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Leprechaun

by Bob Wright


    I was pleased with the world and myself as I walked contentedly home from the pub. I had learned the words to several Irish songs and was eager to join in the singing. I had drunk the health of several friends and even had a glass or two for my own health’s sake, but I was perfectly sober as I walked up the path toward the top of the small hill. The night was still young, no more than half past eleven, but there wasn’t a light showing from any of the houses along the way. The path curved up the hill, under a large tree, and then down a gentle slope to my house. When I reached the top of the hill I glanced up, admiring the shape and size of the tree. It was October and most of the leaves had already dropped to the ground. The moon was full and gave enough light for me to make out a dark object about six feet up, on a limb. It was an indistinct shape with the rising moon behind it, sort of like a very large egg with a small lump on top. I wasn’t scared, too much. I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, ‘that’s the largest bird I have ever seen’. Then, a projection extended from the upper part of the shape toward the tree trunk and appeared to fasten itself there. I stared in amazement as first one, then two, more appendages extended downward, becoming feet, and the lump on top turned into a head with a funny-shaped hat.
   
I laughed rather feebly.
    “Hey!” I said out loud, “You’re only a kid, what are you doing out so late at night?”
    I hadn’t really been scared, but I was relieved to see that it was only a small child and not the biggest bird in creation, or something else.
   
The shape didn’t answer me, it just sat there. I knew it was looking at me and I could feel my relief beginning to disappear.
    “Hey!” I said again, “Can’t you talk?”
   
The only reply I got was a bit of movement. The second arm, which had been invisible in the shadow, moved slowly to the head. There was a brief glare of yellow light and then puffs of smoke started rising toward the tree top. I started to tell the kid he was too young to smoke a pipe, but suddenly it dawned on me what I had just seen. If this was a kid, he was a strange one. During the flash of light while the pipe was being lit, I could see him from the neck up. Yes, it was a him. He had some kind of a muffler wrapped around his neck, although the weather was mild for October, and on his head was a weird little hat. It was sort of pointed at the top and the brim was turned down all the way around. But the face! The face was what startled me, that is, what I could see of it in the dim moonlight, behind a huge pipe which was emitting clouds of odiferous smoke. His beard was gray and reached down to the top of his muffler and there were more wrinkles on his face than on a dozen prunes.
   
Now I did laugh. It’s October, I thought, Hallowe’en!
    “Well, my little friend,” I said to him, “that’s a wonderful costume, for a moment there I thought you were a leprechaun.”
   
The figure answered at last. He said, “We prefer to be known as ‘the little people’.” His voice was rather husky, probably from smoking that foul tobacco, but, in all, sounded just a trifle too mature for a young person. I didn’t know what to respond so I said nothing.
   
He sat, puffing on his pipe, and just looked at me. Finally, he said, “Well, aren’t you even going to try?”
   
I was a little confused. “Try what?” I asked.   
   
“Why, try to catch me and get three wishes.” He continued, “Of course, you can have the pot of gold if you prefer, but I think that’s so old-fashioned.”
   
Even though I had lifted a few glasses while I had been at the pub, I still had my wits about me. I said, “Speaking of old-fashioned, aren’t you a bit old to be dressing up for Hallowe’en and sitting in trees playing tricks on people?”
   
“Tricks, is it?” he said in a voice not quite as friendly as it had been. He seemed to fly from the tree limb to the ground about three feet in front of me. He pushed his hat to the back of his head so he could look up, and said, “Tricks, I’ll show you tricks!”
    He raised his hand over his pipe, which had gone out, and snapped his fingers. A small, yellow flame appeared between his finger and thumb, which he lowered to his pipe, puffing fiercely until once again his head was nearly hidden by smoke.
    “What do you think of that?” he asked.
   
I smiled down at him. My belt is exactly forty inches from the ground and the top of his hat didn’t reach my belt by a good eight inches. I told him that was a pretty good trick, but when I was a child I remember seeing a stage magician light up an electric light bulb by holding it in his hand.
   
He hopped up and down, twice, and almost lost his hat.   
   
“Stage magician!” he cried, “You compare me to a stage magician?”
   
“Not exactly,” I answered, “he was about six feet tall, wore a tuxedo and top hat and didn’t have a beard.”
   
