“I’m so sorry, but I can’t do that.”
“I said geroff, you damned biddy! And let me go!”
“I just need a moment of your time, sir.”
“Well you won’t be getting it, I can tell you that right now.”
I glared at the leprechaun dangling before me, his ankle held firmly in my fist.
In truth, I had no right to be angry with the little man. After all, it was I who had snuck upon him and taken him unawares. It was I who had thoughtlessly waded through his garden of four leaf clovers, trampling so many in my haste that I scarcely wished to think what, if anything, that would do to my luck in the future. But if this panned out as I hoped it would, a bit of bad luck on my part would be more than worth it.
Smoothing any of the rougher edges irritation may have lent to my voice, I said, “Actually, as I understand it, since I’ve caught you, I believe you owe me three wishes. Not that I mean to be a bother, but if you wouldn’t mind granting them I’ll let you go and we can both be on our way. I’ve got them all prepared and everything.”
The leprechaun made a sound somewhere between a derisive snort and a cry of exasperation. “I don’t owe you anything! You didn’t follow the rules! There are protocols for this kind of thing, you know. You can’t just be sneaking up on a poor soul when he’s out tending to his field – ach, look what you’ve done to the place! – Those poor sprouts! You’ve got to set a trap. Lure me in. What chance does a fellow my size have against a direct assault from a giant ogress like you?”
Though I bristled at the insult, I let it slide. “I’m sorry, but in everything I’ve read and heard I’ve never come across anything that dictates the method of capture in any kind of explicit terms.”
“I’m not talking about rules!”
“But you just said – ”
“Not written rules!” he exclaimed. “I’m talking about common decency! Fair play and the like! Sportsmanship and such!”
“But aren’t you a magical being?”
The leprechaun puffed out his chest proudly. “Aye.”
“With all sorts of tricks and disguises up your sleeve?”
“Well, seeing as how I am no such creature, without any such powers, doesn’t that give you an unfair advantage?”
“That…” he blubbered, “now that is completely different!” His face glowed red – nearly bright enough to match his beard – though whether it was from embarrassment at being caught unawares or simply the blood rushing to his head I couldn’t say.
I pressed my advantage. “Rules and fairness aside, the fact remains that I have caught you and if you’d like to be let go any time soon you’d best grant me my three wishes.”
“Two can play the waiting game, lass. And as you said – I’ve got magic on my side. I can outlast you, missy, make no mistake.”
“Really. How’s your head feeling right now?” His complexion had shifted from light pink to deep magenta.
He scowled. “I can feel my heart beating in my brain, but that’s no worse than any hangover I’ve had.” He cocked his eyebrow at me. “Are you sure you want to wait it out for the long haul? I’m as stubborn as they come, I’ll have you know.”
“Really. I had no idea.”
But I considered his words. The light was good now, but it would soon start to fade and I had promised to be back by nightfall. The journey back home would presumably take less time than it had taken to get here, seeing as I now knew the way. But it had taken hours to find this place, and infinite time was not a luxury at my disposal.
It seemed a bargain was in order, then.
“What if it was only one wish?” I asked.
He scoffed. “Even if I was inclined to deal with you – which I am not – no doing. Three wishes is the rule. If you only used one, I’d be bound to you until you used the other two. And I’m no jinn. I don’t come with a convenient little oil lamp for you to carry me around and shut me in. You’d really be stuck with me, then.”
That was certainly not what I had in mind. I sighed and considered alternatives. Then, like a bolt from the blue, the thought struck me. The one thing he might be willing to go for. “What if I gave you my other two wishes? Do the rules allow for that?”
The suggestion caught him off guard, and I knew I had piqued his interest at last.
“Now that’s a tough question,” he admitted slowly. “Strictly speaking, wishes are non-transferrable. But…”
He opened his mouth to reply but then closed it abruptly, eyeing me suspiciously. “Why are you so willing to throw away your wishes? What are you planning?”
I laughed, sensing triumph was near, and answered with a question of my own. “Does this mean you’re willing to trade? A wish for a wish? Is that possible?”
Suspicion still not entirely gone from his eyes, he said, “If you used your first wish to give me your third wish, that might be a way around it. That way we’d end up with one for each of us. But I still don’t understand why you’d – ”
“Done. I wish for you to have my third and final wish.”
The blank look of shock on the leprechaun’s face – and the fact that I had finally invoked the wish-granting process – told me it was safe to at last set the man back onto the ground. As I’d hoped, he did not vanish or run away. He just stared at me. Apparently he’d never encountered anything quite like this before.
At last he asked, too intrigued by the situation to continue his argumentative rapport, “Alright then, what is it that you wish?”
Now it was my turn to pause and consider. I had planned on having three wishes – three broad strokes to accomplish what I wanted. Left with only a single opportunity, I reexamined the underlying cause of all the problems I wanted to solve.
After a time I thought I had hit upon the best possible choice, but I couldn’t be sure. So I turned to the leprechaun, still waiting to hear my wish, and asked him, “If you could ask for one thing to make the world better, what would it be?”
Whatever he had expected me to say, that was certainly not it. His eyebrows rose, but he made no comment other than, “So that’s what you’re after? One wish to fix all the world’s ills?”
I nodded, suddenly self-conscious. It was, after all, a foolish hope to begin with.
To my surprise though, he did not laugh. “Why don’t you wish away all evil in the world? That ought to do it, don’t you think?”
I shook my head. “I thought about that. But then whose definition of evil gets erased? Mine? Everybody’s? I don’t think there’d be anyone left on Earth if that were the case. I don’t think you’re evil, for example, but someone else, some superstitious sort of person might think you a devil or a demon – they might think the same of all magical kind, for that matter. And I’m sure there are things that I’ve said and done and believe that would condemn me in someone else’s eyes. No, I don’t think that’s the answer.
“But…I was thinking…”
“What?” he prompted.
“Do you think, if everyone was just a little bit kinder, that that might do the trick?”
It sounded laughably naïve, even to my own ears. But once again, the leprechaun surprised me. “I don’t think it would hurt,” he said, his voice gentle.
That was all the confirmation I was going to get, but it was enough. “Well then, for my second wish, I wish for everyone in the world, and everyone who will ever come into the world, to be kinder. Kinder to each other, to themselves, to everything. Please,” I added, a bit belatedly.
Still looking as if he had never seen the likes of me before, he snapped his fingers once, twice, three times. A great wind roared through the trees before dissipating as suddenly as it arrived, my ears ringing in the silence that followed.
“It is done,” he said simply.
I’d have to take him at his word. “Thank you,” I said, rising to go. “Truly, thank you for your time.”
And with that, I left him in peace.
I never did learn exactly what he did with his own wish – the one that I had given to him. But when I got home that evening I found a single gold coin resting upon my pillow, its dual sides engraved with ancient markings I could not read but which, strangely enough, gave comfort all the same – like a familiar melody whose words have been lost to time.
I carry it with me, always.
My little piece of luck, guiding me through a gentler – yet still imperfect – world.
(Note: I had wanted to have this up in time for St. Patrick’s Day, but as is its habit life got in the way. Better late than never, though. I hope you enjoyed it!)