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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Just Hanging Around

The sun was setting behind the heather-covered hills that stood across the loch from Mungoís house. The last of its golden rays filtered in through the kitchen window. Mungo peeked outside. "Theyíll be here soon," he said to his cat, Ginger, opening the back door to let her in. He noticed that there wasnít a cloud to be seen. It was a beautiful clear night and soon the sky would be full of twinkling stars. "You need to stay in the bedroom. The bairns wonít leave you alone if they see you." He picked the cat up and put her in the other room and shut the door.

Just then the doorbell rang. It was Gregor. "Hi Mr. McGee. Iím here for story night. I canít wait to hear what you are going to tell us about tonight. Last Fridayís story was very scary," he said.

"Come on in," Mungo said, waving goodbye to Gregorís parents as they drove away. "Youíre the first one here tonight," he said. "You get first choice on the snacks."

Gregor sat down on the floor and examined all the food. There were sausage rolls, meat pies, scones with honey butter, bannocks, salt and vinegar flavored potato crisps, and a tray of sweeties that Mungo had bought at the grocer. Gregor had just reached for a sausage roll when the doorbell rang. Mungo opened the door. There stood wee Hamish, Morag and Andy. "Come in," he smiled at the bairns. "Go and help yourself," he said, pointing to the food. He was about to shut the door when Gavin and wee Fiona showed up. They were brother and sister. "Come in," he said to them. "Well, it looks as if weíre all here. When youíre done feeding your faces, Iíll start the story."

"Is it going to be a scary one?" Andy asked. "I had bad dreams last week after your story about the Goblin Wind and the hag."

"I didnít," said Morag. "Youíre a baby, Andy," she scoffed.

"No, heís not," Gavin said, defending Andy. "It was a scary story." Gavin didnít take kindly to Morag making fun of Andy.

Andy was the shy one of the group. He was also several years younger than Gavin and Morag. "Will you tell us a funny story tonight, Mr. McGee?" Andy asked.

"I want a funny story too," said wee Hamish.

"Me too," added wee Fiona.

"A funny story it is then. Gather Ďround and find a comfortable place to sit," he urged the bairns. He began his story. "Bruce was a huge highland bull. He had reddish-brown hair that was very long. It was thick and rough and it looked like he had ropes hanging from his back. His horns were long and stuck way out to the side. Bruce could hardly see a thing because of all the hair hanging over his eyes. He felt thirsty. The birds were chirping in the oak trees as he walked towards the stream to get a drink. He kept tripping on rocks because he couldnít see them."

"I tripped on a rock once. It was raining and I was running into the house and I tripped. I scraped my knee. I used to have a scab, but its gone now," wee Hamish told them. Everyone looked at his knee to see if they could see remnants of the scab.

Mungo continued, "Iím sure that hurt you, Hamish. Bruce reached the stream and bent his head down to take a sip. His long tongue came out of his mouth and he slurped the cool, refreshing water up. Some of his hair was hanging in the water. Bruce didnít know it. When he raised his head, a silvery fish with green and blue scales down its back, was hooked onto a clump of hair hanging over Bruceís face."

The bairns giggled. "How silly," said wee Fiona.

"It was a small fish, about this big," he said, holding his fingers apart about six inches, "but it held onto Bruceís hair. Bruce shook his head, trying to get the fish to let go, but it held on tight and wouldnít let go at all. No matter what Bruce did, the fish stayed hanging onto his hair. So Bruce walked around with a fish dangling near his face. He could see it from the side of his eyes. Its lips moved in and out and its tail wiggled back and forth," Mungo said, smiling.

Andy giggled. "Thatís funny," he said.

"He walked back into the field and began eating some rye grass. He was chewing away when he felt something tickling his leg. He looked down. A centipede, about this long," Mungo said, holding his fingers apart about four inches, "crawled up onto his back and wrapped itself around Bruceís long hair. Bruce tried to shake it off, but the centipede held on tightly. Now Bruce had a fish and a centipede holding onto his hairs. What could he do? He had to ignore them," Mungo explained.

"Why didnít he bite the fish off?" Morag asked.

"Why didnít he pull it off with his tongue?" Gavin questioned, looking over at Morag. He stuck his tongue out at her. She didnít seem to mind. She was Ďin loveí with Gavin and any attention he paid to her was good.

