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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Stuffed Animals

Mungo had gone to nearly every house in the village, borrowing their stuffed animals. They now sat in his living room, covering the couches, chairs, tables and every shelf, mantle and open space there was. There were stuffed teddy bears, dinosaurs, cats, dogs, gorillas, hippos, elephants and so much more. There was even a twelve foot long stuffed snake, with forked tongue and all. Mungo hoped he could remember which animals belonged with which neighbor when it was time to return them. Ginger, the cat, walked into the living room. She looked at the animals and walked back out of the room. Mungo started laughing at her. "Go into the bedroom now, Ginger. The bairns are coming any minute." Ginger did as told.

DING DONG! As the bairns started arriving, Mungo ushered them into the living room. "Wow! Look at all the stuffed animals," said Gavin.

"They are so cute," said wee Fiona, picking up a stuffed polar bear and squeezing it to see how soft it was. "Are we talking about stuffed animals today, Mr. McGee?"

"In a way," he answered, letting the last of the bairns in. Morag ran over and picked up a stuffed teddy bear that was pink and red. Andy found a green dinosaur with yellow spikes down its back. Wee Hamish spotted a purple dragon. "Why donít you each pick your favorite animal and then come and sit down by me." Gregor selected a stuffed dog and Gavin a cat with whiskers and a fluffy tail. "All right. Weíve all got our favorite toy, do we? Good," he said, looking around at the bairns.

"There arenít any snacks out, Mr. McGee," noticed Gregor.

"I know. There will be some later. I didnít think it would be right to have you eat snacks and get sticky fingers all over the stuffed animals. Weíll have snacks after the story," he said. As he spoke to the bairns, Ginger snuck out of the bedroom and climbed on the back of the couch. She hid herself among the stuffed animals and listened quietly as Mungo spoke. "Does anyone know where China is?" he asked.

"I do. Itís far away. People there have dark hair and they speak a different language," said Gavin.

"Thatís right, lad. Itís very far away. There are a lot of things that growand live there that we donít get here in Scotland. One of those things is panda bears," Mungo said. He stood up and walked over to the table and picked up a stuffed panda. "This," he said, sitting in his chair, "is a panda bear. It has black legs and arms and funny black patches around its eyes."

"Itís cute," said wee Fiona.

"Can I hold it?" asked Andy. He put his dinosaur back in the pile.

"Certainly," Mungo said, passing it to him.

"My story is about a panda. Her name is Su-Su. Panda bears donít like to live in big groups. They like to live all by themselves. They enjoy peace and quiet and donít want to be bothered with other pandas. Pandas eat only one thing. Do any of you know what pandaís eat?" Mungo asked, looking at the bairns.

"I donít know," said wee Hamish.

"Do they eat frogs?" asked Gregor.

"No. Not frogs," Mungo answered.

"Do they eat rabbits?" asked Gavin.

"No. Not rabbits," Mungo replied.

"What do they eat then, Mr. McGee?" Morag asked.

"They eat bamboo," he told them.

"Whatís bamboo?" asked wee Fiona.

"Bamboo is a plant. Itís hard and is used to make things like baskets and chairs and chopsticks. Pandas love bamboo. They have to eat it all day long because itís the only thing they eat. Can you imagine eating just porridge and nothing else?"

"No. I hate porridge," said Gregor, making a face.

"Su-Su was a panda and she ate bamboo. She lived in a bamboo forest. Sheíd sit in the bamboo and nibble on its leaves and crunch the bamboo with her sharp teeth. She was quite happy with her solitary little life. Even when it rained, sheíd sit and munch on the bamboo. One day another panda bear, named Po-jong, came into the bamboo forest. It climbed up into the bamboo and began to nibble on some leaves. Su-Su didnít really want the other panda to be there, but as long as it was quiet, it would be all right. The other panda bear started to eat and Su-Su noticed that it made a terrible noise when it chewed. All day long she listened to Po-Jong making loud crunching noises and slurping noises as it chewed the leaves. Su-Su didnít like that at all," Mungo said.

"Was Po-Jong a boy panda or a girl panda?" asked Morag.

"Po-Jong was a boy panda. He looked almost identical to Su-Su but he was a little bigger than she was. Every time he took a bite of bamboo, he crunched it so loudly and with his mouth wide open. Su-Su heard every bite. She spent most of the day with her hands over her ears so she didnít have to listen to the horrible noises Po-Jong was making," Mungo said.

"Sometimes my big brother, Colin, slurps his soup. I donít like it when he does that," wee Hamish said.

"My Auntie Peggy chews with her mouth open too. It sounds disgusting," Gavin said. Wee Fiona nodded in agreement.

"Su-Su didnít know what to do. She had her hands over her ears to stop the noise and that meant she wasnít eating any bamboo. By the time the sun set behind the tall rocky mountains, Su-Su was starving. Po-Jong fell asleep once it got dark. Finally, Su-Su was able to take her hands away from her ears and eat. She took a bite of bamboo and started eating. ĎHey, would you stop eating so noisily!í Po-Jong called. Su-Su stopped chewing. She wasnít chewing noisily. She wasnít making any noise. Po-Jong is the one who makes all the noise. She took another bite. ĎHey, you over there, panda, I can hear every bite you take and it sounds disgusting. Close your mouth when you eat!í Po-Jong said loudly. Su-Su made a face. She wasnít eating noisily at all! She didnít sound disgusting! How dare he say that to her!" Mungo said.