The little figure drew himself up as tall as he could, probably standing on his toes because he grew about three inches, and said in a quiet, but not quite threatening voice, “Watch this, you, you, BIG people!”
    With that, he took a step backward, bounced on his toes once, and then bounced up to the tree limb where he sat and smiled at me.
    “Did you ever see a stage magician do that?” he asked.
   
“No,” I had to admit. “But I have seen circus acrobats perform similar stunts.”
   
Now he roared, “Stunts!” He hopped down from his perch and stood facing me nose to kneecap. He glared up at me, whiskers quivering and blowing smoke like an old steam locomotive.
    “Watch this!” he commanded. Then, before my very eyes he began to draw himself in and sat on the ground. He did something with his arms and legs, so fast I couldn’t follow the movements, and there he sat tied into a knot.
   
I was beginning to think. I knew that I hadn’t had enough to drink to be seeing things or dreaming. Quick as a flash it came to me, I had better watch my step in case this little man really was a leprechaun. Now, I’m a Yank, and I don’t believe in those old tales about leprechauns or little people, but maybe I should be careful.
   
I clapped my hands politely and said, “You did that faster then I’ve ever seen it done before.”
    He was tied so tight he could only squeak at me, “Before? What do you mean BEFORE?”
   
I was bending over him, examining him from all angles, with my hands clasped tightly behind my back.
    “I watched a contortionist in a side show do something like that,” I mused, “but it should be easier for you. He had six feet of himself to tie up while you have a much shorter distance between head and toes.”
   
He hissed and sputtered like a fuse on a firecracker while he untied himself and rose to his feet in as dignified a manner as he could manage.
    “Enough of this,” he almost bellowed, “let’s get down to business.”
   
I put a questioning expression on my face, shrugged my shoulders apologetically, and asked, “What business? I’ve just moved here from the United States and I don’t know of any business between us.”
   
Now, in a calmer tone of voice, as if explaining to a very young child, or a half-witted Yank, he told me, “If you can catch me, I have to tell you where the pot of gold is.”
   
“Wait a minute,” I said, “awhile ago you said three wishes!”
   
Now he sounded exasperated.
    “Three wishes, pot of gold, what’s the difference? If you can catch me you can have either one.”
   
I let my hands fall to my sides and gazed at the sky, trying to look like I was thinking seriously.
    “No,” I shook my head and replaced my hands behind my back. “I don’t think I want to catch you.”
   
He nearly exploded. I won’t swear to it, but I think I saw little, tiny, lightening flashes in his beard. He was hopping up and down, again. His hat finally parted company with his head and he jumped on it twice before he noticed. He finally calmed down but he was muttering between clenched teeth. Now that he wasn’t bouncing I could understand what he was saying.
    “A Yank! Why a Yank? Why couldn’t he have been a German? Germans will believe anything. Now, let’s get this straight between you and me”, (he was starting to sound like a school teacher), “we both have to play by the rules. Every hundred years, I have to show myself to a human and give him a chance to catch me. The prize used to be a pot of gold but we’ve modernized a bit, you know, trying to stay in tune with the times, and added the three wishes. If you catch me, you win. Now do you understand?”
   
“Yes,” I told him, “I understand what you are saying, but I still don’t want to catch you.”
   
“Young fellow,” he replied in his teacherish tone, “I have been doing this every hundred years, when the moon is right, and everybody has always played according to the rules, until now.”
   
“But, you see,” I said, “I’m a Yank and I don’t know all of your rules.”
   
He obviously had a very short temper because he kept flaring up.
    “I don’t care a bloody toot on your tin whistle if you’re a bloody Yank. I’ve explained the rules, now let’s get on with it!”
   
I slowly removed my jacket and watched the sneaky gleam fade from his eyes as I laid it on the ground and sat on it.
    “Why don’t you take a load off your feet while we discuss this?” I said. I could see him swelling up, getting ready to explode, so I hastily added, “I just want to be sure I understand everything, and I have a couple of questions for you.”
   
The little man glared at me and said, rather ungraciously, “I see that I will have to educate you if I want any sleep this night.”
    He plumped himself down on the ground, a bit nearer than before. He relit his pipe with a snap of his fingers, and asked, “Now, tell me, which word was it you didn’t understand.”
   
I laughed. I do enjoy a bit of humour even if it is sarcastic and directed at myself. But, I keep it in the back of my mind, ready to be recalled when needed.
   
