Thanks for being a newsletter subscriber! When I was little I used to be scared of leprechauns because of the old Disney movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People, so when I decided to write a St. Patrick’s Day story, I tried to imagine what you would do if you actually caught one of them…. Hope you enjoy the story! And Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Alfred’s Quest – By Lisa Kessler
You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it. – Robin Williams
The tiny man dashed across the street, and dove underneath a discarded Big Mac box. Alfred grinned. He had him.
Fighting the urge to lurch into action, he looked down the street each way. The little bugger would love it if he stepped right in front of a truck. But Alfred had no intention of giving the leprechaun the last laugh.
After twenty years, he was entitled to that honor not the little green man hiding under the Big Mac box.
With no oncoming traffic in sight, Alfred hustled as quietly as he could across the pavement, toward the empty hamburger container. He could already imagine the gold coins sliding through his fingers. A whole pot of gold. Endless opportunities would be his. Whatever caught his fancy, he would have. Anything. He could pay now and worry later. For once, there would be no consequences.
He could almost taste the happiness and freedom.
He started to bend down, his fingers splayed open to scoop up the box with the leprechaun caught inside, when a shadow moved over the box and a voice interrupted his greedy thoughts.
“Let me get that for you, Mister.”
To his horror, a dirty hand snatched the Big Mac box from the ground and dropped it into a black trash bag. Alfred gasped and straightened to find a Boy Scout smiling up at him.
“I’m cleaning up the park.”
“Why would you do that?” Alfred wrung his hands, his eyes shifting from the boy to the bag.
“Because I’m helping my community.” The boy grinned. “I only need two more hours to finish my merit badge.”
Boy-bag-boy-bag-boy-bag. Alfred was getting dizzy, aching to tackle the short community reformer and take back his prize. Only the threat of being arrested held him in place.
He wet his lips, his gaze pleading with the boy. “I need that garbage.”
“This?” The boy shook the bag back and forth, juggling the contents. “It’s just trash Mister.”
“No, it’s not.” Alfred shook his head, stopping himself before he blurted out something about the tiny man imprisoned in the Hefty bag. “I had a receipt in that box.”
“A receipt?” The boy eyed his bag. “I didn’t see any receipt.”
Alfred groaned and held out his hand. “I don’t have time to negotiate this. Just let me get it and you can finish your trash picking.”
“All right.” He handed it over with a shrug. “But you’re crazy to poke through all this garbage. There’s no receipts in there.”
“You’re not the first to call me crazy, boy.” He yanked the bag open, reaching a hand in to search for the leprechaun. He started to smile as he closed his hand. “But you’ll be the last. It’s time I laid it all on the line.” He pulled his hand free of the bag, presenting it proudly to the boy scout. “I told you it wasn’t all trash.”
The tiny man with a bright red face and matching hair frowned. He wasn’t wearing a little green suit like the cartoons. He actually wore a camouflage get-up that helped him blend in with the grass and leaves. His glare shot daggers, but Alfred could care less. He’d been chasing this little man for years and finally he would have the last laugh.
He glanced back over at the boy. The scout’s face was scrunched up as he backed away. “What’s wrong with you, boy? Don’t you know what this is?”
He nodded, but his expression didn’t change.
“You’re looking at an honest-to-God Leprechaun! Do you know what that means?”
The boy’s eyes widened. “That’s no leprechaun, Mister. It’s a half eaten chicken leg.”
“What?” Alfred glared at the little man in his hand. “Don’t be using your magic on the boy. I caught you. You have to do what I say.”
The tiny bastard flipped him the bird. Alfred shook his fist, and then brought the leprechaun up closer to his face. “You’re a rude little bugger. You still owe me a pot of gold.”
The Boy Scout retrieved his sack and quietly turned to walk away, but Alfred called out, “I’m not crazy. He’s just using his magic on you.”
The boy stopped and narrowed his eyes, taking a closer look at Alfred’s captive. He held his breath. Finally the boy’s gaze wandered up to meet his own. He lowered his voice. “Maybe I just can’t see him behind the chicken leg.”
Alfred sighed and shook his head. “You really can’t see him?”
The boy shook his head. “Nope.”
Alfred stared back down at his angry captive. “After all these years, you won’t even give me this?”
The little man crossed his arms. “Why should I?”
Alfred grinned. “Did you hear that?”
His smile wilted when he saw the boy shaking his head.
He shrugged. “Sorry Mister.”
Alfred glared at the little man. “Where’s my pot of gold?”
“Right over there.” The leprechaun pointed. “But you’ll be the only person who can see it.”
He followed the little man’s finger and spotted the black caldron overflowing with gold coins. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Alfred turned, but stopped short. He looked down at the leprechaun. “Wait a minute. If I’m the only one who can see it, I won’t be able to spend any of it.”
A wicked grin spread across the little man’s face. “Not in this world.”
Alfred’s legs turned to rubber. He stumbled over to a park bench and plopped down. The concerned Boy Scout followed him over.
“Sorry I only see chicken.”
“That’s all right.” Alfred shrugged. “I can’t believe I’ve wasted so many years chasing after this little bastard. It was all for nothing. I wasted my life.”
“At least you were happy.”
The boy’s words hit him right between the eyes. Alfred glanced over at him, temporarily distracted from his woe. “I guess I was.”
The boy nodded. “So if it made you happy, then it wasn’t for nothing, right? My Mom says some people make lots of money all their lives and they’re still not happy.”
The corner of Alfred’s mouth twitched up. “Your Mom sounds like a smart lady.”
He thought about it for a second. “I guess so.”
With his free hand he patted the boy’s shoulder. “Thank you.”
“For reminding me the journey matters, not the final destination.” Alfred bent down and released his tiny prisoner. “Get out of here you little rat bastard. I’ll give you a head start.”
The leprechaun grinned and took off like a shot for the bushes.
The Boy Scout gasped, pointing as he hopped to his feet. “Did you see that? It was a… It was…”
Alfred nodded. “Yep it sure was.”
He stood and headed toward the rustling leaves. Younger already. He glanced over his shoulder at the Boy Scout and winked. “Told you I wasn’t crazy.”