From Electric Arc Productions

Return of the Wee Folk — Maggie Ryan Sandford

It started to go bad when someone brought up leprechauns.  The scary kind, like from the movie Leprechaun, and Leprechauns 2 and 3, and Leprechaun 4: Leprechaun in Space, Leprechaun: In Da Hood, and Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. It must have been Stickney that brought it up.  His real name is Alex, but Stickney was his road name; we’d seen it on a highway sign somewhere in Illinois, and like an edict from God, Stickney he was called, because he was tricky and sneaky and liked to puncture things by sticking his little pin-like canines in them:  aluminum cans, non-dairy creamers. Cara was Luverne at first, then Spearfish, then Rimrock.  I was Aberdeen.

That was the problem, actually, in the beginning:  Stickney, Rimrock and Aberdeen were un-fucking-touchable.  We were twenty; we had just driven our 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra all the hell over the United States of America—just right the hell over it, and anything we drove over belonged to us.  Two days before the incident, we had been eating mushrooms at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, which, if you haven’t seen it, is the biggest thing there is.  It told us You Ain’t Shit, which also means No One’s Got Shit on You, so we got naked and jumped in, and watched the phosphorous turn our hair into undersea clouds.  Then we got on the road, opened all the windows all the way, and yelled until the sun came up to join us, in the most gorgeous pink negligee, and we were all in love with him and said, my goodness, Sun—we had no idea.  When we came to a town we cranked up the rocknroll full fucking blast so it poured out all over everything like a flash flood that swept people out of their offices, and we drove into a restaurant and made a handsome woman make us bacon so sweet we left her all the money we had, in a pile as high as a stack of flapjacks.  We flashed every trucker: boobs, birds, sky-punching fists that said “Honk your horn you motherfuckingtruckfucker!” and they loved us, they played their horns for us, and we crushed up their little white trucker pills and snorted rings of ‘em off of pirated CDs.  We drove through the mountains, which are made of art and have no speed limit.  We drove through the badlands, which are so beautiful that you have to kick things to keep yourself from going crazy and thinking you’re on the moon.

So when we pulled into the long, flat building where my Granny lived, it was ours too, we figured.  We dusted each other off, left our road names in the back window of the Cutlass for later, went inside and loved every single little old lady inside that place. We were like knights home from the Crusades – heroes; the best grandkids in the world.  We went to dinner in the big cafeteria with the dinner bell and the laminated prayers and the sunflowered wallpaper, and we got those old ladies drunk on milk and regaled them with tales of our collegiate battles and long-term ambitions.

And when it was time for my Granny to go to bed, I tucked her in, kissed her velvety cheek, mouthed “I love you” as she took her hearing aids out and set them on the table, which meant she couldn’t hear a thing except maybe my Grandad, who’d died the year before.  We waited under afghans on the davenport until we heard her soft, rose-scented snores, and then we looked at one another, set down our depression-glass glasses, and crept out the back door of the long, flat, old people building to our car.

There, Stickney, Rimrock, and Aberdeen filled the car with so much marijuana smoke we could barely see.  Which is when Stickney said he thought he saw the leprechaun.

“Shut the fuck up,” I said, the first one to breathe after the collective inhalation that meant we were all five years old again, holding in our pee for fear.  “Shut your face,” I said again, “Why would you say that…”

“No, I mean, look,” Stickney said.  “There’s someone watching us at the door.”

We looked.  Rimrock grabbed my thigh and started chattering her teeth on purpose.

“Sto-op,” I said, just like a crybaby, because the two of them had grown up watching things like Leprechaun and Poltergeist and Gremlins – I hadn’t.  I couldn’t. I was too scared; I would cry into convulsions.  This wasn’t supposed to happen to Aberdeen, no fair, not part of the game.

“I’m not doing it on purpose,” Rimrock said, “There’s something there.”