I was still trying to be pleasant to the old chap.
    “Now, this is more like!” I said. I reached for my back pocket, rather suddenly, and he jumped to his feet.
    “Hey! Yank,” he cried, “it won’t do you any good to shoot me!”   
   
I laughed, “Shoot you?” I said, “I have just the opposite in mind.”
    With that remark, I slowly brought my hand around where he could see it. The sparkle returned to his eyes and he resumed his seat, a tiny fraction closer than he had been. I held the half-bottle of Patrick’s Irish Whisky so he could read the label. I explained apologetically, “I wasn’t expecting company so I only got a half-bottle to see me home. But,” I continued eagerly, “if we finish this one I have several of its big brothers at home.”
   
He seemed to settle himself more comfortably, leaning back slightly as if sitting in a stuffed chair. I stretched to look over his shoulder, but I couldn’t see what he was leaning against.
   
When he spoke I noticed a distinct mellowing in both his tone and words. He said, “You know, Yank, I’ve met a few Yanks in my time and found every one of them a little strange, but sociable for all of that. I would be most pleased to join you in a drop, just to ward off the chill, mind.”
    I cracked the seal and carefully placed the bottle on a bare spot exactly halfway between us. He didn’t hesitate. Even though it meant putting his hand within easy reach of my own, he picked up the bottle, and with a faraway look in his eyes, raised it high, and said something I couldn’t understand.
    “Sorry,” he said, “that was the old tongue. I said, here’s good health and a long life to you.”
   
I watched in fascination as he ‘took a drop’. When he finished, he set the bottle down in the exact same place, watching me all the time. I sat quietly, my hands in my lap, until he straightened up.
    “I thank you for the health. Coming from you that might mean more to me than a wish.”
    I could see a questioning look creep into his eyes as he tried to figure out what I meant. I smiled as I picked up the bottle and recited the only Irish toast I knew.
    “May you be in Heaven for an hour before the Devil even knows you’re dead.”
   
He slapped his knee and howled. He couldn’t stop laughing.   
    “I remember the first time I heard that one,” he reminisced, “I did a bit of traveling in my youth and I was visiting some Druids, sort of distant relations, you know. I liked it then and I still like it now.”
    He chuckled, “I was making a social visit, not a business engagement, like now. One of the children, I forget his name but he couldn’t have been over a hundred years old, didn’t know the rules and made a grab for me.”
    He looked me square in the eye, and continued, “Maybe he thought I was getting old and slow, but quick as a wink, I jumped into a rabbit track through a bramble bush and he dove in right behind me.” He looked around, “It reminds me of that bramble there, right behind me.”
   
I looked more closely at the bramble. It was thick and some of thorns glistened in the moonlight. Directly behind the old man I could see the shadowy opening, just about rabbit size.
   
The old fellow was still talking.    
    “When I went on my way, several hours later, he was still trying to get out of those thorns.”
    He picked up the bottle for another ‘drop’, but paused long enough to say, “Here’s mud in your eye, that’s a Yank toast, isn’t it?”
   
I watched contentedly as he nearly drained the bottle. Maybe he would fall into my trap instead of me falling into his. He didn’t know that my first colonial ancestor was a County Down man who had been conscripted into George’s Army to put down the ‘Yankee Doodles.” Great-Grandpa Joseph, many times removed, tricked the Red Coats and joined the colonials. After the war was over, he got a piece of land in what would later become the State of Tennessee, and settled down to raise a family. Old Joseph’s tales about the ‘Auld Sod’ had been passed down in my family for generations. My grandmother used to tell me bed-time stories about Vikings and heroes, leprechauns, pookas and banshees.
   
She had warned me about leprechauns.
    “They are cruel little things, in a manner of speaking,” she said, “and if one ever grants you a wish, be very careful what you wish for, and how you put it to him. They will give you exactly what you wish for, but it might not be just the way you meant it. There’s the tale your ancestor brought from Ireland about the man who wished he could live for 400 years. There was a flash of lightening and when the smoke cleared, he’d been turned into a oak tree. Four hundred years later, to the day, he was chopped down and made into a pub. And that pub is still standing today.” She told me many more tales of greedy or envious people who made wishes.
    “The wishes did come true,” she said, “but in a way that brought grief and sorrow with them.”
   
