Jenny’s Gifts


Suzanne Brown

A fairytale in Glasgow, 2023.

The first one wasn’t made accidentally. No, Jenny meant to crochet a wee toy for the new baby, the wean that was so soft and tender. Babies like shiny things, don’t they? And so Jenny had gone in search of a shiny yarn. But maybe finding the shop had been accidental?

“This shop,” one woman said, when she’d asked in the town. The woman pointed to a small door that belonged to a narrow shop in a small close, a shop so narrow that it was almost lost between its larger neighbors, a confectioner and a weaver. The dull black color made the door invisible from any distance, but Jenny followed the woman’s gesture into the close and found the door, and the shop. She hesitated when she saw no handle to the door, only a knocker, metal but painted the same black as the door and therefore just as difficult to see; but she wanted shiny yarn, she’d been asking in the town all morning for shiny yarn, and this was the only place she had been assured of finding it. She lifted the knocker and brought it down firmly.

The door opened on its own, in response. In contrast to the dull exterior, the inside of the little shop was brightly lit, with shelves and nooks along every wall, with yarn of every color, and some colors she didn’t know the names of, stacked and crammed and wedged into every space.

The small old woman in the wooden rocking chair must be the proprietor, Jenny decided. She had small knitting needles, moving so fast that Jenny thought they were flashing, but when the woman put the knitting into her lap and stilled her hands, Jenny could see that the sparks of light came from the yarn itself. Shiny silver yarn.

“Is it this that you’re after, then?” The woman’s smile was kind. “Shining yarn?”

Jenny had been prepared to pay a bit extra for special yarn, but “No, no,” the woman said as she wrapped the hanks the old fashioned way, inside paper and not in a bag. “Yarn is yarn. Tis the same as any other.” She tied a string neatly around the package and handed it over. “And I’m hoping you’ll be remembering me, when you next have a mind to buy yarn.”

A hank of yarn, unlike a pull-out skein, must be wound. The day was too fine for Jenny to go back home, and so she stopped in the park and sat on a bench. She opened the package, just for the joy of seeing the yarn sparkle in the sunlight.

“I can help hold that.” An old man sat down next to her on the bench. “I did that for ma maw when I was no more than a wean. Would you like for me to hold it so’s you can make the ball?” Jenny was startled and so she was slow to answer. The old man said, reassuringly, “Won’t cost you no more than some conversation for a nice, sunny morning,” and he held out his hands. Jenny undid the twist of yarn and slipped it over his hands and found the end.

“Thank you so much,” she said to him. “It is a help, truly.” She began winding. “My name’s Jenny.”

The man only replied, “Yes, it is, isn’t it. And you can call me Tom. Or maybe Old Tom, now, as some say.”

Wanting to keep her share of the bargain, Jenny tried to think of a topic of conversation, but she couldn’t will a thought to come to mind. Old Tom didn’t seem to mind. He led the way.

“I see you’ve been to Maggie’s shop.” He nodded at the yarn around his hands. “She has the special yarns, don’t she?”

“She had the yarn I wanted, at any rate,” Jenny responded.

“Aye, she always does. Have the yarn you’re wanting, that is.  And what is it you’ll be making, then, with this yarn of Maggie’s?”

“A toy for a wean. I make animals with yarn, and I’m going to make one for a new baby. I thought of making an octopus, but then she’ll outgrow that too soon, so maybe something that’ll hold her interest longer, when she’s older.”

“Maybe a horse?” the man suggested. “Children do like shiny horses.”

The first hank was wound. Jenny didn’t want to ask, but he gestured to the second hank. “And we should get the other done, too, then. So’s it will all be done, and then you can get on with the making. You’ll be making a pair of them, won’t you? Two shiny little horses?  If there are two of them, they can play together when your little one is sleeping.”

“Och, no, it’s not my wean. I’ll be sending these on abroad. A friend I knew in school, she’s just had a baby. This is a gift.”