Wee Fiona and wee Hamish started to laugh. "How silly," wee Fiona giggled.

Andy, Gregor and Gavin were laughing too. "I think it is disgusting to eat like that. What did she do then?" Morag asked.

"Su-Su had no choice but to move to another part of the bamboo forest, even though she was there before Po-Jong was. So she climbed down from the bamboo and waddled away. She came to a small river. It was a muddy river and the water didnít look very good to drink. She could see on the other side of the river that there were huge bamboo forests. Somehow she had to get across. She stepped into the water. Brrrrrr. It was cold. She took another step, and then another and soon was standing in the middle of the rushing water. She noticed that her fur was getting all brown because of the dirty water, but kept moving. At last she got to the other side. She shook herself off and brown water went flying everywhere. Her pretty black and white fur was all dirty but she was happy because she had found a new bamboo forest with no noisy Po-Jong. She climbed into the bamboo and quickly fell asleep. When the sun rose the next morning, Su-Su took a deep breath of fresh mountain air. She pulled a branch of tender green leaves towards her and started eating. She was starving. Sheíd not eaten in two days. She munched and munched and munched on the leaves and bamboo. Finally she had found somewhere peaceful and quiet and most importantly, there was no Po-Jong!" Mungo finished.

"That was a good story, Mr. McGee," Andy said, hugging his panda.

"I want a panda too," said Morag. She stood up and walked over to a pile of stuffed animals. "I wonder if thereís another in this pile," she said and started tossing them around the room. Suddenly she grabbed hold of something warm. MEOW! It was Ginger. Morag screamed. SCREAM! She was afraid.

"Itís only Ginger," Gavin said, mockingly.

"Ginger, what are you doing out here," Mungo said. He stood up and carried her into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

"Ha, ha, ha," laughed Gavin. "You were scared of a cat," he said to Morag.

She ignored him and kept looking through the pile. "There are no more Pandas," she said, annoyed. "Andyís got the only panda."

"Itís not even my panda. It belongs to Mrs. Robertson down the lane. She went to China on a visit and picked it up," Mungo said.

Morag continued to pout, giving Andy dirty looks. He wasnít about to part with the panda. "Come on, bairns. Come into the kitchen. Tonight I have a special surprise for you," he said. They followed him in and sat down at the table. In front of each of them were a napkin, a cup of water, an empty bowl and a set of chopsticks. "Tonight we are all going to learn how to eat Chinese food with chopsticks."

"Are these chopsticks made of bamboo?" asked Gregor.

"Yes. First of all, here is some white rice," Mungo said, carrying a huge bowl of it over and sitting it in the middle of the table. "Each of you take a spoonful and put it in your bowls." They did as he said, making a mess of sticky white rice all over the table and floor. He carried several other bowls over. One had peanuts in it, another had soy sauce, another had peas still in their pods, and another had pieces of chicken that were covered in sweet, red sauce. "Take whatever you want of these other foods and put them in your bowl, on top of the rice." The bairns did as told. Peanuts rolled onto the floor as they spilled from the spoon. Chicken dropped on the table, leaving a sticky red mess.

"I like peas," said Andy. He picked one up and crunched it.

"I like peanuts," said Gavin. He tossed handful into his mouth.

"Bairns, pick up your chopsticks now. Hold them like this in your hands," Mungo said, showing them the right way. He started to eat his rice.

The bairns tried to copy him. Gavin was able to do it. Morag tried hard but dropped the chicken on her blouse and got red sauce all over it. Mungo gave her a washcloth to wipe it off and a napkin to put around her neck. Mungo laughed as he watched the children try to eat. They made a mess everywhere. Very little got into their mouths. He gave each child a spoon to use instead. "Here you go, bairns. Youíre not eating much. Most of its on my floor. Try the spoons." They did much better. They gobbled down all their food and even took seconds.

After theyíd finished, Mungo brought out some fortune cookies. "Crack them open and thereís a bit of paper inside. Read whatís on it."

"I canít read yet," wee Hamish said.

"I canít read either," wee Fiona frowned.

"Iíll read them for you. Break your cookies open and bring the paper to me," Mungo said.

Each bairn read their papers. Moragís said, "You shall be lucky in love today." She winked at Gavin. Mungo chuckled.

DING DONG! The parents had arrived to claim their bairns. After putting their stuffed animals back in the pile, they left. Mungo let them take their chopsticks.

He shut the door after the last bairn had left and went into the kitchen. "What a mess!" He went and let Ginger out of the room. She dashed into the kitchen and ate all the food off the floor. "Good girl," Mungo said, happy that some of the mess was gone. It took him an hour to sweep and mop the floor, wipe the table off, and wash the dishes. When he finished, he went into the living room and picked up a book to read. Ginger found a place to lie among the stuffed animals. At least for tonight she had some other animals for company.

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