Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Leprechaun Chronicles, v 01: I Messed Up

The Leprechaun Chronicles

Volume 01 (2007)

I Messed Up

You are not going to believe how much I messed up. I had him. I caught him. I SAW the Pot of Gold. I should be calling my boss today and telling her good luck finding someone new. Unfortunately, I messed up, and I messed up really bad.

The plan worked like a lucky charm. I found a hill out in the country that is covered with daffodils, as it is well known that leprechauns love daffodils. Hundreds of them. Maybe even thousands. Those little tiny yellow ones that smell so good are blooming now, along with 3 other kinds, just on this one hill. I went out Friday and found me a good spot. I gather
ed some wood and stacked it at the top of the hill right by a redbud tree that is in blazing bloom. The weather was beautiful Friday, with a beautiful warm sun. I stretched out right there and took me a nap.

When I woke up, I began to lay out the bait. You guys know how to bait a leprechaun, dontcha? All it takes is a little beer. The only problem is that the Little Green Dudes can’t quit handle
a whole can at one time . They need a can with about an inch left at the bottom. So whatcha do is drink down almost to the bottom of the can and set the cans out in a bait trail like a Reese’s Pieces trail for ET. Then you have to build a big fire to light the path and keep you warm because it take the Little Green Dude a long time to drink all that beer and get to the top of the hill. You should always take two blankets. Naturally, you will want one to sit on because the ground is still cold this time of year. The second one serves a dual purpose. You can Wrap it around yourself to stay warm while you wait. More importantly, though, that is what you throw over the leprechaun when he gets to the top of the hill. He should be right tipsy by the time he gets to the fire. All you have to do is throw the blanket over him, and you are done. He has to show you his Lucky Charms! Oh. Wait a minute. He has to show you his pot of gold. I was thinking of a different blanket there for a minute.

It takes about 24 cans to lay the bait from the bottom of the hill to the top where the fire is. I was some kind of busy yesterday afternoon trying to get enough beer drank. I had a few from the night before, but I still had to do some serious drinking before it got dark on me. I went out just before dark to put out fresh bait and build the fire. I took a fresh jar of pickled eggs, that I made just for this occasion, and a big bag of hot pig skins to munch on while I waited. I stuck a couple of hot dogs and a wire hanger in the cooler just in case I got hungry. It didn’t take long to build the fire because I gathered wood and dry leaves on Friday when I marked my spot. I built the fire, spread out the blanket, arranged my “supplies,” and got comfortable. Then I opened a fresh beer and a bag of pig skins and began the long long wait.
It got a little cold out there, but I had a good fire. The small critters started scurrying around not too long after dark – rabbits, squirrels, coons, and the like were all around. On the other side of the dirt road at the bottom of the hill is a large field and then the woods around the Cache River. Around 9:30, the coyotes and painters started howling and crying into the night. If you have ever heard those two at the same time, you know it is a frightening, but beautiful sound. The painter’s cry sounds like a woman screaming in the forest. The soul searching howl of the coyote behind the scream of the painter can be moving. They began way off in the woods, but I could hear them more clearly when they ventured out into the field to hunt for the rodents that live there.

I got a little scared just a little after midnight. The coyotes and painters had gotten quite. That is a little unnerving because I didn’t really know for sure if they are quite because they are full or because they are watching me. I had just opened a beer and fished out a pickled egg. As I raised the egg to my lips, I saw eyes reflecting in the firelight. There was something behind a tree, and it was watching me. I threw my only weapon, the egg, but the critter didn’t flinch. I thought about throwing the beer, but let’s get real. If I am gonna get et up by a bear or a wildcat, I want to make sure I am good and marinated. I sat real still and watched those eyes staring back at me. They were hypnotic, and they were making me drowsy. I don’t know what would have happened if I had kept watching, but the spell was broken by the noise of cans rattling against each other, followed by loud cursing. The Little Green Dude had fallen down the hill knocking all the empty cans into one big pile. Whatever was watching me jumped up and ran away. From the size of it, I’d be willing to wager that it was just an ole bobcat. It could have been a small painter, though.

