Modern Living Leprechaun Style

Leprechaun engraving 1858
Leprechaun engraving 1858 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a leprechaun named Shaun.  He lived in modern times, which was tough for a fairytale creature.  His woodland had been bulldozed by a suburban developer outside of Dublin and now he found himself in the basement of one of the low rent tenement buildings that the city council had dubbed The Green Hills in honor of what was there before they put in the grey, drab concrete apartment blocks for the poor and destitute to get them out of the central city.

Like the rest of the development, the Leprechaun was supposed to be dealt with, never seen from again.  And many of Shaun’s people had left, some immigrating to America in the bottom of potato sacks, taking up residence in the Keebler Elf factory, where at least they could be out of the closet about their fairytale nature.  Others had gone deep underground, where sooner or later the dirt and the dark would turn them into dwarves or worse, trolls.  Very few people recognize that genetics are only the beginning point for an organism, and that nurturing green fields are as much a part of the makeup of a Leprechaun as the slime pits and bilge waste are for a troll.

But Shaun fought the direction of the world and refused to leave his ancestral home.  As soon as the tenement had gone up he’d picked a basement flat that butted up against what had been his ancestral cave under the branches of a great oak now sold for toothpicks and beer barrels.  There Shaun had stayed, donning dark glasses and shabby clothes and screaming obscenities and throwing things if anyone came near.  He’d moved in so soon they’d never had time to mark his flat with a number, so later neighbors just assumed he was the tenement’s terrible crazy fix it man.  They’d complain about his temper, but the next day whatever they complained to him about would be fixed.  So they liked their super despite his bizarre ways.  As for the owners, they never noticed they were one super short, and wouldn’t have said anything if they had.  So Shaun fixed things and had a place of his own.

It all started to go south when Shaun reached his mid-life and started thinking about getting a wife and settling down.  Where was a fellow to go in these parts to find a Leprechaun wife?  He thought about many things but then heard several of the tenement boys talking about the internet.  One nightly raid later, Shaun was online looking for other Leprechauns.  He found exactly what he was looking for at the Keebler personals, where wanton hussies looking for Leprechauns with very green jackets gave all their particulars.

Shaun wrote them all.  In the next few weeks, none of them wrote him back except to taunt him for being a fool.  But one of the girls knew a girl with a very strict family and mentioned to her that a stick-in-the-mud was writing from the old country looking for a traditional wife.  “As if,” she huffed.  “A girl has to look forward.”  The traditional girl, who’s name was Mabel, got Shaun’s address and sent him a honest-to-God letter asking him questions.  Shaun was flabbergasted to receive mail, but wrote her back.

Things progressed nicely until Mabel and her family took the journey out to the old country.  They knocked on Shaun’s flat and were not impressed by his shenanigans.  “What’s this?” Said Mabel’s father.  “You’re nothing more than a squatter! How will you support my daughter?”  As a little person he was used to standing tall for his rights.  He hired an attorney who mentioned that the super in tenement six had never been paid.  The owners called it a clerical error and corrected it with a nice settlement.

There weren’t any Leprechaun ministers in Shaun’s neck of the woods, so they had the festivities in America.  Shaun flew back with the family, who had passports and everything else.  It took some time for Shaun to get a passport of his own, but once that was settled, he became a citizen like everyone else.

Now Shaun and Mabel live in the basement flat of tenement six.  They’re little people, but keep themselves to themselves.  Shaun’s even stopped screaming at the other tenants, though he still does his housework secretly at night.  Some things never change.

Arnie Leadbetter

Tekening van Carlo Boszhard als Arnie in Pitti...
Tekening van Carlo Boszhard als Arnie in Pittige Tijden pen en inkt door Jan Olijve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When men dreamed of reaching the stars, they looked to great rockets to hurl complex chunks of metal and gizmos far into the space beyond our atmosphere.  But the space missions never got farther than our solar system.  We never created a strong enough fuel or a strong enough astronaut to survive the intense pressures needed to breach our own little star.

What no one expected was that Arnie Leadbetter would find a better way.  Arnie was more interested in -well- cultivating herbs than in space travel. But he had a passion.

Arnie’s passion was music, and he voiced that passion with a lifelong obsession with speakers.  Arnie had collected speakers from the time he was barely crawling and had wretched his first speaker free from the stereo, scratching his father’s favorite vintage vinyl.

By the time Arnie reached college, he could fill his dented Uhaul hover full of old speakers.  He paved the floor of his college dorm room with subwoofers that could beat like a huge heart.  His walls were stacked with speakers in decreasing sizes, and his ceiling was glued full of tiny, iPod compatible mini-speakers.  Arnie even had speakers left over, and dumped them on his bed in a random pile and plugged them into the vast array.  It was a random arrangement, and it took follow-up experimenters several years to get the array right.