I would have to figure out all of the many ways a wish could be fulfilled and put in the necessary restrictions, before I opened my mouth. I knew I could take all the time I needed, because now that he had shown himself to me, he couldn’t leave me before I made an attempt to catch him. When I was certain I could catch him, I would. He would still have to stay with me until I made the three wishes and he had granted them. Perhaps the rules he was required to follow could be turned to my advantage.
   
I noticed my companion was leaning back a little more comfortably in his invisible chair and humming quietly to himself. I decided it was time for me to get started. “Anybody old enough to have chummed around with the Druids shouldn’t be sitting on the damp ground,” I said.
    “Why don’t we finish this bottle and go to my house for another.”
    I continued to argue as persuasively as I could, “I don’t know very much about Irish ways and we can sit in front of the fire, warm our feet and have another drop, or two, while we discuss our problem.”
   
He accepted so quickly I didn’t even see the bottle get from the ground to his mouth. I climbed to my feet, picked up my jacket, and watched him. He finished the bottle, burped softly, wiped his mouth delicately on his sleeve, and tossed the bottle over his shoulder where it disappeared in a puff of smoke before it hit the ground. He leaned forward, groaning softly as if his joints ached, and extended his hand for me to help him up. I held out my jacket for him to grab, and said, “I’m afraid I’ve gotten too stiff from sitting on the ground to bend over, but take hold of my jacket and I’ll pull you up.”
   
He didn’t say anything, just gave me another questioning look and hopped to his feet with just the smallest bit of assistance from my jacket.
   
I didn’t give him a chance to speak all the way down the hill. I just kept talking about the health-giving qualities of toasting your toes before an open fire, while sipping good Irish Whisky.
   
When we arrived at the house, I opened the door and with a slight bow, motioned for him to enter first.
   
He smiled, nodded his head politely, and said, “As it is your home, you should be t’other side of the door and bid me enter.”
   
I thought to myself, ‘Is this little guy a leprechaun or a vampire?’, but I did as I was told. I entered and turning to him, welcomed him to my home.
   
He came in with a “thank you,” and gave a brief glace around the room. It was only a quick side-to-side movement of his head, but I’d be willing to bet he could close his eyes and describe the room, exactly.
   
I was still holding the door open.
    “Shall I close the door or would you prefer it left open?” I asked.
   
“Close it, by all means,” he replied, “there’s no reason to let the room get any colder than it already is. Anyway, if I want to leave, I don’t need a door.”
   
I motioned for him to be seated.
    “Make yourself comfortable, while I fetch refreshments.”
    He scrabbled onto the chair seat, which for him was shoulder high, and sat down with his legs crossed under him. He removed his hat and without looking around, sailed it in a high arc, in the direction of the coat rack by the door. I watched as it floated through the air, hovered for a second, then settled on the top hook of the rack. I didn’t bother to comment, just walked to the cupboard and removed a bottle and two glasses. I asked him, “Do you like anything with, water, lemonade?”
   
“Is the whisky so bad, then, that you have to be hiding the taste of it?” he asked.
   
I took his round-about answer to mean no, and placed the bottle and glasses on the table, and myself in an empty chair across from him.
    “I will do the honours the first time,” I said, “after that, it’s each man for himself.” With that, I opened the bottle and poured a generous amount into each glass.
   
We picked up our glasses, clinked them together, and drank.
   
He leaned all the way back against the chair and resumed our conversation where we had left off at the top of the hill.
    “Tell me,” he demanded, “why don’t you want the three wishes, or the pot of gold, if you prefer?”
   
“I didn’t exactly say I didn’t want the wishes,” I reminded him, “all I said was I don’t think I want to catch you.”
   
“Then it’s the wishes you’ll be after,” he remarked. "I take it you’re a writer. I noticed the typewriter with a big stack of blank paper on one side and a wee small pile of work done on the other.”
    He glanced at the waste bin under the typewriter table, and continued, “If you burned all that wadded-up paper there, you’d save a few pence on your fuel account.” He was becoming more animated.
    “You know, a wish in the right direction could make you a successful writer, that is, if you had a way of making the wish come true.”
   
“Yes,” I said, “that’s true.” I knew I was still safe, so I continued, “I wish I had some way to make it happen.”
   
He pounded his little fist on the arm of his chair, and roared, “Dag nab it!. You know I can’t grant you any wishes until you catch me!”
   
“Right,” I said pretending I had forgotten, “that little detail had slipped my mind.”
   
