A PINT FOR PIPPIN

Today is a very special day. Today is Pippin's fourth birthday. Pippin is turning four today. His mother is preparing a special meal for his birthday dinner, but she stops to give him an early present.

"It's a mug," she says, handing him the dark brown cup. "And it's just your size! Well, maybe a bit big." She laughs and tells him to go off and play.

Pippin heaves his mug up and carries it away. "What can I put in my mug?" he asks himself. "I'll ask Merry. He's my best friend, he'll know the answer."

On his journey, he encounters another of his friends, Sam Gamgee. Sam frowns at his mug. "What's that for?" Sam asks.

"That's just it," says Pippin, "I don't know." He smiles goofily. "Do you know what to put in my mug?"

Sam's face brightens. "I have just the thing!" He pulls a spade from his pants pocket. "Try this."

Pippin takes the spade and puts it into his mug. He frowns. "This spade is too big for my mug." He waves good-bye to Sam and goes on his way.

Next, he encounters his old wizard friend, Gandalf. "Gandalf," he cries, "hello!"

The old wizard steps out of his cart. "Why, hello, young Pippin. Because I am a very wise man, I know it is your fourth birthday!" He laughs a great hearty laugh. "I've just been to the market." He gestures to the many bags in the back of his cart.

Pippin grins. "Then maybe you have something to fit in my mug!"

Gandalf mumbles to himself in deep thought, and grabs something from one of the paper bags. "Will this fit in your mug?"

He hands Pippin a shiny red apple and Pippin drops it in his mug. But the apple is much too small and only fills half of the mug. "No," he says sadly, "this apple is too small for my mug."

"Oh, I am sorry, young Pippin." Gandalf climbs into his cart. "Happy birthday." He drives away.

Tears begin to trickle down Pippin's cheeks as he continues his journey. "Nothing will fit in my mug!" he cries. "It isn't fair."

"What isn't?" says a mysterious voice from the cornfield.

Pippin gasps as a shape tumbles out. It is Merry, Pippin's best friend.

"Why are you crying?" asks Merry.

Pippin reveals his empty mug. "I cannot find anything to fit in my mug," he explains.

Merry holds up his own mug. His is dark green. "I have a mug too!" he says, smiling.

Pippin begins to smile again. "Then you must have something that fits in it!"

"Hold out your mug," says Merry. He pulls out a dark bottle filled with some kind of liquid and Pippin holds out his mug. Merry pours the light liquid into his mug.

"It fits!" Pippin exclaims excitedly, spilling some of the liquid. When he calms down, he asks, "What is it?"

"It's ale!" replies Merry. "Try it. It's good."

Pippin takes a swig of the ale. "It is good!" he exclaims. "Come with me to my birthday party. It's almost time."

Merry and Pippin walk quickly back to Pippin's house.

When they arrive, it is dark outside. Lanterns of blue, red, and yellow have been set out in the field. Two large tables are filled with food, the same food Gandalf had picked up from the market.

Pippin sees his mother and he runs to her. "Mommy, look! I found something that fits in my mug!" he shouts. "Look, ale fits in my mug!"

She hugs him. "Good job, Pippin, I knew you could do it. You're such a smart boy!" She laughs and Pippin begins to laugh, then Merry, then pretty soon the whole crowd is laughing.

Pippin gulps down his ale. "Oh, no!" he cries. "I'm out of ale!"

THE END