Arnie plugged an iPod mini into the middle of the room and sat down for a perfect sound experience.  He was never seen again.  The entire college’s electric grid, including the mini-nuclear power plant under the physics building, was entirely drained.  When they traced it to Arnie’s room, he had created a rift in space and time that whistled and breathed like a living thing.

If you looked through the rift, you could see stars. But the rift itself was on a planet with a similar atmosphere.  Otherwise, the building and possibly the earth would have been emptied of atmosphere.

When the findings were declassified a few years ago conspiracy theorists thought Arnie was being held by the government.  But he was living happily on the other side of the portal, sitting on the palm beach, eating the marshmallow coconuts, and listening to the sound of the stars as their light pinging through the rarefied atmosphere of the new world.  Arnie had found the perfect sound system, and he was happy.

The Seafaring Merchantman.

It's a painting which shows a pirate ship atta...
It’s a painting which shows a pirate ship attacking a merchants’s ship. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The lilacs were in bloom and drifted out and mixed with the salt water when I first laid eyes on that great lady the Queen Elizabeth. She was a three-masted schooner, out of Nantucket. Her make was English and she had English backers, but she’d been made here in the New England colonies and had an American crew.

Our course would take us down the coast to pick up a cargo of cotton, then we’d go out across the wide Atlantic to Lisbon in Portugal. The trip was planned for three months, with a bonus to each man if we could complete the run faster.

We’d picked up our cotton and were on our way out into the open sea when we first saw the sail. It was Spanish at first, but was changed as we watched to the crimson flag of piracy.

It set off a great debate among the crew. Should we fight, flee, or surrender? Not knowing the pirates, we had to make a decision. Some pirates took no prisoners, and would kill us to a man. Others would make us partners in crime, making us sign their bloody charter.  Still others would put us off at the nearest port and sail off with the ship.

The debate was all the fiercer because the captain refused to rule one way or the other and the pirate ship grew ever closer. Being full of cotton, we assumed the pirate ship would overtake us rapidly, but it seemed now that they were low in the water and damaged in some way. Even with our full cargo, we were holding steady.

A damaged ship meant the pirates meant to take our ship for certain. Many times they would simply strip the ship and leave us to limp back to harbor to re-outfit at great expense, but these were in need of a new ship. That left us as unnecessary crew, and likely fish food by day’s end.

With that in our minds, we made sail and began to draw away from the pirate ship. She opened fire, and had six guns on the side, but all her shots fell short.  We had only six guns for the whole of the ship, three on each side, but we returned fire.

The pirates began to drop behind, turning and firing without success.  We were congratulating ourselves on our narrow escape when the wind died down to a mere breeze. Behind us, the pirates pulled out their oars and began rowing toward us.  There must have been sixty men on that small boat, and they shouted as they came.

We put to our oars as well, though there were but twelve of us.  We rowed as if our very lives depended on it, which in truth it did.  Two of our number primed the cannon, and we’d turn from time to time and volley at the pirate ship before returning to the oars. We did some damage, and they’d fire back at us.  One cannon ball sailed so close to me I could hear the whistle it made.  Neither one of us did crippling damage, and the pirates pulled ever closer.

Night fell, and we could hear the calls of the pirates over the water as they called out support to one another.  We fired one last volley and caught some of them, for there were screams and curses.  They responded and we could hear the balls hit the water all around us.

It was a battle we could not win, and yet we rowed for all we were worth.  Then around two in the morning, when we could see their torches clearly, the wind picked up again.  We leapt to the rigging and sent her plowing over the water.  Behind us, the pirates shouted and cursed, firing one last volley as we outdistanced them on the open water.

We made the trip to Lisbon, and only when we unloaded the cotton did we find how lucky we had been. The merchants complained that the cotton was full of sea water, and as they removed the cargo the water began to pour into our ship.  We had to hoist her up in dry dock for repairs.  The pirates had holed us three times below our waterline, but the cotton had absorbed the water and swollen to block the ocean from flooding in.

Since that time I have always felt safe when transporting cotton, for if I were to encounter pirates, I do not think they could sink me.

The Rainy Street

English: Storm drain overflowing during heavy ...
English: Storm drain overflowing during heavy rain on University Dr in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The street at night was covered with a sheet of rain. It washed down the gutter in a rush, filling the storm drains.  It was late, but not so late that the neon was off. The rain washed street reflected the orange and red and blue.

A figure hunched over from the rain, as if hunching over in a hoodie would somehow keep the rain off.  The rain would seep right in that cotton whether you were hunched over or standing straight up. The figure paused and started up the concrete steps, cracked with time and slippery from the rain.

Fumbling with the keys, and let into the foyer.  Always when it’s raining it feels like a violation to drip on the dry linoleum. Even though it’s cracked and chipped, you bring the rain inside.

