My friend Susie was walking with me along the street one day when we saw a new little store called THE COOKIE JAR. As you walked by the door you could smell fresh pastry and chocolate and buns and cakes, and all those good things. In the window there were rows of gingerbread men and big birthday cakes and all sorts of different kinds of cookies. So, as it was almost time for my birthday, and my mother had said, "Why don't we have your birthday at MacDonald's this year?" I said to her "Please, may we have it at THE COOKIE JAR?"

"Well," she said, "I don't know much about that little place, but I suppose we could ask them." And she did, and so we went to the Cookie Jar for my birthday party.

There were ten of us.

I remember best of all my friends Susie and Barbie. We all walked in and saw a beautiful little room with just enough space for our party and through the glass at one end we saw people mixing and baking things. It smelled very good. There were sweet things and goodies spread on little plates around the table.

We found some boxes as well. There were crackers in one, and funny hats in another, and others with balloons and streamers and rattles.

When I opened one box, out jumped a little man about as tall as my hand. He wore a brown suit and had a white shirt with a golden tie, and gold-rimmed glasses perched on his nose.

"Hello, hello, everybody," he said, "I'm Dr. Dewgood and I've come here especially to wish Carol a happy birthday and do good things for you. Now, let's see if I can help blow up these balloons."

"Are you sure you can?" asked Barbie. "After all, the balloons are almost as long as you are, even before you start to blow them up."

"Never fear," said Dr. Dewgood, "I'm very strong. You'll see." So he took a balloon, a long one, and he blew, and he blew, and he blew, and the balloon stretched out over the table, growing longer and longer and longer.

"Stop," I called to him. "It'll burst if you blow any more."

"Just one more blow, please," he said. And he drew his breath in, and in, and in, and then he blew. But something must have gone wrong, for the balloon whizzed across the table with Dr. Dewgood hanging on for dear life, then up, up in the air it went, making a terrible noise and going very fast, then back across the room the other way. It stopped in a corner where there was a real live tree with little oranges on it, and Dr. Dewgood was now sitting on an orange, looking very surprised.

"Help, somebody get me down, please," he said. Johnny went over and brought him back to the table.

"Why don't you let me blow it up this time?" said Johnny.

"Very well then," said Dr. Dewgood. "I'll blow up this round one." And before anyone could stop him, he took another balloon and blew, and blew, and blew, and it got bigger and bigger and bigger.

"Stop," called Barbie, "Why, it'll burst if you blow any more."

"Just one more blow, please," he said. And he drew his breath in, and in, and in, and then he blew. But something must have gone wrong for there was a terrible bang, and pieces of balloon flew one way and Dr. Dewgood flew the other way. And suddenly there he was, with the back of his nice brown suit stuck in the icing at the side of the birthday cake. Jamie pulled him out of the cake and began wiping the cream off the back of his suit. "I don't think you'd better blow up any more balloons," he said.

"I tell you what," said Dr. Dewgood quickly, and before Jamie could catch him he was off again, across the table. "I can throw streamers." He picked one up right away and spun around and around and around and suddenly he let go of the end of the streamer which was nearly as big as he was. Away across the table it went, and the end floated down and dropped straight into Jamie's milk shake.

"That's not very nice," said Jamie, "I've only just finished cleaning off your coat."

"I'm so sorry," said Dr. Dewgood. "I was only trying to help."

"I think the problem is," said Cindy, "that you're not big enough or strong enough to do all these things."

"Of course I am," said Dr. Dewgood. "Look at this." And before anyone could stop him he had picked up the salt shaker which was just as big as he was, but then the end of it tipped over and a whole lot of salt fell into Cindy's milk shake. "There," he said proudly, "you see I AM strong."

"But," said Cindy, "I don't like salt in my drink."

"I'm sorry," said Dr. Dewgood, "but if you didn't want it why have it there on the table?"

"I didn't put it there," said Cindy, "it was there already."

