by C.A. Rowland
Enjoy this never before published St. Patrick’s Day Mystery short story & if you’d like to check out some more St. Patrick’s Day stories check out our Terrific Tales section, and come back here later this week to enjoy one more St. Patrick’s Day mystery.
Jack turned at the sound of the flapping paper. “What the…” he yelled, as he dropped the shoe. In place of his crock of gold, a curled paper shimmered against the mantle. He tore it off the hook and unfurled it.
NOTICE REGARDING CONTINUING LEPRACHAUN EDUCATION.
He slammed his foot to the ground. Times like these made him wish his stamp had the power of Rumplestiltskin’s. Cracking the earth open would be fun. Instead, now his foot hurt as well as his back. He’d spent all of the previous day practicing disappearing in an instant, tricking a human so he could keep his gold and how to say one thing while meaning another. He’d come home thinking he’d done fine and now this!
“Your crock of gold will be there when you know where to look,” the paper read.
How stupid, Jack thought. If I knew where it was, then I wouldn’t need to find it. Why did he need CLE anyway? Being a leprechaun for 50 years should count for something, and the fairies all said his shoes were the best. His crock was always full of gold.
Not having the gold was a real problem. How would he buy the leather to finish the shoes? Or the tiny nails, or anything else he needed?
Jack sighed. He’d have to play along with this. So where to start? What part of the CLE had he not mastered that might give him a clue? And why did they always have to have it in the human world?
He hated the very idea of it. Most people didn’t believe, so he was always in danger of being stomped on as they hurried through their days, or if they did see him, he had to scurry around to keep from having to grant them wishes. He was much happier at his bench making shoes. Why couldn’t they let him be?
There was a new younger group in charge. Thought they knew better.
Jack stared at the paper. “Back to the testing area.”
Concentrating, he disappeared and reappeared on a dusty western street set. Hollywood and make-believe magic, ironic and yet so appropriate. The set was still unoccupied. It had been modified so dummies dressed in period costumes stepped out from corners or shadows. Each had a paintball gun that shot red and yellow dye. The trick was to anticipate where the paintball would be fired, disappear and then re-appear without being hit. Each leprechaun only had three disappearances to make it down the street. Duck and run was the key with a few select vanishings.
Jack walked to the end of the street, searching for the yellow results listing. It fluttered in the wind, tacked to a tree next to the saloon. He moved closer. His name, plus a black checkmark. He’d completed this task. This was not the lesson he still needed to accomplish.
Jack transported to the second site. It was a mountain, much like the one in the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People. He’d seen the movie. Whoever had decided leprechauns had a king didn’t know much about them, but the plot was okay.
Jack let the human subject name his three wishes. He’d begun to wonder when the man asked for health.
“Success in work,” the man asked for his second wish.
“A crock of gold,” he’d requested with a smile. “That’s my third wish.
Jack had known what the man would ask. All humans did; it was only a matter of which wish.
“What about your fourth wish?” Jack had asked.
“I thought it was three wishes,” the man said, with a frown.
“I’m feeling generous today,” Jack replied, smiling. “I’ve already given you the other things. One more is no more work.”
The man had stared at him. Jack thought he might turn it down, but then the man reacted as in the film. “Then I’ll be generous too. Health for all my family.”
Jack had thought his acting must have rivaled that of Sean Connery. If the human in the test had seen the film, Jack might not have passed. “Is that your fourth wish?”
Jack had started to laugh and dance.
“Three wishes I must give thee,
And three were given one by one.
But you asked for a fourth,
And for that you have none.”
It wasn’t the same rhyme as in the movie, but Jack had thought it was quite clever at a moment’s notice. The man’s face had turned red and he’d stomped off.
Thinking about the scene again, Jack was sure he’d passed this test. He rooted around among the boulders until he found a paper tacked to a bush. Sure enough, his name was there with a black check mark. He’d passed! It had to be the last test.
Darn, he’d thought he’d nailed saying something but meaning something else. All of the leprechauns had been in a circle. The moderator said something to the first. There was a response Jack couldn’t hear and then the imp disappeared. Jack had been last. He’d thought the exercise was stupid and he didn’t even remember what was said, only that he’d been left standing in the circle. Had the listing included his name with a black check mark? He’d been so glad it was over he’d wished himself home without checking. What if it wasn’t there?
Jack whisked himself to the clearing. There wasn’t anything around. Where would the paper be? The paper was always there–whether you passed or not. He needed to confirm what the mark was. He walked around. Where on earth did they put it? He found a rock and settled on it, seeing the clearing from a different point of view. It should be here. And then he knew. He could have kicked himself. The whole time it had been about saying one thing, but meaning another. Could he have passed? He didn’t know. The fact that the paper wasn’t there could mean he hadn’t, or the lack of the paper was the clue.
Something clicked – it was staring him in the face. It was hiding in plain sight. It was the only answer. Jack disappeared and re-appeared in his hut. He stared at the mantle and then the fireplace. Where would you hide a cloud?
Jack pulled a chair over to the eaves and peered at each one. A tiny wisp peeked out.
“Gotcha! Now all I need is a straw.”
In the kitchen area, he jerked the cupboard open and dug through all the utensils. There it was–a fat blue straw. He grabbed his cup of water, crossed the room and climbed back up. He drew water into the straw, then breathed air and water into the wisp–the cloud expanded. Four times he drew and released, until the cloud took shape and began to darken. He could clean up a small puddle. Jack didn’t want a flood on the dirt floor.
“Perfect,” he said. He climbed down and set the cup on the table.
CLAP. He slapped his hands together.
He waited but nothing happened. Jack frowned. It needed to be the sound of thunder. Maybe he hadn’t clapped loud enough?
CLAP. He slammed his hands together so hard they turned red. He waited.
Crack came the corresponding lightening. Then it rained. A light rain, but enough to create the small rainbow to the shimmer that had been behind the paper. At the end of the rainbow stood his crock of gold. Safe all along.
He just had to know where to look and to realize that the paper had said one thing and concealed the answer.
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