Naturally, I was quite excited at this point to realize that my plan was working, and there was a leprechaun in the area. From the sound of the grumbling, he was making his way back up the hill to resume his place on the bait trail. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the grumbling turned to singing. He doesn’t have a very good singing voice, but it was still nice to hear old favorites, like “Red River Valley” and “Barbara Allen.” It was mighty hard not to sing along, but I had to be very quiet as the Little Green Dude got closer. I set the last beer for the trail at the base of the tree before I took the blanket and slipped behind the tree to wait.

Boy Howdy, did I have a good plan! It worked just exactly as I had it laid out in my mind! Easy as pie, I dropped the blanket over the Little Green Dude. Oh he kicked and screamed and cursed like a leprechaun sailor, but he could not get away because I jumped on top of the blanket and held him down. After a while, he simmered down and asked, “What do ye want, Lassie?”

I had been drinking for quite a while, and we were already there on the ground, so I said, “Your Lucky Charms!”

There was a dead silence for a minute before he said in a real soft voice, “well, Lassie . . . “. Now we will never know what he would have said because I realized that I better get back to business, so I laughed a little and said, “how about that pot of gold?”

The leprechaun went to kicking and cursing again. I had had enough of that, so I put on my toughest voice (the one you use when you are talking to hard-headed teenagers) and said, “Shut that crap up! You know the rules! I caught you, and now you must show me your pot of gold.”

After a long pause, he replied, “All right, Lassie. You be right. It’s a long walk, so we best git started.”

The Little Green Dude took me by the hand and led me down the hill and across a well worn path in the field towards the woods. He noticed that I kept looking around as we crossed the fields. The leprechaun gave my hand a reassuring squeeze and said, “Don’t ye worry yerself none, Lassie. Them kaiyoteaze and painters are never out this late. Besides, I’ll tell ya a little secret. They are a skeered of us leppies! Heeeeeeeeeeee!”

It seemed like the whole world got a shade darker when we entered the woods. Now I am used to wandering in the woods at night, but I haven’t ever noticed it being this dark in the river bottoms. We walked down the river banks for a little about a mile. I could hear the catfish slapping the water, and I remember thinking, I wish I had some set hooks on me. I gotta remember this place when the catalpa worms come in.

When we came to a small beaver dam, the Little Green Dude pointed to a large cypress tree with a big hole in the base. He pointed to it and said, “See that? That’s where I was raised. Where I lived with my family as a young man.” Then he pointed to other, smaller trees (some of them in the river) where other leprechaun acquaintances had lived at various times. It sounded like his voice was cracking up a little bit. I look at the Little Green Dude, and I thought he had a tear on his cheek. He denied it. Said it was cypress dew, but it sure looked like a tear to me.

Then the little leprechaun tugged on my hand and said, “C’mon Lassie. We’re almost there.” He turned away from the river and began to lead me down a slough that went deep in the woods. About a quarter mile from the river, the path got so narrow that we could no longer hold hands. The Little Green Dude stopped and whispered to me. “Now, Lassie, ye listen to me and listen good. This part here is dangerous. Ye have to stay real quiet. There be gaters and critters ye ain’t never heerd of out there in them woods. They be evil and come from the very bowels of the earth, and they be hungry! Lassie, ye must stay right behind me. I have the magick dust that will keep them from seeing me, but it only works on ye if ye be very close to me. Do ye understand?”

Well, I have to be honest and admit that I was having second thoughts about then. Yeah, I had a couple dozen beers, but that long walk across the field and through the woods had sobered me up some. I was beginning to think maybe the gold wasn’t worth it. Then I remembered how many years I have been trying to catch the Little Green Dude. I took a deep breath and nodded my head. The leprechaun nodded his head, and motioned me closer. I got scared and said, “WAIT! Before we go in there, do you have a cigarette? I really need one right now.”