"His tongue wasnít long enough and the fish was hanging at the side of his face, so he couldnít reach it with his mouth. As for the centipede; it was on his back and he had no way of reaching it. Seeing there was nothing he could do, he walked farther into the field and ate some oats and barley that was growing there. One of the stalks of oat had an ugly brown spider on it. The spider crawled onto Bruceís tail. Right away it began to spin a web," Mungo said.

"I hate spiders," said Morag.

"I hate them too," said wee Fiona.

"I have some in a jar in my house," Gregor said, smiling at wee Fiona. "Do you want to come and see them?" he asked her.

"No!" she replied.

"Once, at my house, there was a big spider web downstairs. It had a black spider in it and I accidentally touched it. The web stuck to me and the spider tried to bite me. I knocked it off my arm to the ground and stepped on it," Gavin said.

Andy looked at him. "I donít kill spiders," he whispered.

"Why not?" asked wee Hamish.

"My dad told me that I should never kill a spider because a long time ago, King Robert Bruce, watched a spider spin its web while he was hiding in a cave and that made him want to go and fight. He won the war and Scotland became a country," Andy said, looking at the floor instead of at the other bairns.

"Thatís right, Andy; very good. Anyway, back to the story. The spider spun its web on Bruceís tail. Bruce turned around and saw the spider hanging from his tail in a web. He shook his tail back and forth but the spider wouldnít come off, so Bruce ignored it and started eating the oats again," Mungo said.

"Thatís three things now," Morag counted. "The fish, the centipede, and now a spider. How funny," she laughed.

Mungo continued, "A bluebird was flying above the field, looking for something to eat. It saw the fish hanging from Bruceís hair. Feeling hungry, it swooped down and tried to take a bite of the fish. The fish started wiggling about and Bruce moved his head back and forth, trying to chase the bluebird away. It kept flying around his face. It wouldnít go away. It wanted the fish! Bruce started walking away, hoping the bird would fly away, but it didnít. All day long the bluebird stayed swooping about Bruceís head. This made the fish wiggle about too."

HEE! HEE! HEE! HEE! HEE! HEE! HEE! The bairns laughed and laughed, imagining the blue bird flying about.

"A bumblebee was gathering pollen from a fluffy purple thistle. It just so happened that Bruce wanted to eat that thistle and didnít see the bumblebee. He opened his mouth wide. He chomped the thistle flower right off. The bumblebee barely had a chance to escape. It was angry. It flew up into the air and came down, stinging Bruce on his shoulder! Bruce hardly felt it because of all his hair. The bumblebeeís stinger went right into Bruceís body. The bumblebee tried to pull it out and it wouldnít come out. He was stuck. The bumblebee had to stay on Bruceís shoulder all day long. It kept buzzing and fluttering its wings, trying to fly away, but it couldnít," Mungo said.

"Did the bluebird see it?" asked wee Fiona.

"Yes, the bluebird did see it. Now it tried to eat the fish and the bumblebee. It was becoming very annoying to Bruce to have the bluebird flying near his shoulder now too. Bruce didnít know what to do. He had a fish, a centipede, a spider and a bumblebee stuck to his hair and a bird flying around his head bothering him. He walked to the nearby loch. He spotted several other highland cattle grazing there. Angus, a bull, saw Bruce coming towards them. He also saw the fish dangling from the hair around his face and the bluebird flying around. ĎWhatís going on there?í Angus said to the others. ĎLook at Bruce. Heís gone and caught a fish!í The cattle started laughing at Bruce."

"Thatís not nice," said Gregor.

"Itís not his fault," sighed wee Hamish.

"No, it wasnít his fault, but they laughed at him. Bruce tried to ignore them. He went to the loch to get a drink. He stuck his face into the water. Suddenly the fish let go. It swam away into the deep loch. Bruce shook his face. There was no more fish in his hair. He was so glad. Maybe the bluebird would fly away now," Mungo said.

"Did it?" asked wee Fiona.

"No. It wanted the bumblebee," Gavin said. He saw Morag staring at him. He stuck his tongue out at her again. She only smiled an even bigger smile back.