Calling up the stairs to see if granma is still up.  “You still up, Granma?” Trying to get out of soaking hoodie and the sweater mom makes you wear even though you hate the color.  Granma made it.

Granma’s up, and she always yells down: “Don’t you be dripping on my linoleum!” Where else would you drip? But you’ve always got to answer: “No, ma’am,” or tomorrow there’ll be a long call to mamma, and mamma will tell you to be careful of the linoleum in that tired voice.

Up the stairs to the second floor where the only light is.  Granma lives alone in the apartment building, even though the family doesn’t like it.  She says the renters are too much trouble, and she likes the apartments empty.

For granma, the apartments aren’t empty. She still remembers all the people who used to live there. Sometimes you can almost hear Mr. Bertucci, who used to sing along with the opera on Sunday afternoons, throwing his windows wide and twirling around his apartment. Madame Pompadour on the first floor with so many Persian cats no one could count them all.  On still nights you can almost smell the cats, and once when you came home there was cat hair stuck to your sneaker. Then there was the Vietnamese couple who always cooked the really weird smelling food. Granma loves to tell about the time they invited her to dinner. You’ll huddle around granma’s space heater in her apartment that hasn’t been refurnished since the 1950’s, the upholstery all cracked and patched in places. She tells how they got her to try all those strange dishes.  That’s why granma only eats Vietnamese take out now, her old coffee table covered with menus from the take out places. One of them gave her a gold star for being a frequent eater.

The apartment house isn’t empty for granma. It’s full of memories and sounds from another time. You listen to her talk while you wait for mom to get off the swing shift at the five and dime, the last one left in the city.

Then you hear mom honking and head down the stairs, forgetting the sweater drying on granma’s radiator. As she drives home, momma talks about the people she remembers from granma’s apartment. For a little while, she looks younger and not as tired.

Maybe life isn’t made up of the big things.  Maybe life is made up of the little things that we remember.

Once Upon A Time: Suzie The Giraffe

English: Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), Mel...
English: Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), Melbourne Zoo, Australia. Français : Girafe, Zoo de Melbourne (Australie). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a giraffe named Suzie who lived on a ranch.

She wasn’t born on a ranch, she was born in the Melbourne zoo, in a pen next to some very loud koalas. But when she was two years old, the Melbourne zoo had decided to ship her to the United States where she was going to be part of an arranged marriage at the San Diego zoo. Enroute her plane had run into trouble. Suzie had been left when the pilot panicked and jumped out of the plane, but on its descent the plane had tipped sideways and Suzie had slid out of the open door in her packing crate and fallen down into a farm.

If she had landed on soil or rock, she would have easily died, but her box punched straight through the barn roof and went down into two stories of loose packed hay. So Suzie’s box had been broken, but she had simply waited for the farmer to come out into the barn and see what in the heck had caused all that ruckus. What he found was a giraffe, eating his hay.

The farmer had no need of a giraffe, but he figured his brother on the ranch might get a kick out of owning a giraffe. Neither one of them knew enough to contact the local news, which had run a three second video of the plane crash site the night before but the farmer had missed it because he’d been out milking. So they just figured the giraffe was theirs to look after.
Suzie trimmed the tree all along the farmer’s yard, and particularly like the green shoots high up. She wandered about with the cattle on the ranch, but never really got the hang of grass. The cows pushed her away, and she felt pretty lonely out on the open fields by herself. Then food got scarce.

The rains didn’t come and the rancher didn’t have the money to fee his herd grain. When that summer the grass went brown and eaten down to the stubs, Suzie showed the cows how to get the leaves from the trees to keep from starving. After that, they accepted her and followed her everywhere. So if you’re driving in backwoods Australia and see a giraffe leading a herd of cows, don’t be too surprised.

Moral: When we don’t fit in, it may be because we’ve got a better way of doing things .

Once Upon A Time: The Donkey Marionette

Once upon a time there was a tiny marionette donkey who dreamed of

Donkey Hoadie
Donkey Hoadie (Photo credit: steve goddard)

being a dancer. He would lie in the dusty corner with the other unused marionettes, dragged out for shows of Don Quixote where he would plod along under the fat poncho marionette or run from his master for comic effect. But his master never took him out for a dance number. What fool would want to see a donkey dancing?
Over the years, the marionette company shut down. How could they compete with the electronics? The donkey was sold at auction to pay the debts of the company. The donkey was sold and resold, until he ended up with a six-year-old child who shouted at him and told him that he would be part of the child’s warfare. Those were two horrible years, with the child swinging him about and chipping his paint.
Finally, the child tired of beating on the donkey and he was sold in a garage sale. A man took the donkey home and painted him with nail polish that almost matched his original colors. It is important to note that the man drove a bus in Mexico, and Mexican busses have a shrine on the front of the bus to help the drivers stay safe. There are many good luck charms at the front of the bus. This particular bus was called El Burro, which means donkey in Spanish.