“And a fine gift, too. Just be sure, before you send them, to give them a good wash. Babies are so tender, you know. You want to wash off anything that’s likely to irritate a baby’s skin.”

The second ball was made, and Old Tom stood to go. “So good talking to you,” he said as he turned away. “Just remember, now, give them a good wash when they’re finished. And come back to Maggie’s shop whenever you’ve a mind to make another toy.”

If Jenny had had her hooks, she would have started right away, but her hooks and patterns were in her flat. She tied the newly wound balls inside their paper and headed home.

She went to her home office and turned on the computer to bring up a map of Glasgow. Where was Maggie’s shop? She couldn’t quite remember, and if she was to go back, she’d need to know. Hmm. She remembered being on Saltmarket, but she was sure she hadn’t turned onto Bridgegate. The maps didn’t show a close there, and she didn’t know how far she’d walked. “I just lost track of time,” she told herself. “I’ll know, next time, to pay attention and not let my mind wander.” That’s if she went back, though. Something about Maggie. . . “Maybe I’ll not have a need to go again, then. Best to avoid that little place. There’s yarn to be had in other parts of Glasgow, to be sure.”

Jenny wasn’t one to let an idea go, and it was the same with the little toys for the baby. Once she had the thought of a thing, she wanted to see it through. Meals didn’t count for much, and sleep not at all, when she had it in mind to do something. Patterns came out, she planned her changes, and she started in. Black eyes didn’t seem right, with the silvery yarn. But there, in the box with her hooks and patterns and findings, were four mother-of-pearl buttons, just right for eyes on a pair of horses. Manes and tales were twists. She used wee glass beads to make firm hooves at the ends of strong, shapely legs.

The sun was just showing over the trees at Glasgow green when Jenny finished the second toy horse. She was about to wrap them again when the old man’s caution came to mind. “Give them a good wash.” She took them to the kitchen and ran a sink of warm water and mild soap. They went into the water together.

She didn’t think they needed to be scrubbed, just soaked and squeezed to take off anything that might irritate Baby’s skin. She wondered for a minute why Old Tom had insisted on that. Likely he’s had children of his own, she thought, or maybe grandchildren, and that’s why he knows to be careful. She took a little horse in each hand and gave a squeeze. They felt strange, all wet like that. Must be the water in the polyfil, Jenny told herself, making it move like that. She took the toys out and pressed them between towels, to get as much water out as she could.

Maybe she’d try to sleep now. She closed the curtains in the bedroom, making it dark enough, but sleep didn’t come. Almost. She was almost asleep, but her dreams of horses stomping pulled her awake again.

“A bit of whisky,” she said aloud. “That should see me off.” She tossed the blankets aside and opened the bedroom door. The little horses were on the floor.

“I must have dropped them there. Maybe I’m more tired than I know, and sleep deprived.” She bent to pick up the toys. They were heavier than she remembered, and larger. “At least you didn’t shrink in the washing. You’ll not be so heavy when you’re dried, either.” She set them on the table and turned to the kitchen, but the door chimed for a package delivery. She buzzed to open the outside door and then opened the door to the flat. A loud thunk made her turn back.

The horses were definitely bigger now, and they were on the floor again. One tossed its head, shaking its mane. The other pawed at the carpet. They both turned to the open door, heads high and nostrils flaring. Before she could react, they pushed past her and clattered down the stairs on their beaded hooves.

Jenny scrambled after them, nearly falling, and was in time to see the horses, now grown to the size of ponies, halt and look around. Their ears twitched. They took a few tentative steps, then lifted their feet. One reared up, then the other, pawing the air. And they were off, across Glasgow Green. Jenny tried to keep up, running faster than was good for her, but she lost sight of them. She kept running until she was in sight of the Clyde. She stopped, looking around.

