSanta will bring you another present,í the dad said to his wee ones. When the mum went into the kitchen, she saw all of her sweeties were eaten. ĎIíll just make some more,í she said. Claws heard all this and he started to feel bad. He hadnít meant to break the toys. He didnít know what toys were or how much children loved playing with them. He didnít mean to eat all their food. He snuck out of the closet and climbed out the window. Just then he heard some music. The family was singing some Christmas carols. Claws stood and listened. A tear ran down his face. They sounded beautiful," Mungo said. The room was silent. "Why donít we sing a song, just like the family," he suggested.

"Letís sing Silent Night," said wee Hamish. Mungo and the bairns sang Silent Night and then a few other carols.

"That was nice. Imagine how Claws felt when he heard them singing. Later, he walked back to his cave, curled up in a ball and fell asleep. The next morning, when he woke up, he was surprised to see a wee Christmas tree in his cave. It was covered with ornaments just like the ones heíd seen at the house. There were even a few presents under the tree. Claws got up and opened them. One was a jar of honey, his favorite. In another wrapped box was a bag of roasted chestnuts. The last present was a box of toffee. A note was tied to the tree and it said, ĎMerry Christmas. Love, Santa Claus.í Claws, the Christmas monster, was a happy monster."

"That was a good story," said Gavin.

"I loved it too," said Morag. She walked over to Gavin. "Why donít you open your present now."

"Okay," he said. He ripped the wrapping off and opened the box. "A car!" he shouted with delight. "Morag gave me a new car!" He took it out of the box and looked at it carefully. "How did you know I wanted this one?" he asked. "Thank you, Morag."

"Santa Claus told me," Morag smiled and sat down again.

"Open your presents," the others said to Mungo.

"I will, but Iíve got something for all of you too," he said and went into the bedroom. He came back with an armful of presents. "Here, this is for you, Morag. This is for you, Gavin. Hereís one for you, wee Hamish. This is yours, wee Fiona. This is your present from me, Gregor, and to Andy, Merry Christmas," Mungo said, handing out his gifts.

They spent the next hour opening presents, singing songs and laughing. Mungo even took the bells out of his pocket and let them play with them. DING DONG! The doorbell rang. It was time to go. Their parents were here. "Thanks for the story," said Gregor, "and for the present and the sweeties."

The others thanked him too. "Thank you," he shouted after them. They waved goodbye and left. Mungo let Ginger out of the bedroom. She ran into the living room and ate the crumbs and leftover sweets. Mungo looked at the mess of wrapping paper and ribbons. He gathered them up and tossed them into the fire. "Merry Christmas, Ginger," he said to the cat. MEOW! The cat curled up next to him in his chair and they both fell asleep in front of the fire; the Christmas lights still flickering on the tree.

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