Inside the Mexican Party Bus.
Inside the Mexican Party Bus. (Photo credit: rebecca.shiraev@sbcglobal.net)

The donkey marionette was hung from the rear-view mirror of the man’s bus, El Burro. When the man rides over the pot holed roads of Mexico and blasts his Merengue music, the donkey marionette bounces to the rhythm. If you look closely, you would see he dances to the music, not the pot holes.
Moral:  Never give up on your dreams, no matter how farfetched.

Once Upon A Time: The Old Man

Once upon a time there was a rider in a wood. He was a well-dressed man, riding a good pace, but not in a hurry. If you looked at him in profile you would see a gentleman, complete with top hat. He seemed to be of middling years, and had a smug expression on his face.

Equestrian Portrait of a Gentleman
Equestrian Portrait of a Gentleman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The smug expression arose from the man’s expectance that he would soon be wed to a woman of good family and great fortune. Already the man’s mind was full of expansive dinners in London, a costly flat, and a full wardrobe. He gave not a thought to his wife, who he intended to leave at home to manage his estate.

Then the man’s horse threw a shoe. For those not aware of how horse’s worked in the old days, they had iron shoes that were nailed into the hooves, which are like the fingernails of a person.  The shoes didn’t hurt them and protected their feet from cobblestones.  When they threw a shoe, it left them lame, like getting a flat tire.

So the man got off his horse, swore a great deal, tried to put the shoe back on, and got bumped by the horse for his trouble.  Then he took off at a walk for the estate.

It was late afternoon, but the man wasn’t worried.  He was fuming that he’d miss dinner, but they’d likely send a carriage out to look for him by nightfall.  Then he heard rustling in the bushes.

To say that the man was a coward would not have been a stretch.  To say he was brave would be to ignore the fact that he immediately hid behind his horse and determined to leave the beast at the first sign of danger.  He rightly figured that wolves would prefer a lame horse to a running man, but ignored the reality that no wolves had been seen in that part of the country for perhaps three hundred years.

It wasn’t a wolf, it was an old man dressed in rags.  The old man was carrying a half-full burlap sack and humming to himself in a tuneless sort of way.

Once the gentleman had determined that the old man was not armed, he came out from behind the horse.

“Halloo!” said the old man.  “What happened?”

“My horse threw a shoe.” Replied the gentleman.

“Terrible, just terrible.  A long way to walk.” Said the old man.  It put the gentleman at ease and was quite funny as the old man had likely never owned a horse, and was walking himself.

“Yes, well, one does what one must.”  Said the gentleman.

They walked together for a time, then the gentleman inquired as to what the old man had in the sack.

“Mushrooms.” cackled the old man, showing a few left-over teeth.  “Best thing in the world.  My old lady loves them fierce.  Gonna make her dance with joy.”

The gentleman had a disturbing image of an old woman cavorting.  “How do you prepare them?”

“Put ’em on a stick and roast ’em over the fire.”  The old man smacked his lips.  “The juices just drip off ’em and sizzle in the fire.  Then you pop them in hot and let them crunch and squish in your mouth.”

The gentleman thought momentarily that the mushrooms sounded good.  He had a fleeting thought that he’d like to try that.

They crested a long hill and at the bottom viewed the most decrepid of shacks.  An old woman chased a goat around the yard.  “That’s my castle and my wife.”  Cackled the old man.  “I love that woman more than spit.

Jim Norris and wife, homesteaders, Pie Town, N...
Jim Norris and wife, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

You married?”

“I hope to be so soon,” replied the gentleman.

“Yes, a fine gentleman like yourself will be married out here, but spend all your time in the city.”  The old man smiled his grin.  “Never even see your wife.”

“I don’t believe that’s so.”  Said the gentleman.

“Oh, I’ve seen it.” Said the old man.  “The gentlemen leave and none of the children look anything like them.  Then when they die their own wives look happier.”

“I beg your pardon.”  Said the gentleman.  “Watch your tongue, sir.”

“Begging your pardon,”  said the old man.  “Best to get down to my wife.”

When the old man and the old woman met it was as if they had not seen each other in days.  And the bag of mushrooms was the finest bag of mushrooms in the world.

The gentleman watched the old man’s homecoming and crossed silently on the other side of the road.  He felt a pang as he saw the decrepid old couple embracing.  Some part of him thought:  I want that.

So the next day, after dinner.  The gentleman proposed and was accepted.  Then he stood and asked the pleasant young woman to walk with him.  He told her that there were many reasons that they made a good match, but that he wanted something more.  He told her about the old man and said:  “I want to have a marriage like that.”  And they did.