“They your dogs?” a boy asked. “Grey ones? You’ll not get they dogs back. They jumped in the river, so they did.” And Jenny could see, bobbing up out of the river, two large shiny silver horses, before they dropped under the water again. The boy was right. Dogs or horses or whatever they were, she’d not be getting them back.

She bought some ordinary yarn, more grey than silver and not at all sparkly, and made a pair of horses. There were no more mother-of-pearl buttons, so it would be the dark eyes after all, and plain yarn for the hooves and manes and tails.

Should I give these a wash, Jenny asked herself. She was cautious, putting them into the water, but nothing moved in her hands. She pressed them between towels, then set them to dry. When she returned, they were the same size, and in the same place where she’d put them. These little horses would do, as gifts. She wrapped the leftover scraps of the sparkly yarn in their paper and tucked the package into a corner of a drawer in her dresser. Out of sight, because, well, you know.

“Oh” and “Ah” and “Ooh!” Before posting the tiny toys, Jenny showed them to her co-workers, and their enthusiasm warmed her. “Will you. . .?” and “Would you mind. . .?” and “Could I ask you. . .?”

“So now I’m in the way of making toys,” she told Alex when she arrived home. But he was on his way to bed before his night shift, and his response was only “Hmm” and a nod. After work the next morning, Jenny headed back to her home office and brought up some research archives. The first search term she put in was “kelpie” but she only got pictures of the statues near Falkirk and the smaller ones at Edinburgh.

“That’s no help, then,” she said, and went back to her own work.

It was two more days before Jenny found the time to go for more yarn. “I’ll not be going to that little shop of Maggie’s,” she told herself as she set out. But no matter which direction she set out to walk, she kept finding herself heading back to the little close where the odd yarn shop had been.

“Aye, well, I’ll just look in, then,” she said. “But I’ll no be buying shiny silver yarn again.”

A good rap with the knocker opened the door, and there, still in the rocking chair, sat Maggie. She was knitting with a different yarn this time, smooth, shiny but not sparkly, with the changing iridescent colors of pearls.

“This is what you’re wanting, this day,” Maggie said amiably. “And you’ll be needing a good bit of it, too.” She set her knitting down and stood. “So, the kelpies got away from you, did they? Well, you’ve no seen the last of them. You still have a bit of the yarn left, then. They’ll know that they belong to you, and you to them.” She turned to a shelf and began choosing yarn.

Now how did that happen? Jenny was out on the walk before she realized it, with no memory of having bought yarn, nor of having paid for it. But here she was, with a paper package tied with string, squishy in the way yarn is. She was back at the park bench before she had time to think of it.

“And what have you here?” She looked up to see Old Tom.

“I’m not sure,” Jenny said. She pulled on the string and the paper fell away, showing hanks of iridescence.

The man eased himself onto the bench next to her. “Ah, that’s the unicorn yarn, that is,” he told her. He held out his hands. “There’s a bit of it, to be sure, so we’d best be getting to it.”

It was afternoon by the time the yarn was all wound. It hadn’t seemed to take that long, but then the man had talked in a soft droning voice, almost like a lullaby, recounting old tales of unicorns, and Jenny’s mind drifted. “And there’s always them that thinks they know the secret to catching a unicorn.” He seemed amused by the idea and his eyes sparkled. “Truth to tell, someone does something, and a unicorn comes, so then they say, ‘That thing I did, that must be the one sure way to catch a unicorn.’ And then comes someone else, who does another thing, and a unicorn comes to them, too. ‘No, this one thing is the true way.’ And before long, you have people all sure they know the only way to bring a unicorn.” He paused a moment, chuckling. “And you know what?” He leaned in, sharing a confidence. “They’re all wrong. The unicorns came, but not because of what they did. You can’t will a unicorn to come. They will or they won’t, but it has nothing to do with mortals. They either will—or they won’t.”

