Hey, y’all. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. I took the day off of work to get some things done. Basically, I’m getting paid to run errands and cook corned beef and cabbage. I’ve got a little downtime, so I thought I’d get paid to write you this little St. Paddy’s Day story, as well.
And if You Catch a Leprechaun?
“Mom! Get in here!”
Oh, for Pete’s sake, she thought. Connie had stayed up late helping her daughter, Janet, build that damned leprechaun trap for class, and she had at least–she cracked an eye and peeked at the clock–seven more minutes before the alarm went off.
The panic in her daughter’s voice was enough to catapult her from the bed. She was awake and ready to do battle. She glanced around for a weapon as she raced for the door.
Emptyhanded, she threw open the door and raced down the hall to the living room. Normally, in about five minutes, she would be finding her kids holding half-eaten bowls of soggy cereal while they zoned into cartoons on the TV.
Today was not a normal day. It looked like a craft bomb had gone off. There was green glitter everywhere, but the kids were not there.
“M-O-M!!” Another panicked shout came from the kitchen.
Connie grabbed a lamp as she ran past it, yanking it right from the wall. She burst into the kitchen with the lamp poised over her head. What she found stopped her in her tracks. Her children stood huddled together, arms wrapped around each other, near the kitchen table where they’d left the trap to finish drying.
“Let me out of here,” demanded the small man caught inside.
“What the hell?” she didn’t know what to say.
“Finally. A voice of reason, perhaps?”
She set the lamp on the counter and approached the scene. They’d created a landscape of soft moss for grass. They’d included plants and a tree stump to adorn and conceal the trap. There was even a small pond created by mixing gold glitter and blue paint. A small cane leaned against the tree stump. The gold nuggets they’d left on the soft grass were missing. There was green glitter allover the kitchen, too.
Inside the cage stood a man no more than three feet tall. He held a tall green hat in his hands and wore a green felt suit over a white button-up shirt with golden buttons. His trousers–secured with green suspenders with gold clips–came down to his knees. He wore white stockings and black leather shoes with golden buckles. His head was mostly bald with just a couple tufts of hair behind his ears. His red beard hung over his round belly.
“It’s cuz you gave her those real gold nuggets, isn’t it, Mom?” her older daughter, Rebeccah, asked.
The leprechaun was hunched over because it was a short fit inside the three-foot cage with rainbow bars, but he was trapped inside. He looked very uncomfortable in the small space.
“Maybe,” she answered. “Though I think most kids won’t build one nearly big enough.”
Janet had overheard some of the older kids in the hallway. They’d said that leprechauns were taller than those shoe boxes. Before building the perfect leprechaun trap, she’d insisted that they learn a little about leprechauns first. Since they were mythical creatures anyways, she hadn’t seen the harm in encouraging her daughter’s interest in learning.
“I’ll give ye back yer gold,” he offered, holding out four of the six pieces she’d loaned her daughter for the trap.
The nuggets had been a souvenir from a childhood field trip. They’d gone panning for gold and had gotten to keep all the nuggets they found. She held out her hand, and he dropped the nuggets into it. She closed her hand around them as she contemplated their options.
“Let me out now, I’ve given ye back yer gold.”
“What did your teacher say you were supposed to do if you caught one?” she asked her daughter.
“It’s what they’re supposed to do,” Janet answered.
“Okay. And what are they supposed to do?”
“Take you to their pot of gold.”
“Aye. Yes. Ye let me out, I’ll take ye right to it,” the leprechaun promised.
Rebeccah reached for the release latch hidden beneath the stump.
“Wait!” Janet shouted. “They’re tricksters and will do anything to keep all their gold for themselves.”
“Drat,” the leprechaun said hanging his head. Then, perking back up again he asked, “Will ye at least give an old man back his cane?”
“Not just yet,” Rebeccah said, taking the cane and handing it to her mother.
It was an intricately carved cane made from a wood she didn’t recognize. The entire thing was only about a foot and a half in length. The symbols carved into it glowed an eerie green.
“Come on girls.” Connie ushered them from the kitchen.
“What are we gonna do?” whined Rebeccah.
“We tell him we won’t let him out until he gives us his pot of gold,” answered Janet.
“How do we know he’s really taking us to it?” Rebeccah asked next.
“We don’t let him out until we have it,” Connie answered.
They came up with a plan. It had to be perfect. They couldn’t fall for any of the leprechaun’s tricks. It started with calling the school to declare both girls absent. She emailed Janet’s teacher the photographs and video she’d taken the night before of the completed leprechaun trap.
While the coffee brewed, Connie cooked a hearty breakfast of eggs, beans, ham slices, and toast. They were about to set out on an adventure, and she knew they’d need full bellies on their journey. They ate leaning against the kitchen counters because nobody wanted to sit at the table.