"Somebody must have put it there, though," said Dr. Dewgood.

"Oh, you're impossible!" said Cindy. "Are you what people call a pixie?" she went on.

"No, I am not," said Dr. Dewgood, "I'm at least twice as tall as a pixie."

"Well, you act like one," she said.

"That's the meanest thing anyone has said to me all day," said the Doctor, looking very glum. But he cheered up at once. "I have a very good idea," he said, "why don't we all sing 'Happy Birthday'? I can stand on this box." And he jumped up on the box the balloons were in. "Now, I can conduct," he said. "I like conducting." So Dr. Dewgood waved a toothpick in his right hand, raised his arms "All together now; one, two three." And everyone began singing. But while everyone else sang it properly, Dr. Dewgood sang the music of 'O, Canada' with the words of Happy Birthday. Can you do that? Just try it. Of course it sounded terrible, with his sharp little voice singing one tune and everyone else singing something quite different. Then "Stop, stop," he called. "That's not right. You've got the wrong tune."

"No," Susie said, "It's you who've got the wrong tune. You're singing 'O, Canada'. Can't you tell?"

"Am I really?" he said. "Oh my, I've got the wrong occasion."

"Why don't you do the conducting," I said, "and we'll do the singing."

"Very well then," he said, a little crossly. We had hardly stopped singing, although it wasn't really time yet to be singing happy birthday, but I didn't like to tell him so, when Dr. Dewgood suddenly said:

"How many angels can sit on the head of a pin?"

"Why, as many as want to, of course," said Barbie.

The little doctor sat down on the edge of my plate and shook his head in surprise.

"I have another one for you. I know you can't answer this. I've been pondering over this ever since the Middle Ages. How many stones in a heap?"

"Well," said Susie right away, "If you can see five stones, you say five stones. You call it a heap when you can't see all the stones to count them properly."

"You did it again!" moaned Dr. Dewgood. "How could you! I've spent hundreds of years thinking about that and you've solved it in thirty seconds. How could you. Now I know how they felt about the Gordian Knot." And standing up to his full small height, he raised his right arm. "I predict," he said, that you two will conquer the world."

"But we don't want to conquer the world," said Barbie. "Just you sit down over here and don't get us into any more trouble."

"But I'm only trying to do good," said the doctor.

"I know," said Susie, "but it leaves such a mess for us to clear up when you do all these good deeds. Just enjoy your cake and sit still. That's what my mother always says."

"There's one more thing I would like to help you with, though," said Dr. Dewgood. "May I light the candles on the birthday cake?"

"I don't think you should," said Jamie, "hadn't you better let me do it?"

"Certainly not," said Dr. Dewgood, "I'm quite capable of doing it myself, but I must be going on to my next visit in a moment, and this is the very last thing I'll do for you today."

Before anyone could stop him, he had taken a match and struck it. It lit first time. "There," he said proudly, holding it up, "nothing went wrong at all." He smiled a big smile and walked carefully around the cake, trying to light the candles. He could scarely reach them, and tried very hard not to get any more icing on his clothes. He had only six candles to light, but we all began to be worried that he wouldn't get around in time before the match burnt down, for he was holding it with his whole hand. At last there was only one candle left to light, but there was hardly any match left either. He reached past the edge of the cake, holding out the match end and the candle looked as though it would never light. But suddenly it did, and just at that moment the match burnt right down to Dr. Dewgood's hand. As soon as it touched his hand there was a puff of smoke and he disappeared. "Goodbye," we all heard him begin to say, but almost before he finished saying it, he was gone. He just simply disappeared.

"Poor Dr. Dewgood," said Barbie, "I hope he's all right."

"I'm sure he is," said Jamie, "He said he'd lived for hundreds of years, and that he had somewhere else to go to."

"And, after all," I said, "he was only trying to help. I'm sure he comes to lots of parties at this store."

Now that must be the strangest birthday party I'm ever going to have.

And that's the truth.