Jenny tucked the end of the last ball of yarn and added it to the pile, to wrap again. The old man stood up and leaned down to whisper, “You’ll not want to be washing these. Water isnae natural for the unicorns as it is for the kelpies.” He turned and began to walk away.

Jenny was confused. “So what do I. . . ?”

“Violets,” he said, without turning back. “Unicorns can’t resist them. Feed them violets.”

Just to be sure, Jenny bought some ordinary yarn on her way back to her flat, creamy, and a chalky white for horn and hooves. Just in case.

What with work and sleep and her research, it was nearly a week before Jenny could settle down to crochet.

“I’ll just do the plain yarn first,” she said to Alex. She hadn’t mentioned the kelpies, though, so he only made a listening noise, and then he said, “I’ll order a pizza for us, before we have to go to work. Pepperoni?”

A raised eyebrow from Jenny changed his mind. “I don’t think they’ll send carbonara, but maybe bacon and mushrooms on your side instead, and I’ll have the pepperoni.”

Jenny only slept five hours, not nearly enough to get through the night’s work schedule, but she was in the RSH office, yarn in her lap. Not the plain yarn but the special yarn. “Unicorn yarn,” Old Tom had said. She was able to get both heads, with their horns and ears, finished before it was time for work.

The walk home in the morning was brisk. A bit of a drink, a tiny bit of breakfast (could she call it breakfast if it was just before bedtime?), and she looked at the yarn.

The urge was too strong. Jenny picked up her phone and called the florist to deliver violets. She wanted them on hand, as soon as the little creatures were finished. You know, just in case. Of course, she didn’t believe it. The kelpies were probably a dream, the result of too little sleep and too much work. Waking dreams, maybe, from sleep deprivations. But still. . . “Yes,” she said into the phone. “Violets. No, no need to arrange them, just a bunch will be fine. Two bunches,” she corrected. “I want two bunches of fresh violets.”

While she waited, she added the manes. Somehow, the yarn arranged itself so the colors were varied all down the twists that made the long hair of the little mythical creatures. She pulled the last twist into place and—Hey, did this one blink? Did that one toss its mane?

Still too short on sleep, she thought, and went on to finish the bodies. Just in time, the florist delivery was at the door in the close. She brought the flowers in. To pretend, even to herself, that the violets were just a whim to have fresh flowers today, she buried her face in the purple flowers and took a breath. They could always be a fresh purple splash in the flat, so they weren’t wasted. She headed to the kitchen to get water, to keep them fresh. But, feeling a bit shy, she brushed them past the toy unicorns on her way. You know, just in case.

The first one caught a flower in its mouth and pulled it away. Jenny was watching the violet disappear into the unicorn and didn’t notice the other toy until it put its muzzle into the flowers. “Well, aren’t you the dainty one?” she said aloud. The second unicorn only nibbled, politely. But the flowers were starting to work. Jenny was sure the toys were bigger than they had been. A few more violets, and they were definitely the size of Alsatians. The last of the violets, along with their leaves, disappeared, and Jenny was looking at warm creatures, with eyes that looked back at her.

“You can’t be so much trouble,” she told them, “wee as you are.” She reached out to stroke one. With the touch, the unicorn drew back, and she was sure it grew a bit larger, too.

“Well, then, I’ll no touch you if you don’t like. But what do you eat? The violets are gone, and I don’t know that I can keep ordering more all day.”

Both little unicorns were on the floor now. Unicorns are curious creatures, and these began exploring the flat.

“Oh, no, not that room!” Jenny warned when one pressed its nose against a door. “Alex is sleeping, and he’ll no fancy being wakened so soon.” Because of course she was worried about Alex not being disturbed; it had nothing at all to do with keeping the little glossy unicorns to herself, at least for now. He can see them when he wakes, she thought. There’s time yet.

There may have been time for Alex, but the unicorns could no longer be said to be “little.” One pushed its nose into the kitchen door. The other took a sofa cushion in its mouth and pulled it to the floor.