The leprechaun’s face got so red it was glowing in the dark night, and his little eyes shown green in the center with yellow where the whites should be. He almost growled at me when he said, “WHAT ARE YE TALKING ABOUT, LASSIE? DO YOU THINK THERE BE A LEPRECHAUN IN ALL OF TARNATION THAD PUT A CANCER STICK IN HIS MOUTH?” He stomped around a little bit and kicked a couple of trees. After a few minutes, he began to cool off and his color got back to normal. He asked me to sit down, so he could look me straight in the eyes. With a grave voice, the Little Green Dude said, “Now Lassie, I kanst not protect ye if ye be a smoker. The magick durnst not work on smokers. You should turn back right now. I kainst even be sure that I kin git ye back to the river, but I kin try.”

I piped right up and told the Little Green Dude that I quit smoking already. He laughed at me, as if he did not believe me. However, when I told him that I had not had a cigarette for 138 days, he hugged me! Seriously! He HUGGED me. Then he said, “well, c’mon, Lassie, we ain’t got all night to get to me den. Ye have to be outta here by first light, or else ye must stay fir ever. “ With that, the leprechaun pulled green dust out of his pocket and threw it in the air. The little ball of dust went up in the air about 7 feet before it exploded like a fire cracker of green lights that drifted like snow around us. The Little Green Dude brought his finger to his lips and said, “Shsssssssh. Remember I kainst ot protect ye if ye are not right behind me.” With that we entered the darkest part of the woods.

The “path” was very narrow and it was strewn with rocks and roots, making it difficult to keep from falling. The slough changed from muddy water moving slowly towards the river to a much darker and thicker liquid that bubbled and gurgled. It looked a bit like tar boiling in a witch’s cauldron. The night turned pitch dark and a misty fog began to rise off the bubbling water. Even though there was not light for reflection, I could still see yellow eyes out in the water watching me. Every now and again, a bat or a crow would swoop down between me and the Little Green Dude. There were huge birds in the woods, too. They looked like small pterodactyls, and when they flapped their leathery wings, it sounded like the forest was letting out a long hot sigh. Once a bat flew too close and got tangled in my hair, clinging to my neck with its cold feet. Before I had a chance to scream, the Little Green Dude, put his hand over my mouth, looked me straight in the eye, and shook his head, as if to say, please don’t scream. Then he carefully plucked the bat out of my hair and let it fly away.

Suddenly I saw a light in front of us, and we stopped just outside an opening in the woods where the remnants of a fire smoldered. As I was about to step into the opening, something brushed against my ankle and lower leg. At first it felt like someone was lightly rubbing a feather against my skin. It tickled a little, and it felt nice . . . maybe even relaxing . . . after our stressful journey through the woods. I relaxed for just a moment, and then whatever was brushing so lightly on my leg wrapped itself around my ankle like a vine and started tugging me backward. The Little Green Dude quickly turned around and sprinkled some of his green dust on my foot. The vine dried up and broke away, and the Little Green Dude pulled me over the threshold into his leprechaun living room. He gave me a little hug and said, “Ye be safe here, Lassie.”

I was shaken, but I was also amazed at my surroundings. A bright full moon shone over this
clearing, even though it is not time for a full moon right now. The fire was little more than embers, but the moon gave the clearing the soft lighting that lamps provide in our homes. The Little Green Dude took me over to 2 cypress stumps and asked me to sit while he gathered wood to stoke the fire. I sat on the shorter stump. Suddenly I was cold and shaking. The Little Green Dude noticed. He brought me a beer and said, “Here, Lassie, drink this. It will warm ye bones.” In a few minutes the fire was blazing and warming us both.

As soon as I got warmed up a little, I remembered why I was in the woods to begin with. I demanded to see “my” pot of gold. The leprechaun snorted, “Don’t ye mean MY gold. I be the one whut pertected it all these years!” I admitted that I had gotten a little carried away, but reminded him that I would be taking the gold with me because that was the promise. He nodded and motioned for me to follow him. We went over to a tree that had a painting of a beautiful Lady Leprechaun hanging on it. The Little Green Dude kicked away some leaves and moss at the base of this tree. Underneath there was an old worn out rug. The leprechaun picked the rug up and gave it a little shake to reveal a wooden door in the ground.

