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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis

SandcastleFriday night rolled around quickly. Mungo walked up the aisles of the shop, looking for some seashells, dried starfish, and other items that could be found under the sea. Tonight, when the bairns came, he was going to have a surprise for them. For the last few days he’d hammered wood together to make a large square and brought in several bags of sand to make a sandbox. He picked up a few shovels and sand buckets and hurried home.

When wee Hamish arrived, Mungo opened the door smiling. "Come in," he said. Wee Hamish ran into the living room. The bairns were always excited to see what Mungo had up on his walls or lying around the house that would give them a clue to that night’s story.

Mungo put Ginger into the bedroom as usual. As he walked back through, wee Hamish asked, "Mr. McGee, are we talking about the sea tonight?" He gazed at the walls. There were pictures of mermaids, fish, whales, and shipwrecks. On the table sat the shells and starfish he’d bought earlier at the shops.

DING DONG! The other bairns arrived and ran inside. They were soon picking up the shells and putting them to their ears, listening, trying to hear the ocean. Wee Fiona held a starfish in her hand. "It’s prickly," she giggled, rubbing her fingers over its rough surface.

"Look at the shark!" Andy said. He stared at the picture on the wall. Its mouth was gaping and showing its sharp teeth.

"I love this fish," Gregor said, pointing at a bright green and orange fish that had big lips and was blowing bubbles.

Morag and Gavin were looking at the shipwreck. "Do you think there might be treasure in that chest?" Morag asked.

Gavin thought about how he’d like to find a treasure chest. "I’ll bet it is filled with gold doubloons and jewels. That’s probably a pirate ship."

Morag glanced at Gavin. She began to swoon as she imagined him as a dashing pirate. "You’d make a handsome pirate," she said, not realizing she’d spoken her thoughts. Gavin shook his head and went to stand by Gregor.

"Bairns, come over here and see what I’ve got for you tonight. I’ve made some pasta salad with sea shell pasta, there are oyster crackers, chips with clam dip, and small shrimp to dip in this cocktail sauce," Mungo said, pointing to the red sauce, "but be careful, it’s a bit spicy. After you’ve eaten that, we’ll have cupcakes and ice cream."

"Yeah!" the group cried out and started eating the food. It didn’t take long for them to finish.

"We’re going to have our story outside tonight. I’ve got a surprise for you. Follow me," Mungo said.

"Wow, a sandbox?" cried Gregor. "Can we play in it?"

"There are enough buckets and shovels for you all. While I sit on the chair and tell my story, you build a big sandcastle for me," Mungo said. The children ran into the sandbox. Each found a place to sit. Soon they’d begun making a pile in the middle. "All right, bairns, I’ll begin my story. Long ago there was a man named Alexander Selkirk. He was born right here in Scotland, in a town called Largo. Alexander didn’t want to be a shoemaker like his father, so he ran away and began sailing on ships. One of the ships he was on was very much like a pirate ship. All the captain wanted to do was to rob other ships."

"A pirate ship? Did the ships have gold and jewels?" Gavin asked as he patted down the sand with his hands.

"The gold and jewels that were on the ship had been stolen from other ships. Alexander didn’t want to do that. He loved sailing, not stealing," Mungo said.

"I don’t like to steal either," wee Fiona said. "I wouldn’t steal anyone’s gold or jewels."

"Alexander didn’t like to either. He got into an argument with the captain and asked to be taken off the ship. The captain was more than happy to do that and he left Alexander on an island in the middle of nowhere. The ship sailed away leaving Alexander alone. He found out later that the ship had been sunk in a storm and everyone on it had drowned," Mungo said.

"I’ll bet he was glad he was on the island and not drowning," Andy said, patting the sand down softly.

"He was glad, but he was left alone for six long years," Mungo added.

"Did he have a pet monkey, or a pet lizard?" asked wee Hamish.

"I’m sure he had some pets. Maybe he had a pet parrot or some other kind of bird," Mungo explained.

"My Uncle Jamie has a parrot. It squawks and even speaks some words. I feed it peanuts and seeds when I go to visit," Gregor said.

"What did Alexander eat?" asked Morag as she poured a bucket of sand upside down to make a tower. She smoothed it out with her fingers and made it pointed.

"He had to make spears out of sticks and try to catch fish. He probably found clams on the beach and crabs too and ate them. Maybe he found coconuts, though I don’t think there are any coconuts in that part of the world," Mungo said.

"What part of the world?" asked Gavin.

"Off the coast of Chile, in South America. That’s a long way from here. He managed to find food to eat. One day a ship came by. They rescued Alexander and not too long after that, he was captain of his own ship. He did come back to Scotland for a while, but then went back out to sea, where he died. He loved the sea."

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

"How’s the castle coming along?" Mungo asked. He stood up and looked. "Oh, that’s a fine castle. Look at the towers and windows. You’ve even put a moat on it. Very good! What a good job you are doing. I am going in the house to get my camera and take a photo. I’ll let Ginger out of the bedroom. She’ll enjoy seeing the castle too." Soon Ginger came running out of the house and directly to the bairns. Mungo came out with his camera and took some photos of them. "I’ll give you all a copy of the photos when I pick them up," he promised.

The parents started to arrive. Mungo had the bairns stand up and brush the sand off their clothes and arms. The bairns showed their parents the sandbox and the big sandcastle they’d made. When they’d all left, Mungo covered it with a piece of plastic, as it often rained at nights. He spent the next hour taking the pictures of the sea creatures off the wall. He carefully put the seashells and starfish into a box and stuck it in the top of his closet, where it would stay until he needed it again. After he’d cleaned up, he put a movie on to watch on video, "Treasure Island," and enjoyed watching the pirates and their buried treasure.

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