“Here, now,” Jenny chided. She opened the door to the kitchen and both followed her in, sniffing the air and nosing into corners.

“I suppose a bit of water wouldn’t go amiss?” she asked. She ran water into a bowl and set it on the floor. One drank a bit. The other stepped into the bowl, sending water everywhere and breaking the glass between floor and hoof.

“Well, you’re no house pets, are you?” She took a towel, to clean the mess, but the unicorns were back into the living room, tracking water. Obviously, they were now far too large for her flat, and growing still.

But where could unicorns go? Kelpies could disappear into the River Clyde, but what about woodland creatures?

“You’ll have tae find your own way,” she told them, opening the door. They followed her down the stairs, stepping delicately. When she opened the door to the close, they pranced daintily across to the Green, their coats shimmering in the fading light. And then they disappeared among the trees.

Alex was in the kitchen when she went back upstairs, looking at the water and broken glass.

“Wee accident,” Jenny said. “I’ll take care of it. You need to go on to work.” She was reluctant to share the story of the unicorns, you know, just in case he didn’t believe her.

Two days later, Jenny carried the package as she rode the train to work, the package with two creamy toy unicorns with white horns. She was embarrassed and uncomfortable with the fuss her co-workers made, admiring the details, the spirals of the horns, the points of the hooves, the varied colors of the manes. She wanted to say, “Ach, you should hae seen the real ones,” just to be honest, but the words didn’t come out.

Now Jenny was determined. “Kelpies” hadn’t yielded anything helpful, nor, she supposed, would “unicorns.” On a whim, she searched “yarn shops in Glasgow.”

Yarn Cake has moved, she saw, from Queen Margaret Drive to Crow Road. “No wonder I didn’t find it, then, if it’s moved itself.” Wool Haven was still on Langside Place. “I haven’t been near either of those.” Nor had she been to Huntershill, to Alice’s Wool Shop.

“All right, now I have to find Maggie’s shop, just to know where to avoid.” But nothing came up in the search, and Jenny had research to do in the old newspaper archives.

As soon as the newspaper archives were up on the screen, before starting her planned research, Jenny typed in “yarn” and “Maggie” and, as an afterthought, “shop.” Only a tiny article came up in one newspaper in 1838, and it didn’t say anything special, only about a woman keeping a shop with her servant Tom. Nothing about yarn, and Tom’s age wasn’t defined. She closed the window and went on with her day’s work.

The next three people to ask for toys requested teddy bears. Jenny wasn’t sure how that would be, since teddies weren’t among Scotland’s fabled creatures. She set out for yarn, and found it easy enough to buy ordinary yarn in an ordinary shop. It must have been dreams, she told herself. I’ve done too much work researching our fabulous tales, and I’ve just had some very realistic dreams. That does happen, you know, and especially when I don’t sleep as I should.

Just to be sure, Jenny bought some variegated purple yarn. It made a wee little teddy for her to send off on a special adventure across the ocean. I’ll hear back, she thought, should this one do something out of the ordinary, but all she heard was an enthusiastic thanks, and a picture of the little bear, still wee and not doing anything it shouldn’t.

“I’ll be putting a jar here,” Jenny announced at work. “When you get your toys, I won’t charge for them, but I’d be grateful if you’d put a little into the jar, whatever you think the toy is worth, and I’ll be giving the money to the mental health society.” That should be all right, she thought. It wasn’t as though she was asking for anything for herself.

The three teddies found their homes and the jar had its first donations. All was well.

I suppose it couldn’t last, the magic, Jenny thought. It must have been dreams.  She would have liked to have those dreams again, to be honest, but then daily life and work took her attention and she let go of the thought – mostly.

The next one was Paul’s fault, entirely.

The middle-aged man at work, the one who only occasionally worked the same shift as Jenny, approached her shyly. “I was wondering,” he began timidly, blushing. He tried again. “It’s for my daughter, see. She’s having her first baby soon, and, well. . .”