We walked
down into a structure that resembles a storm shelter. I said as much to the little leprechaun. He laughed at me and said, “Well, Lassie, we are living in tornado alley. Ye think ye humans are the only ones that tornados hurt?” I felt a little ashamed of myself for making such a stupid statement. At the bottom of the stairs, there was another door. When the Little Green Dude opened that door, the whole room was brightly lit. Don’t ask me how. It just was. The pot of gold sat in the middle of the room, and it is HUGE. I never imagined it to be so large. It is at least as big as my truck. There is a ladder on the side because, naturally, the Little Green Dude needs to be able to get to the top. I am still amazed at the massive size of this pot full of gold. I asked the Little Green Dude how much gold there is here. He nodded and replied, “about 3 million in American dollars.” I could hardly believe it.

“I never dreamed there would be so much,” I whispered.

“Why do you think they call it the CACHE River, Lassie,” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

The Little Green Dude tugged on my arm, and motioned towards the door. “Let’s go get warm by the fire. I have showed ye me gold. Ye will be taking it away from me soon, and then I will have nothing to guard anymore. At least keep me company and share a beer before ye leave. I don’t often have the company.” He had such a wistful lonely look in his face that I could not resist (not to mention I ain’t never been one to turn down a beer). So we started back up the steps.

I sat down on the shorter cypress stump again while the Little Green Dude went after the beer. When he came back, he handed me a beer and climbed up on the taller stump. This arrangement put us eye to eye for the first time. I took a sip of my beer and turned to the painting on the tree, asking, “Is that your mother?”

The Little Green Dude dropped his eyes and slowly shook his head. “No, Lassie. That there be the love of me life. “

“So . . . you are married?”

“Aw. No, Sweet Lassie. Ourn love weren’t meant to be.”

“What happened to her,” I whispered.

The Little Green Dude sat in silence for a minute before he wiped the tears away, raised his head, and asked if I was ready for another beer. Not wanting to appear rude, I agreed to join him in just one more. While he was gone after the beers, I thought about how much different he was from what I expected. I always thought leprechauns were happy and full of energy – even a bit rowdy. I never thought of them as romantics. That’s why I asked again after we opened our beers, “What happened to her?”

“It be a long story, Lassie.”
I winked at him and asked, “Did ya have something else planned?”

The Little Green Dude put another log on the fire and took a deep draw from his beer before he began his story.

“I not be a young leprechaun, Lassie. I be 88 year old in 2 more moons. I be all alone out here in these woods now, but it hasn’t always been that way. There used to be hundreds of usins out here in these here woods.”

The little leprechaun had my attention, so I asked, “What happened to the others?”

“That be a sad and tragick story, Lassie. Remember the tree I showed ye back by the beaver dam?”

I nodded in silence.

“Well, Lassie, that there used to be one big beaver dam, and there used to be hundreds of usins. You know, Lassie, that leprechauns usually live with the beavers. Ye know how youins like to habitate with dogs and cats?”

I chuckled a little at his choice of words, and nodded my head, “yes.”

“Well, it be the same with leprechauns and beavers. I kaint says why. I kin only tell ye that there be something about them critters that we love. They are loyal friends. If one of ourins gits drunk and falls in the river, his beaver will slap his tail on the water and flip his leprechaun back up on the bank. They bring us wood fir ourin fires. Sometimes they even sleep in our little beds at night. Now, I never could allow a beaver in me bed, but I shore do love spending the day hunting berries with one.” The Little Green Dude smiled then, and fetched us another beer.

“It’s them damn farmers that messed everything up. That’s why I try to slip around and let the air out of their tires. I take parts offen their combines during harvest. I steal their beer!” He raises his can to me as he says this.