The leprechaun declined all but a bowl of beans. He sat in the cage on the soft moss and ate quietly. His bright blue eyes sparkled with mischief. They were always moving, scanning the room and its occupants as well as the cage that held him. He thanked them politely when he handed back the empty bowl.
While the girls rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, Connie opened the garage so she could clean out the back of the SUV and make room for the leprechaun trap. They had decided to behave as though it were business as usual. They would carry the trap out to the SUV and drive away as though they were heading to school and work.
A suspicious look from a nosy neighbor grabbing the morning paper brought to her attention that she was still in her pajamas. The girls were in theirs, too. They dressed quickly. She filled a travel mug with coffee. She was going to need it.
She secured Janet’s homework project in the back and confirmed that her daughters were seatbelted in. Still in disbelief, Connie pulled out of her garage and headed in search of a leprechaun’s gold on St. Paddy’s day.
“Alright, where to?”
“To the end of the rainbow, of course,” the leprechaun and Janet answered in unison.
“Where are we supposed to find a rainbow on a bright sunny day like today?” Rebeccah asked.
“Pull out your phone and look on the weather app. See where the nearest rain is on the radar.”
“I don’t have a weather app on my phone.” She looked at her mother like she’d suddenly become an alien.
“Use my phone, then.”
“It says it’s raining in a place called Riverside. Do you know where Riverside is?”
“No. Punch it into Google Maps.”
“It’s almost a hundred miles away!” Rebeccah was whining again.
“That’s okay. We’ll get on the freeway and be there in no time,” Connie promised.
Ninety minutes later, they were in Riverside. There were a few puddles, but the sun was shining brightly. There wasn’t a single rainbow in sight.
“Which way did the rain go?”
“Never Eat Soggy Waffles,” Rebeccah reminded herself. “East.”
“If ye’d just hand over me cane,” the leprechaun said. “I could bring ye right to me gold.”
“Fat chance,” Janet answered.
Eastward they drove, chasing after the rain. The storm turned north around lunchtime, and they pulled into a drive-thru for burgers, fries, and mint shakes. About an hour north of lunch, they caught up to the rain. They pulled over at a park and enjoyed the gentle tapping of raindrops on the roof while they waited for it to move out and hoped for a rainbow.
They sang goofy songs and played the alphabet game while the rain drummed on the roof, and the leprechaun begged for his cane. Connie turned the SUV westward when she saw the sun start to peek out from behind a gray cloud.
“That’s where we’ll find our rainbow,” she declared.
As they drove, the houses grew farther and farther apart. Traffic thinned and the countryside spread out before them. The lush green grasses sparkled with fresh raindrops. The sun was chasing away the clouds.
As the clouds split apart and the rain rolled farther and farther away, a rainbow appeared in the center of a field of grasses and wildflowers. Connie pulled to the side of the road and parked. She opened the back of the SUV. The three of them got out and gathered near the tailgate.
“Now what?” she asked.
“He tells us where to go,” Janet supplied.
“Give me me cane, first.”
“Tell us where to go, or I’ll break your cane,” countered Rebeccah.
The leprechaun gasped. “Ye wouldn’t!”
“I would,” she assured him.
Connie believed her and was relieved to know that the cane was safe in her own possession, and Rebeccah would not be breaking it.
“Where to?” Janet asked.”
“To the rainbow, of course,” the leprechaun answered.
They found themselves at the end of the rainbow. Or maybe it was the beginning of one. Inside the colorful refractions of light looked no different than anywhere else they stood. It was disappointing to find the end of the rainbow that way.
“Now what?” Rebeccah asked, feeling skeptical.
“You’re not getting your cane,” the three replied in unison.
“Ye need it to call me gold.”
Connie pulled it out. She did not hand it over to the leprechaun. She was amazed to see how the rainbow looked as his cane pulsed and vibrated in her hand. She could see every refraction of color as they bounced and shimmered around her.
“Tap it against the rainbow like this,” he tapped out a beat on the bars.
She copied the beat, and the ground began to shake beneath their feet. She pulled her daughters close and swore the leprechaun would never be free if this was a trick. A cast-iron pot filled to overflowing with gold rose from the soft dirt. Their eyes shone with wonder at the sight of it.
After they’d secured the pot in the passenger seat of Connie’s SUV, they released the leprechaun. Janet lifted the fake tree trunk. She let Rebeccah flip the switch.
“Me cane,” he said grumpily, holding out his hand.
As soon as they handed him his cane, he started laughing. He tapped the intricately carved stick on the ground three times. As he faded away they heard his laughter fading out.
“That’s me brother’s gold, and he’ll be lookin’ for it,” the leprechaun said as the last of him disappeared like the Cheshire cat.
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