“You’d like a wee thing for her?” Jenny prodded.

“If it’s not too much trouble.” He blushed even more.

“I can try, surely. What is it you’re wanting?”

“Oh, I can’t say, rightly. Only she’d like something to remind her of Scotland. So the wean will know where she came from. Maybe something from the sea?”

“Does she live near the ocean? Maybe a starfish or a crab?”

“Oh, no. She’s gone to America, my daughter has, and it’s so big, there’s people who live for generations without ever seeing the sea, and she does miss it so. Just a little thing, to remind her. Something to do with the sea. And only if it isn’t too much trouble.”

Jenny went home in the early morning hours, and, before thinking of her bed and rest, she opened her email.

Paul’s message was only, “See if this is all right.” She pressed Play, and Paul’s fiddle sounded. Jenny hummed along. “I am a man upon the land, And I’m a selkie on the sea.”

“Just wonderful!” she wrote back. “I’ll post it on the RSH website after I’ve had a kip.”

All the next evening, on the train to work, in the taxi coming home, the old tune stayed with her. “My hame is Sule Skerry.” And at random times a phrase would enter her dreams. “Here am I, thy bairn’s father, although I be not comely.”

The next week, it was no surprise to her that she was on the park bench unwrapping sable yarn, not wet but yet with a wet look about it, for the old man to see.

“So, it’s a selkie this time, is it?” Old Tom smiled. “If you don’t mind, I’ll not be singing about it, though. My voice was never good enough for that. You’ve been listening to the Corries, then?”

“No,” Jenny said. “I have a friend who’s a fiddler, and he got this into my head.”

“Well, however it got into your head, we’ll get it into the yarn, sure.” And he held out his hands. “And take thee out thy nurse’s fee,” he quoted.

This time it was deliberate, when she hid the toy from Alex. “I’ll show him when it’s finished,” she promised herself. “Then he can see the thing all done up.”

“That’s nice,” Alex said, when it was done and sitting on the table, and he left for the pub. Friends were waiting, you know.

In the gathering gloom of a Glasgow night, Jenny walked the few minutes across the Green to the river. This toy was bigger than the others, the size of a three month baby, and so she had been afraid to put it into a sink full of water in her own kitchen. “No telling how big you’d be,” she told the stuffie in her arms, “by the time I could get you down to the river. You’ll have to have your first soaking in the river water, and do your growing there.”

She sat where she could see the river, Glasgow’s lights reflecting on the water, and stroked the toy. She was reluctant to let go. “And will I never see you again, then?” she asked, smoothing the seal’s whiskers. She was sure the toy made a tiny bark, deep in its throat. “Aye, well, and I suppose you’re eager to be gone, then.”

She set it on the grass. It twitched but didn’t move away.

“Well, and you’ve not been wetted yet, so maybe you need the water to get your spirit.” She felt sad, picking it up again, and when it pulsed gently in her arms she almost turned back to the flat. But no, that wouldn’t be fair, to keep a sea creature away from its home. She walked to the river and tossed it gently into the water.

“Will you be going all the way to Sule Skerry, then?” she called after it, “or on to another skerry?” but it only splashed and twisted, looking back at her with enormous wet eyes, and then it arched into the water and was gone.

When she made the gift seal, she tucked a tiny figure of a person inside. Likely it would never be found, but it made her think of the changing selkie that was now in the sea. And for good measure, she made a crab to send along with it. The last of the sable yarn went into the package in her dresser drawer; she didn’t know why, but it seemed the right thing.

Now Jenny was determined. She was through blaming her lack of sleep and her imagination. The toys had been real. “Unless I’m quite mad,” she said. “But I’m sure I’m not mad, at least not in that way.” She opened the old newspaper archives and didn’t stop all day and through the night. It was just at dawn that she found the first notice.