Then he looks for a long time at the painting of the Lady Leprechaun. With a more serious voice, he began to tell the story. “ I were about 20 year old when I first seen that lovely thang there. Her name was Lolita Leprechaun. Moma didn’t like Lolita. At first Moma wouldn’t even let her in our tree. I remember Moma saying, ‘that girl acts like a high bred beaver.’ One year on May Day, Lolita ventured out to the edge of the woods and found a strawberry patch. Now my Moma sure nuff did love her strawberries, and when Lolita brung her 2 big buckets of berries, Moma broke down and begun to love her just a little. It weren’t too long before Moma was telling me I needed to settle down. She wanted me to quit drinking and ‘make something of myself,’ so Lolita would want to marry me. Now I wuz taken with Lolita all right, but I sure did like me beers!

Lolita would flirt withen me, but she wernt nevah evah gonna say she loved an old drunk. She loved me good enough, but she wanted me to quit my drinking ways. I tried to splain that this just wernt natural for a leprechaun not to drink. I stopped drinkin for a while, though, and we had a dream romance. We spent our days walking in the woods and playing like children in the shallow water. We each had a beaver, and they kept us safe.

Then I slipped. It were 67 year ago today. I wuz supposed to meet Lolita over in that same daffodil field where I found you. The men were all gathering nuts – acorns, I think. I slipped away and headed towards the daffodil hill. This day I slipped back to my drinking ways, though. Hey! It’s Spring, and I caught a little spring in my step. By the time Lolita got to the daffodil field, I wuz passed out. I nevah even knowed she be there.”
The Little Green Dude climbed off his perch on the cypress knee and pulled a tattered piece of paper out of his pocket. He handed it to me and went after another beer. It was a goodbye note from Lolita. Parts of it were smudged with watermarks. I like to think it was her tears, but it was written a long time ago. When the Little Green Dude came back, he handed me a beer, and I handed him the tattered note. We exchanged no words as the leprechaun climbed back up on his cypress stump. He took a long draw on his beer before he started speaking again.

“A noise so loud that it shook the earth woke me up. At first I wuz disoriented. I wuz still drunk, ye see. Then the earth rumbled underneath me a second time, and I began to understand what had happened. I jumped up and screamed ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!’ into the clear crisp air. Across the field I could see a tuft of smoke rising over the river. Birds cluttered the air as they flew away from the smoke. I started running. I ran until it hurt to breathe air into my lungs. I could breathe out, but I had to study on getting the air back in my lungs. I had to slow down. I had to catch my breath.

When I finally got back home, there was nothing left. The beaver dam was gone. Blown up by a dag blasted farmer. Dynomite. Lots of dynomite. The farmers are a selfish lot. They only think of themselves. They steal the water out of the river for their rice, never considering how important that water is to the livelihood of the wilderness. Our homes were flooded. There were bodies everywhere – in the trees, in the water. Later I would find them in the houses. Some were never accounted for. I buried them all. Every one of them. I was the only one left. The only one . . . “.

The Little Green Dude took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. Then he turned his beer up and drank it deep. He said, “Drink up, Lassie. We will have one more beer together before I help ye back out of the forest.”

I wiped the tears from my eyes and said, “I better not. It will take me a long time to get all of the gold back to my truck. Will you help me?”

The Little Green Dude flashed a big grin and said, “Aw, Lassie! Ye doent not ave to kerry the gold back to yer truck.” He pulled a handful of green dust out of his pocket and said, “This dust has the power to transport heavy loads out of the forest with no effort, Lassie. Please have just one more beer with me.”

Well, I didn’t want to be rude, so I agreed to just one more beer.

It was after 11:00 am when I woke up. I was stretched out in the middle of daffodils in bloom – right back on the hill where I started the long night that led to my journey in the woods. The feeling of dry cotton in my mouth was a stark contrast to the heady smell of the daffodils in bloom. I sat up and tried to get oriented. I was on the blanket beside what was left of the fire. The last few knots of wood still crackled and popped. I got up and stumbled towards my truck, wondering if the events of the night before were real.

A single beer stood tall on the hood of my truck. Under the beer, which was somehow ice cold, was a note written on a paper towel from my truck. The note read:


I need a beer . . .

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