He “humphed”, poured himself another drink, and asked a little plaintively, “Now, when do you ‘think’ you’ll get around to remembering it? I can’t spend all night here, as pleasant as I’m finding it.”
   
“Oh, yes, you can,” I replied, “now that you’ve let me see you, you have to give me the opportunity to catch you.”
    I continued, choosing my words carefully, “Most people make their first big mistake by rushing into things, without thinking. They try to catch you on your terms, and you disappear in a puff of smoke or something. If anyone does catch you, you hurry them into making foolish wishes and they end up worse than they were before.” He just sat in his chair, not moving, not even a change of expression.
   
He commented finally, “I’m beginning to think you know a bit more about me than I know about you.”
   
I really didn’t want to answer that, so I changed the subject.
    “You said earlier that a wish in the right direction could make a successful writer. Can you really do that?”
   
The little man thoughtfully poured himself another glass of Irish and said, “I don’t make statements I can’t back up.”
    He squared his shoulders, placed his right hand over his heart, gazed off into the distance over my head, and continued, “I have enchantments and other powers I haven’t even used yet.”
   
All he needed was a tricorn hat to look and sound like Napoleon. His remarks opened a way to keep him talking. If I appeared to be sceptical, his ego would force him to correct me. I said, “You must be pretty young then. Did you really pal around with Druids, I mean the real, old-time Druids, when they were powerful?”
   
He looked me square in the eye, and said, “My family lived on this very land before the Druids knew the difference between an oak tree and a rose bush. Of course, in those days I had to hop across the Irish Sea to visit them. I didn’t actually do the hopping myself, you understand, I hopped astride my favorite Pooka and with one leap he would land in Wales, and in three hops we would be among the Druids in the South, or I could be conversing with the Kelpie in Loch Ness, him as is called the monster now.”
   
Now I knew I had him. I had enough questions and scepticism to keep him going for days. Six hours later, just as the sun was beginning to rise above the hill and the last of the second bottle of Irish was disappearing down his throat, I said, “Why don’t we get a little sleep and continue our discussion later? You’re probably as tired as I am and I don’t want to take unfair advantage of your age.”
   
That almost started him off again. He insisted he could stay awake for seven days and nights, drink seven gallons of whisky, and still be in better condition than I would be at my best. However, he did curl up in his chair and was snoring softly by the time I spread a blanket over him.
   
I kept his vocal chords well oiled with whisky and he continued to talk non-stop, except for a few words of encouragement from me, for three more days and nights. I thought it was about time for my next move.   
   
I went to the cupboard and removed the last two bottles of Patrick’s Irish Whisky. Carrying one bottle in each hand I walked sorrowfully to the table and put them down. With as much anguish in my voice as I could manage, I said, “I guess we’ll have to start rationing. These are the last two bottles until my next check comes from the States, in about two weeks.” Then, as an afterthought, and already knowing the answer, I added, “Unless you happen to have a few quid about your person.”
   
He looked disdainfully at me.
    “Little people do not carry money ‘about their person’, we have no need of it.”
    He stared thoughtfully at the bottles.
    “What is this check you’re talking about and why will it take two weeks?”
   
I explained I had invested in a small electronics firm which belonged to my brother-in-law, and I received a dividend check every three moths. I fetched my box of personal papers and extracted my share certificate and explained, “This shows that I own 1,000 shares in the company. When I bought them, three years ago, I paid two dollars a share. Now, according to the stock market report in the paper, they are selling for four dollars and sixty-two cents a share.”
   
He examined the paper intently.
    “I don’t know much about shares and things, but it seems to me a waste of money.”   
   
I replied, “It’s a growing company and all they need is to invent some new gadget or process and my shares will increase in value. When the price reaches six dollars a share, I’ll sell and triple my investment.”
   
He thought about this for a moment.
    “In other words, if people think your company can do it better, the price will go up.”
   
“That’s how it is,” I said. “If one of the big companies thinks you have something really revolutionary they’ll buy you out for a fabulous sum.”
   
