Lucky

The day I met the leprechaun was one of those early spring days—the first day you wake up and the thermometer is all braggy about the temp, and you roll your eyes, thinking, you may say it’s warm, but outside this door will tell me otherwise, but then you step out the door, and it’s so pleasant it borders on majestic, and suddenly you’re coming up with trivial and useless tasks that must be done in the yard, just so you can bask in this extraordinary glimpse of days far ahead. The kind of day that gives you a little shiver, deep in your gut that feels like inspiration and twinkly lights and spiced rum. It was that kind of day.

When I stepped outside, with Buster on his leash, we both had a little extra sparkle in our steps. As we followed our usual route out of our driveway and up our windy wooded road, it appeared the neighbors had caught the bug too. Mrs. Healy was bent over something in her winter-yellowed grass and appeared to be picking off the yellow bits. Mr. Johns was on his wooden chaise, reading the paper, but if truth be told, it was upside down and in his absence of mind, the piece he had chosen to hold up and ignore was the advertising section for ladies’ intimates. His dog laid on his back in front of the open garage door, his tongue lolling out the side of his head.

Everywhere people were uselessly occupied.

Instead of turning back where we normally do, because clearly it was not that kind of day, we continued down the road and back into the woods toward a pretty little pond. Along the wooded pass, daffodils sprouted everywhere we turned. In the pond, a mallard duck and his lady friend followed each other in lazy circles.

This is when we heard a clutter and a crash in the woods to our left. To me, it was the entirely too familiar sound of a falling squirrel, but Buster had a different take, and pulled on the leash in that direction with such determination that I had no choice but to follow. I couldn’t quite make out what he was sniffing at first, but when it emitted a high-pitched squeal, I tried to get him to back off. On the ground, under Buster’s merciless sniffing, was a little man, dressed all in green, laughing so hard he had tears streaming down his tiny cheeks, trying with his tiny hands to push away the comparatively giant proboscis of his new K9 acquaintance.

“Buster! OFF!” I shouted. As a last ditch, I pulled a strip of emergency bacon out of my coat pocket and threw it off to my side.

“Oh it hurts! It hurts!” the little man said, clutching his stomach, still in hysterics.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “He gets very familiar very quickly.”

“Quite all right, quite all right. I can always use a good chuckle early in the morning. Perhaps you could do me a favor and set me back up on my branch there, out of harm’s way.” He pointed up toward a gnarled old oak branch.

“Certainly,” I said, and not quite knowing the polite way to pick up a fallen leprechaun, I put my hand, palm up, on the ground so he could hop on, then gently lifted him to the desired branch. “It seems you lost a shoe in the excitement.” I said, noticing the green stockinged toes of his left foot.

“Oh dear,” he said. “I’ll have to cobble something up today.”

“Well, have a lovely day,” I said, in parting. “You can’t help but enjoy this weather.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me about the gold?” He asked, raising a miniscule eyebrow.

“Oh right. I suppose I forgot my manners.” Again, I was unsure of the proper etiquette of my current situation. “Please, sir, tell me about the gold if you’re inclined.”

“I’ll never tell.” He laughed again that same gleeful laugh from deep in his gut, rolling around on his branch, clutching his stomach.

Exasperated, I anticipated another rescue, and to avoid it, opted to take my leave, “Good day to you.” I said with a nod, gave a tug to Buster’s leash, and started back through the woods.

“Oh yes! Good day!” said the leprechaun in a mocking tone, still writhing in laughter on his branch.

Well, that was strange, I thought as I started back toward the house. The sky had clouded a bit, sending a quick shiver up my back. Mr. Johns had found the Automotive section, which he read right side up. Mrs. Healy had taken to sweeping her stoop, as she did each day, nothing unordinary about it.

As I walked up my driveway, thinking of how far removed this day was from those first early gleeful moments, a drop of rain hit me square on the nose. Then another on my cheek, and one in my hair. Buster did a full body shake.

Once inside, I poured a cup of coffee and went to my desk. After several hours of email and spread sheets and expense reports, I had all but forgotten my little green friend.

As the light outside my office window began to fade, I turned off the computer and shut down the office for the night. I fixed a bowl of kibble for Buster and some pasta for myself, and retired to the living room to turn on the TV. The sun had set low outside the windows, casting a golden glow over the room. Marveling at this light, I stepped over to my usual spot on the couch, and bent over the table to set down my pasta bowl. In the middle of the table, almost radiating from the light of the setting sun, there sat an old leatherbound album that in any other light would have been a dingy brown, but in this spectacular glow it beamed twenty-eight carat. On the cover there was embossed a little pot overflowing with coins.

I carefully opened the cover. On the first page, there was a picture of a baby. It was an old Polaroid snapshot, blurry and yellowed. I did not recognize the baby. On the next page, the same baby was cradled in the arms of a woman, a man by her side. Now these people I recognized. It was my mother and father. Her hair fell over her cheek, with her face turned toward him, bashful in her pride. He looked the camera dead on with laughter wrinkling his eyes.

As I turned the pages, I relived my fifth birthday, my first day of school, braces, proms, graduations.

Then there was my wedding. I had never seen this particular picture anywhere but in my own head. Over and over, numerous times. While sharing a good laugh or all alone after a bad argument. And I could hear his words as if he were whispering them into my ear at this moment. “I’ve never felt so lucky,” he had said. And there we are in the picture, my face down, hair over my cheek, and his face leaning into my ear.

Just then, I heard the front door, and the familiar sound of roller luggage on the wood floor. Buster let out an excited squeal and pranced like a pony toward the door. There he was with the last light of day framing him in the doorway.

“I came back early. Surprise!”

“That’s lovely,” I said, leaning in for a bone-crushing hug.

“I found the weirdest thing on the doormat on my way in,” he said. “Check this out.”

And there, dangling from his thumb and index finger, was a tiny green shoe.

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