"Thatís right. The bluebird stayed around. The other highland cattle walked closer. ĎBeen doing a bit of fishing?í asked Angus, the bull. Bruce ignored him and walked the other direction. He could hear the cattle laughing at him as he plodded off. Bruce saw a weeping willow tree up ahead. Its branches were long and hung down to the ground. It was starting to get warm and he wanted to sit in the shade. As he walked under the branches, one of them knocked the centipede off his back. It fell to the ground and crawled away under a leaf," Mungo told them.

"No more fish and no more centipede. He still has the spider and the bumblebee in his hair and the bluebird flying around, doesnít he Mr. McGee?" asked Gregor.

"Oh yes, they were still there. Bruce rested in the shade of the willow tree. He lay down on the grass and dozed off. The bluebird landed on top of Bruceís head and perched there while he slept. Even though he was sleeping, his tail still swatted flies and wiggled back and forth. One time he swung it against the tree trunk. He hit it so hard that the spider flew out of its web and onto the ground. It was angry and ran off behind some stones. When Bruce woke up, the bluebird flew into the air. Bruce looked at his tail. There was no more spider! He was glad. He looked at the bumblebee. It was still fluttering its wings and trying to pull away from the bull. He could see the bluebird, still flying around. Up in the tree, Bruce spotted a bird nest. He could see it was filled with tiny baby bluebirds. The bluebird must be trying to get food to feed her babies," Mungo explained.

"Oh? The bluebird had babies in its nest. How cute," said Morag.

"Itís a mummy bluebird?" asked wee Fiona.

"Yes, it was a mummy bluebird. Bruce realized that the bluebird was just hungry, so he went over to an ant nest and stepped on it with his big hooves. Thousands of black ants came running out of the collapsed anthill. The bluebird swooped down and started gobbling them up. Bruce watched as she filled her beak and flew up to her nest. He could hear all the little bluebirds chirping as their mummy dropped ants into their mouths. There were enough ants there to feed them until they were big enough to leave the nest. Bruce smiled and felt happy. Mummy bluebird chirped a pretty song of thanks for him," Mungo clapped his hands with joy.

"That was nice of him to do that," said Andy.

"I like bluebirds. They do sing pretty. My daddy reads me a book about bluebirds every night before I go to sleep," wee Hamish said.

"What happened to the bumblebee then?" asked Gavin.

"Bruce walked on, leaving the bluebirds to eat. He soon came to a field filled with bright reddish-orange poppies. They were beautiful. There were thousands of poppies. Do you know who likes poppies?" Mungo asked the bairns.

"Butterflies?" said Gregor.

"Bumblebees," smiled Andy.

"Thatís right, Andy. Butterflies like poppies too, Gregor. The bumblebee that was stuck on Bruceís shoulder saw all the poppies. He got so excited seeing all the flowers filled with pollen, that he buzzed loudly. He pulled really hard and fluttered his wings very quickly. The stinger came out and the bumblebee flew off into the air," Mungo said.

Wee Fiona clapped her hands excitedly and giggled. The others laughed too. "Thatís no more things stuck in Bruceís hair," said Morag. "Iím sure he was happy." She looked at Gavin and winked her eye. He shook his head back and forth in disgust.

"At last, Bruce was free. He was so glad that he ran back to the loch and jumped in with a big splash. Water gushed out, drenching Angus and the other highland cattle. They started mooing angrily and walked away. Bruce swam about and had fun. When he got out, he shook the water out of his fur. He checked to make sure no more fish were hanging on him, and seeing there were none, he walked back to the field of rye grass and ate until he was full."

"That was a funny story, Mr. McGee," said Gregor.

Just then the doorbell rang. "Time to go," Mungo said to the bairns. Their mums and dads were there to pick them up.

"Can I take a sausage roll home with me?" asked Gregor.

"Of course, lad. Take two if youíd like," Mungo said.

"Can I have a meat pie to take with me?" asked wee Hamish.

"You can all take whatever you want," Mungo said. The bairns each took something they liked, waved goodbye to Mr. McGee and went off with their mums and dads.

It was suddenly very quiet in Mungoís house. He went into the bedroom and let Ginger out. Luckily there were a few bits of food left for her to have for supper! "Another grand night with the bairns," Mungo said to Ginger, "another grand night!" Before Ginger finished nibbling on the crumbs, Mungo was sound asleep. She meowed and finished licking the saucer clean.

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