He gave the document a last searching look, glanced at the two lonely bottles, and said in a soft, far-away voice, “Two weeks. Hmmmmm. I’m remembering this house. The Finucane family lived here for three generations, before that, it was the O’Flaherties, and before them it was the MacMurdrie, himself. I knew him well, the MacMurdrie. He was a canny old man, made piles of money selling usquebah, that’s whisky in your language, to the English soldiers. It made half of them blind and the other half crazy.” He gave the hearth a thoughtful look. “As I recall,” he continued, “the old man always kept a nice bit of something under a tile on his hearth. He went to market in Galway one day and got recognized, and just made it to a ship sailing for America, before they caught him to hang him from the gallows at the old fort. I wonder if he left anything behind?”
    He turned to me, “Why don’t you see if you can find a loose tile there?” and pointed to the hearth.
   
All the while he was speaking, I had a sort of chilly feeling up my back. When he pointed to the hearth, I was certain I would find a loose tile, and under it, something very interesting. While I was pressing, lifting and shoving tiles, the little man kept talking, “I told him time after time, that he had so many hiding places he would forget one or two and leave his money for somebody else to enjoy.”
   
My fingers found a loose tile, and with a little manipulation, it came out in my hand revealing a small hole underneath. I reached into the hole and poked my fingers around in the loose dirt at the bottom.
    “There’s something here!” I shouted.
    Triumphantly, and with a trembling hand, I withdrew a smallish leather pouch, closed with a leather drawstring. I could feel something hard inside. The bag was so old and dry, it practically fell apart in my hands. I was left holding three small, heavy blocks of roughly-cast, yellow metal. Each of the blocks was about a quarter of an inch thick, an inch wide and four inches long, and had S.S. Macm. carved on one face. I held them out so my friend could see.
   
“That’s himself!” he exclaimed, “Seen Seamus Mac Murdrie.”
    He hefted the bars in his hand.
    “There should be a few quid here. As I said, he was a canny old man. He always melted down any gold or silver coins into bars so they couldn’t be traced. These should keep us in whisky until your check arrives.”   
   
I just sat there gazing at the golden eggs my little gander had laid. I was starting to realize how tricky he was and I wondered how his tricks would affect me.
   
He wasn’t through yet. He removed his hat, patted his head and rubbed his nose three times. Very casually, he said, “You were looking at the price of your shares in yesterday’s paper. Why don’t you phone somebody and see if there’s been some improvement?”
   
I knew better than to argue or ask questions. I picked up the phone and dialed. Fifteen minutes later, I was talking to my very surprised broker.
    “How did you find out?” he demanded, after I told him the reason for my call.
    “You’re in Ireland and the news just came in over the wire. There’s been talk of a secret merger and your shares are $22.50 now and are expected to reach $30.00 before closing.”
    I held my hand over the mouthpiece and informed my friend what had happened. He just nodded his head and said, “Sell.”
   
“Sell?”
   
“Sell!”
   
I resumed the conversation with my broker with just one word, “Sell!”
   
His voice exploded into my ear. I was crazy, I would lose a fortune, opportunities like this came only once in lifetime.
   
I think my answer confused him. I told him I realised opportunities like this came only once and that was why I wanted to sell immediately.
   
He wanted to know if I was drunk and when I had convinced him that I was serious, he said, “Consider them sold. I have buyers holding on three lines and I’ll wire a check to your bank, less my commission, within the hour.”
   
I hung up the phone and dropped into a chair.    
    “We just made 22 thousand, but we’ll probably lose six more in the next few hours.”
   
He was busy shuffling the three gold bars like a deck of cards. His answer was noncommittal, “Prices go up, prices go down. It’s better to sell when they’re up.”
   
The next morning the story was on the second page of the financial section of the paper. The proposed merger had fallen through. Somebody in a Japanese company had patented the new process only two days before. My shares had dropped to two dollars and thirty cents. I picked up the gold bars. They felt real, they sounded real when struck together, but I figured they could disappear like the proposed merger or the price could drop. When I said I thought it would be a good idea to sell the gold immediately, I received a grunt for an answer.
   
My town is too small to sell even one gold bar without causing a lot of comment, so I decided to sell them in Dublin. As I was leaving for Dublin, I said, “See you in a couple of hours.”
    His nose was buried in a book and all I got was another grunt. All the way to Dublin I thought, ‘He’s been doing a lot of grunting lately, he must have something bothering him.’
   
There was no problem in Dublin. The jeweller measured the bars, dipped them in some kind of liquid and then weighed them. He didn’t ask any questions, just made me an offer which was only three hundred pounds less than I had calculated. He explained the discrepancy as being his commission. When I returned home with hundred pound notes stuffed in every pocket, I found the leprechaun in a very depressed state of mind. The two bottles of Patrick’s I sat on the table didn’t seem to raise his spirits. The knowledge that two cases more would be delivered within the hour resulted in his walking to the window and peering out at the garden with a sad expression on his face.
   