We all sat stock still, nails dug into one another arms and legs, trying to force our eyes to see through the smoke and fogged-up windows.  There was something: a little head-shaped bump, just tall enough to peer over the window in the outside door of the building.

“It’s too small to be a regular person,” Rimrock finally said.

“Yeah,” I hissed, “Why is that so much scarier?”

“Like the Leprechaun,” Stickney said inevitably, and we knew it was true.  In theory, one could take on someone small no problem, but, then it calls into question why someone small would put his/herself in a position of confrontation.  The x-factor, as in the case of the Leprechaun: the small person possesses supernatural powers.  This was the scenario the marijuana and I proposed to my companions.  “But I think that might be offensive to little people,” I added.

“But this little person is offensive to us!” Stickney said, and I noticed his voice was higher than usual.

“Very offensive,” Rimrock breathed, and as we all turned our eyes from our brief conference to the door, again… we saw the little person was gone.

We sat.  Getting higher by the minute.

“We must be paranoid, is all,” I said.

“But we all saw it,” Rimrock said; our thoughts were unified.  There was a pause and then Stickney said, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”  We weren’t even careful about slamming the car doors.

We couldn’t help but whisper to one another as we hurried back into the long, flat building: Oh my god, that was crazy, I can’t believe we – but we did; what fucking idiots we are, we were so sure it was a – and we – we rounded the corner to my Granny’s stretch of hallway.  And there, in the dim light, was the little old woman.

We froze in our tracks; time stopped.  She was barefoot and thin as a skeleton under her shroud-white nighty, and her face stretched grotesquely back from her open mouth, her hair blown out behind her like a surprise.  She stood staring at my grandmother’s door, her fist raised, mid-knock.  Then her head piveted on her neck and her icy eyes fixed on us.  I wanted to call out, NO! Leave my grandmother alone!  It is not her time yet, o Spirit, begone!  It is not her time! but my mind was crashing around inside my head and I waited for it to stop…

“Hello, Mildred,” is what I said.  My grandmother’s neighbor, across the hall.

“Oh, there you are,” Mildred said, “I thought I saw someone in your car…messing around.  So I came to tell you. But no one answered.”  He voice sounded…normal. Not at all demonic.  I sallied on.

“I see,” I said. “Well thank you, Mildred, but that must have been us you saw out there.  We just went out to the car for a minute, to um get some stuff we’d left, but thank you so much for checking on us.  That’s awfully nice.  It’s just us.”  She nodded.

There’s a sound you think you hear, when you think you’ve seen a ghost, like a silent screaming of a thousand lost souls. Behind me, I heard that sound rush out of my friends’ ears and away into the night.  Like smoke out a car window.

Mildred’s hair had relaxed a little, too, onto her bony shoulders.  “Oh. Okay then, well… good.” She turned to go.  “Tell your Grandmother I’m sorry if I bothered her?”

“Oh you didn’t,” I said, “She can’t hear a thing.”

Mildred looked the three of us up and down and shuffled back to her apartment.  I held the smile on my face until I heard her deadbolt click, then I turned around to Stickney and Rimrock.  They stood frozen to their spots, like they’d seen a Gremlin.

“Come on,” I said, and opened my grandmothers door for them—the smiling cross-stitched rabbit on the door bid them Welcome. “Let’s get something to eat.”

Stickney and Rimrock and Aberdeen floated inside, locked the door tight, and turned on a show about baby kangaroos, safe as could be inside their Mama’s belly pouches.  Nobody said anything about little people for the rest of the night.  The next morning, my Granny wondered aloud where all the mixed nuts and mini-chocolate bars had gone.  “Must have been a leprechaun,” I said.  And I hugged her so tight she had to pinch me to stop.

Maggie Ryan Sandford is a Saint Paul-based writer with roots in Seattle and New York.  She writes fiction, non-fiction, humor, and short film, with a particular interest in the relationship between art and science.  Her work has been featured at, the, on National Public Radio, and here:

  1. Hilarious.

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