“The Man with the Heart in the Highlands,” later to evolve into the full-length play My Heart’s in the Highlands, first appeared in a collection of Saroyan’s short fiction titled Three Times Three, issued in 1936. It is a charming fantasy focusing on an old vagabond actor named Jasper MacGregor and his magical bugle, the use of which results in a minor miracle.
The narrator, Johnny, recalls the story as an experience he had in 1914, when he was six years old. Old MacGregor appears in front of Johnny’s house on San Benito Avenue, presumably in Fresno, playing his bugle. In the exchange that follows, MacGregor insists that his heart is in the highlands of Scotland, where it grieves, though for what remains a mystery. The thirsty bugler begs for water, and Johnny takes him inside to give him some. When MacGregor asks for food, Johnny’s father, a poet, sends Johnny to a local grocer, Mr. Kosak, to get cheese and bread on credit. At first adamant in his refusal, Kosak finally relents and sends Johnny home with the requested items and advice that the boy’s father find work. The trio quickly down the food, but MacGregor remains unsatisfied. He begins searching the house for more to eat.
When Johnny refuses to allow him to stew up a pet gopher snake, MacGregor resorts to using his bugle. His blowing is so loud that people from miles around gather by the house to listen. In exchange for playing music for each of them, MacGregor asks them to go and return with food. All comply, and the family and its guest feast grandly on the food from the newly stocked larder. MacGregor remains with Johnny and his father for more than two...
(The entire section is 683 words.)