“What’s the matter?” I asked, stacking bundles of bills on the table.
    “Look! Thanks to your memory we have enough money to last a couple of years, even as fast as we drink Patrick’s.”
   
He turned slowly to face me.
    “You’re not a bad sort. In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed my visit. But I have business that needs looking after, I have places to go, I need a vacation, and I’m lonesome. I’ve been here for ten days and I can’t take any more.”
    He walked towards me and pleaded, “Please try to catch me. If I stay here much longer I’ll be the laughing stock of my Guild.”
   
“Do you like being a leprechaun?” I asked gently.
   
“Naturally I like being what I am. I have always been a leprechaun, and I’m proud to say that I’ve always done it well, until now.”
    Then he asked me, “Do you like being a writer?”
   
That was an easy question to answer.
    “Yes. I like being a writer and I’ve had a couple of successful stories published. I don’t see any reason to stop now.”
   
“That’s the way I feel, I want to get on with my work, but I can’t. Now I know how a cow feels when she’s mired down in a bog. She can’t move until the farmer comes and pulls her out.”
    He gave a deep sigh, and said exactly what I anticipated, “I’m just like the cow, I have to wait here until my job is finished, and you’re the only one who can help me.”
   
I squatted down in front of him, so I could see his face. He looked miserable and I began to understand his problems. Although he was standing directly in front of me, within easy reach, his eyes were steady and I could tell he was tense and ready to react faster than I could move. I thought to myself, ‘now’s the time’.
   
“You’re right,” I said, looking sad, “I have been selfish. It’s just that I’ve enjoyed talking to you and listening to your stories and I don’t want you to leave.”
   
He grunted, “Let’s not get sentimental. I have a lot of things to do in the next hundred years and time is getting short. As it is, I don’t know how I’ll explain this delay to my Guildmaster. You’ve gotten enough stories out of me to fill three books and make you rich. I think it’s time we both got started.”
   
I stared at the ceiling, scratched my head, and in general tried to give the impression that I was thinking very hard. I looked at the clock and clapped my hands as if coming to a decision.
   
“You’re absolutely correct. It is now 10:30 P.M. Let’s enjoy a night at the pub and before 24 hours have passed, I’ll make my move.”
    I spat on my hand and stretched it out to him. “And you have my hand on it!”
   
The little guy was overjoyed. Without thinking, he spat on his hand, took mine and gave it a hearty shake. When he tried to withdraw his hand, he found it tightly grasped by my own.
   
“I’m sorry I had to trick you like this, my friend, but you’ll have to admit, I caught you.”
   
The leprechaun sputtered, stamped his foot and tried one last time to pull his hand free.
    “Yes, I admit you caught me,” he muttered, “but you had to use a dirty trick to do it.”
   
I laughed, “No more of a trick than you would have used to escape, if I had tried to catch you when you were expecting it.” He laughed sheepishly, removed his hat in a sweeping motion and made a deep bow. When he straightened up, his face was serious and his tone formal.
    “What will you have, the three wishes or the pot of gold?”
   
“I’ll take the three wishes and my offer still stands. You’ll be free to go before 10:30 tomorrow night. But, let’s go to the pub now. I need just a bit more time to make up my mind, and anyway, now I really have something to celebrate.”
   
The prospect of having a time limit on any more of my delays and being able to conclude his business in the near future cheered him up considerably. He hummed a catchy little tune while he brushed his coat and hat. When he was finished with his hat, he just stood and stared at it.
    “This is not a proper hat for a celebration!” Then, his eye fell on the white goose wing that I use as a hearth brush.
    “Ahh! That’s the thing.”
    He picked up the wing, plucked out one of the cleaner feathers and stuck it in his hatband. He turned toward me looking pleased and expectant.
   
I had to laugh. The feather stuck out a foot behind his hat brim and he looked a bit like a cock pheasant.
    “You’re impossible. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do! I promise that I’ll dedicate my next story to you.”
   
That seemed to please him, so we had to have a couple of toasts to my next story while he recounted several more of his ‘first hand experiences’, and it was an hour before we walked out the door, leaving another empty Patrick’s bottle on the table.
   