It was only a brief mention, in the list of suspected witches. The year was 1678. She read down, nearly twenty names, and there it was: Maggye xxx. The last name was a dark blob of ink, but it was followed by, “who keeps a shope in Glasgow.” Was that enough to go on? She read on down, beneath the list, “. . . Maggye and her serving man Old Thom, for strange creaturs about in the nighte.”

She turned pages, one at a time, and a week later she found this notice:

“Still at large, one Maggye of the shope in the close, and her man Thom. Reports from a neighbour say she flewe awaye in the night but the old man refused to swear to it. A pair of boys about in the night say they went into the dun in the greenway, which bespeaks more to being of the fairie folk than of the Devil.” It went on to say that of course that was ignorant superstition, the boys being from the western isles, where such tales were taken seriously, whereas the enlightened citizens of Glasgow knew the only magic could come from the Evil One.

“If there’s evil in them,” Jenny said, “I’ve yet to see it.” She meant to look over the land in the Green, next time she was there, to see if she could spot a fairy mound, but somehow, whenever she was there, the thought didn’t come to her mind.

“You’ll send them both, this time,” Old Tom said as Jenny wound the green yarn into a ball. “Inverness is on the River Ness, and she’ll find her way down the river from there.”

Jenny didn’t remember telling him that the gift was to go to a child in Inverness, but then her mind was a bit hazy and maybe her memory was, too. The day was warm, she hadn’t been able to sleep yet after last night’s shift, and she’d not had a proper breakfast, only coffee. She didn’t remember not telling him, either, so it was possible.

One of the techs at work, not someone sitting next to her but someone she seldom saw, had asked for “Nessie” because his niece lived in Inverness but had never yet seen the plesiosaur. “She’s been teased something awful at school,” the young man said. “You know how the lads are. One swore he’d seen Nessie over the holiday, and then all the rest had to say they had, too, and little Nan was the only one who hadn’t. Not the only one who hadn’t seen Nessie, mind, just the only one not to claim to have seen her. So, I’d like to send her a Nessie of her very own.”

Jenny no longer tried to avoid Maggie’s little shop. She didn’t need to try to seek it out; she naturally took herself in the right direction now, when she was looking for yarn for a special toy. Maggie, as always, was in her rocking chair with the right yarn already working on her needles, and Jenny’s purchases were conducted smoothly, and then she naturally went to the park bench.

She had her own question today, as she wound the yarn. “I’ve never seen anyone else in Maggie’s shop. Does she not have much trade?” She put the first ball aside and took out another hank to be wound. Old Tom slid his hands into place.

“Her shop isn’t for everyone,” he said. “It’s not many people who can find it, you know.”

“But I didn’t find it, either. Someone had to point it out to me.”

“But you could see the door, no? And it opened to your knock?”

Jenny agreed that, yes, that was true. “But why, then?”

“It’s you. It’s because your heart is pure. Even if someone could find the shop, and mind, that isn’t likely, they’d only have ordinary yarn after all. It’s only the pure heart that can do what you do with the yarn. Maggie will know, I know, and most importantly, the yarn knows. Those toys you make, they take a bit of your pure heart with them. They’ll always have that connection to you.”

The yarn was all wound. Jenny was sorry; she was wanting to know more, but the man stood and turned away. “Send them both, mind,” he said again, walking away.

It was more than a month later when the tech stopped by Jenny’s work station. “I wanted to thank you,” he said, “for making two of the Nessies. Nan took them on a school outing to the river, and one of the boys, the one that gave her such a hard time? Remember him? Well, he tossed them both into the water. I guess the bigger one was just too heavy,” and he sighed. “It sank right away. It’s good that the teacher was able to grab the little one before it drifted away. I wish she’d been able to catch the other one, too, but it disappeared so fast. . .” And he waved his hand, to show how quickly Nessie had gone under the water. “She promised she had them hidden in her backpack. I don’t know how he got them out, or how he even knew they were there, but now one is gone. You know, the surprising thing is, Nan wasn’t all that upset. She said Nessie would find her way to her own loch from there.” He shook his head. “Well, you know how fanciful kids can be.”

