They can be civil, given a chance. Short story for March contest,
|Word Count 1240
I set the coffee cup on the counter, but filled it with Guiness. I set it on the table in front of my guest. I grabbed the half empty can for myself. I hardly ever drink the stuff, but it seemed like a special occasion. I leaned against the kitchen counter and sipped some stout.
“When I said I’d like a wee bit of refreshment, a coffee cup was not what I had in mind,” said the small seated man. His reddish hair was tousled and his clothing disheveled. He drank some beer and wiped his stubbly face.
“Look, I know you’re not here as a volunteer. You’re my prisoner, sort of. You know by now I’m not going to hurt you. And I’m not making you hand over your pot of gold, even though that’s the rule.”
“Hmph,” said the little man. "You sneaked up on me, or you'd never have caught me."
“What is your name anyway?”
“Kevin. But don’t be wearing it out. What do you want from me?”
“I’ve already told you. I just want to talk. Most people don’t believe your kind really exists. I want to know about you, in general and specifically. I’ll feed you at dinner time. You have to say with me until I set you free. So start talking.”
Kevin shook his head in disgust. “The common belief is that all us wee folk have a pot of gold. You think that if you capture one of us we have to share that gold . Some of you mistakenly think you have the right to steal the whole pot. The truth is that leprechauns are not wealthy. Very few of us have accumulated wealth.”
“I suppose that’s why you’re always stealing muffins and cookies, eggs and milk. Sometimes live chickens.”
“For your information, some ‘human’ families treat us right and leave snacks and Irish whiskey. We take good care of these families; few accidents happen there. Some families are stingy and derisive. They think they dan appease us and still be cheap. They leave a bowl of table leftovers, like we’re dogs. Hmph! They can't imagine why so much milk that gets spilled, or why so many sparks fly out of the hearth and burn holes in the rug. They think a weasel has been in the hen house, but it’s one of us getting revenge.”
The little man crossed his arms tightly and sat rigidly.
I stood quietly a moment.
“This is just an idea, so don’t get all bent out of shape. Maybe if your people communicated openly with my people, we could all learn to live together, in peace and harmony. Would that be so bad?"
“Are you talking about charity? Or slavery? We’d never be equal. Your people would always feel superior to us, no matter what front they put on.”
“So, you won’t even think about it?”
“As far as I’m concerned, we got along great for centuries. Our relationship worked. It was well defined, and everyone honored it. It wasn’t until the last century that things changed.”
“What do you mean, ‘changed’?”
“You realize we’re much harder to find that we used to be. Well, maybe you’re too young to have noticed. We don’t encounter humans as much these days because we’ve moved. We’re not in the villages or sea ports or farms any longer. We moved to the mountains and less populated backcountry.”
“Why is that?”
He huffed and shifted his seat. “School teachers! They started teaching children that leprechauns are just mythical creatures. Leaving out food and our pranks were superstitions. You and I know differently. But teachers have indoctrinated generations of children.”
“The shame of it,” I said, smiling.
“They know so little of us. The small children can’t even draw proper pictures of us. They’ve been influenced by Americans, although leprechauns have never lived in that land. People think we all wear green and wear pilgrim type hats.”
“Lucky Charms ceral has a leprechaun with a derby.”
“That’s correct in some counties. The cereal company got it right. In fact, our fashion, if you want to call it that, varies from county to county. Most wear red, not green. Some counties have pointy hats.”
“What kind of food do you eat?”
“Almost anything. I’m partial to giant prawn, mussels, lamb, flan, beer, good Irish butter and cheese. I’ve never turned down beef, chicken, eggs, or properly cooked vegetables. In fact, I’ve tried Italian pasta and French pastries. I’ve heard about tacos, but I haven’t had the pleasure yet.”
“Dinner should be easy to fix.” I repositioned myself against the counter. :What’s all the stuff about rainbows?”
“Legend. Not a word of truth!”
“You don’t happen to know about banshees, do you?”
: ”Hmmm. A bit. We live longer than you do. So, I’ve heard some talk. Banshees are spirits of dead women. They died too young or under suspicious circumstances. Their spirits aren’t free to move on, so they stay near where they died, They’re usually close to a family that’s been around for generations.”
“So, what is the cry of the wild banshee? Does that mean there are tame ones?”
“There are good ones and bad ones. They do the same thing; it’s the way they do it. If someone is about to die, the banshee warns the family by wailing. The good banshee is sorrowful, particularly if the doomed one is a young person, or a female about to be married, or kindly old woman who was good to the spirit in life. The wailing will be low and mournful, maybe soft.”
“What about the bad ones?”
“That banshee was probably as wicked in life as in death. Or she was treated cruelly and wants revenge. She will be happy about the impending death, perhaps reveling in the pain the family will experience. The wailing will be loud and shrieking, a kind of evil, indulgent laugh.”
The little man was more relaxed now. "The wails or cries are usually late at night. The farmer tending his animals after dark, or the shopkeepers closing up, will hear them. Sometimes you hear them faintly inside your house. More often they’re heard by imbibers leaving the tavern when it closes as he makes his way home alone. So when he tells his wife or parents or neighbors, they think it’s just the drink, and pay no heed to banshee cries.”
I shook my head. “So banshees are dismissed as easily as leprechauns.”
Kevin nodded his head. “We both got a bum deal.”
"Well, I keep my promises. I’ve got breaded shrimp in the freezer we can pop in the air fryer. I’ve got a pot of beans on the stove, and I can cut up a salad. Tea okay with you?”
”I can take it, especially with a spoon of whiskey. You have bread?”
“Irish bread and butter.”
“No one will ever believe you were really here. I can’t force you to stay here. I’m not a thief, so I don’t want your money. We’ll eat like friends, then you can leave. At least, you won’t be hungry when you get home. A good dinner might make it up to you a little for holding you captive.”
Kevin laughed for the first time. “Okay. It turned out better than I expected. Now let’s grab that shrimp. I want to see this air fryer I’ve heard so much about working.”