We had reached the top of the hill and were standing under the tree where we had met, when I had a sudden thought.
    “I say, isn’t it going to look a bit strange for me to go walking into a pub with a leprechaun?”
   
“Don’t worry,” he said, offhandedly, “nobody except you can see or hear me.”
   
“That’s fine for you, but I’m going to look silly talking to thin air.”
   
He thought for a minute.
    “Maybe they’ll think you’re an actor fellow rehearsing your part.”
   
We entered the pub and no special notice was taken of me except a wave of the hand and a ‘hello’ from the publican and two customers sitting drowsily at the far end of the bar.
   
We crossed to the empty section of the bar and I sat down. My little friend used his stool as a step-ladder to climb onto the bar, where he sat cross-legged, facing me.
   
As the publican slowly approached, I called out, ‘Two glasses of Patrick’s.”
    The publican continued his deliberate walk toward us. The leprechaun said in a loud, slightly-slurred voice, “Tell him you’re a rich American and you always order two at a time so you won’t get thirsty waiting for a slow publican.”
   
I glanced hastily at the barman, who was now standing directly in front of us, inspecting me with questioning eyes.
   
I placed my hand over my mouth and said in what I thought was a whisper, “I can’t say that! He’ll throw us out!”
   
The man examined me more closely, checked the bar, then leaned over so he could see the empty stool at my side.
   
I laughed rather weakly, “I’m celebrating. I just had a great bit of good luck!”
   
After giving me another, longer look, he finally spoke.
    “What did you do, win the lottery?”
   
I was trying to keep from laughing and had trouble answering.
    “No, much better than that, I caught a leprechaun!”
   
He didn’t laugh. He responded in typical bartender fashion, by asking me if I was sure I wanted more to drink.
   
I wiped off my grin and made my voice as sober as possible, under the circumstances.
    “I really am celebrating. My publisher just bought my latest book. It’s about a leprechaun.”
   
During our whole conversation, my little friend was doing everything he could to get me to look at him, and make me laugh. He fanned himself with his hat, belched loudly, hummed another tune, and at one point he placed his ankles behind his head and walked down the bar on his hands.
   
The publican grinned, since nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
    “I say that’s reason enough to celebrate. Two Patrick’s it is, then.”
   
My friend was now sitting quietly on the bar, watching calmly as the man went to fetch our drinks and I wiped the sweat from my brow.
    “Quit worrying. I told you nobody could see me or hear me, except you.
    ”
We sat there, quietly talking and chuckling at our shared experiences of the past ten days, until the publican called out, “Time!” I quickly raised two fingers for what would be our last drink together and turned to face my little friend.
    “I’m ready now. I’ll give you my three best wishes.”
    He didn’t say anything, but sat up a little straighter.
    “Number one, I wish you good health for as long as you have need of it. You said that you liked being a leprechaun, so my second wish is that you will always be happy in your work. I want to say that although I don’t know your Guild’s rules on this, I’d be very happy if you came back for a strictly social visit some day, and my third wish is, that we can be friends.”
   
With that, I leant back in my own invisible chair, and waited. I didn’t have long to wait.
   
He surprised me. He didn’t explode. He said quietly, as if explaining to a small child or a not-too-bright Yank, “You can’t do that.”
   
My voice was as gentle as his, “Yes, I can. I checked at the library while I was in Dublin.”
   
Now, his voice rose slightly, “There’s no precedent for anything like this.”
   
“ ‘No precedent’ doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do it.”
   
He clutched his hat firmly and tried to pull it down over his ears.
    “My Guildmaster is going to kill me! He’ll say that I’m getting too old, that I can’t handle the job.”
   
“Leprechauns have been caught before. Tell him you were caught legally and were following the rules. Anyway, those are my wishes and I’ll hear no more about the matter!”
   
There was almost a smile on the little man’s face when he raised his glass and drank. As the good Irish whisky disappeared down his throat, he started to fade.
   
“Hey!” I called quickly, “You never did tell me your name!”
   
The last part of him to disappear was his mouth, and it was grinning. Before he vanished completely, I heard him say, very faintly, “Fred.”
   
My eyes were a little moist as I whispered, “Goodbye, little man.”
    I kept my promise to dedicate my next story to my friend, Fred.
   
This is it.

________

Taken from ‘This is Where We Came In’ (1992), pages 28-41.



Bob Wright
 

Marg Wright