Not just kids, Jenny thought, but she only said, “Aye, well, it just seemed the right thing to do, to send them both.” She still had some green yarn, in that packet in her drawer, but it didn’t seem the thing to do, to offer to make another one.

Was it her own idea? Did Alex think of it first? However it came about, Jenny and Alex had tickets for a day trip on the River Clyde, on the Waverley, the last steam powered paddleboat in operation in the world. The line for boarding was long, but the day was fine and the atmosphere was cheerful. They took their places and, in good time, were aboard the boat.

“We have a school group boarding now,” the captain announced over the speaker. “Give them a round of applause.” Everyone clapped and cheered. The teachers waved back but the children seemed shy as they came on the deck.

“I need for everyone to move to the starboard side,” the captain announced again. “It will help with moving the boarding ramps back to the dock.” It was a bit crowded, with everyone trying to get to one side, and Jenny found she was at the front, at the railing overlooking the water. The paddles started up and there was a splash. She looked down. She was almost sure. . . Her heart caught and then thumped. Yes, there it was, looking at her from below the water, mane flowing and ears twitching.

“I saw a kelpie!” one of the schoolgirls squealed. “There! I saw it under the water!”

“Hush, Ellie,” an adult said. “You’re always imagining things.” Several children rushed to the railing but the adults called them back.

“No you didn’t,” another girl said. “There’s nothing there. I looked.”

“I did, too!” Ellie insisted.

“You probably saw a fish.” A boy tried to console her. “There might be some large salmon in the water here.”

“I saw it, too,” Jenny whispered, but no one heard her. She caught Ellie’s eye and smiled, wanting to be reassuring, but people were moving around and Ellie was lost in the crowd of adults.

It was an all-day trip along the Clyde, and Jenny was caught up in the sights along the way. Twice she remembered to look into the water, but all she saw were waves from the paddle. They passed a smaller boat, which sounded its whistle. In response, the Waverly’s pilot pulled their own deep-throated whistle back. Everyone’s attention was on the passing boat, and Jenny supposed she was the only one to look to the other side, where a silver muzzle rose up. The kelpie shook its head and slid soundlessly back under the water.

Jenny hoped Ellie had seen it, too.

Nights were warm, and Jenny walked past Glasgow Green heading for work. Once she thought she’d seen a shimmer of iridescence in the shadows of the trees, and once she was sure of it, but no pearly nose nudged her, and no white horn came to her hand. “Violets,” she said. “I need to bring violets.” But somehow no florist had them in their shop that week. Requests for her toys at work were mostly for teddy bears, now, with the occasional stegosaurus, and one for a purple axolotl, but none of those were from Scotland’s lore, and ordinary yarn would do for them.

“Will I never have need to go to Maggie’s shop again?” But without a special plan for a wondrous creature, she wasn’t finding her way back to the close, no matter how often she walked along Saltmarket, or how thoroughly she scanned the shop fronts and byways that might lead to the close.

“I expect,” she said finally, “that when I’ve the need, the shop will be there.” It was a warm thought, that Maggie and Old Tom would be waiting.

But sometimes, of a summer day, Jenny would take out the packet of leftover yarns and, “You know, just to keep my hand in, so I’ll be ready for next time,” make a dragonfly of the scraps. Each one was different, because she used whatever yarn came to hand, and, dragonflies being little creatures that danced over water, she’d make a small pool of water on the kitchen counter for them, to get their start. They didn’t grow, the way the other toys had; they shrank down to the size of insects, as was proper. She’d take each newly finished one, once it had its ‘spark’, outside on her hand and walk as close to Glasgow Green as she could, until it took flight.

And if they were far more dragon with very little fly about them, well, who would notice, them being so small and all?

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