Swamp Irish and the Leprechaun

By MRJones

An unusually thick fog muffled the footsteps of the men as they followed the path to the tractor shed. It pooled under the huge water oak, making ghostlike shapes in the trailing Spanish moss. Bobby Boudreaux shivered and said, “I don’t like this. It’s spooky working out here in the fog.”

“You think there’s monsters gonna get you?” Jason Thibodeaux teased. “Maybe an alligator gonna swim through the fog and eat you.”

“Something just don’t feel right. It’s like the fairy fog in that story Allyn’s in.”

“I’ll get rid of it.” Allyn Jones stopped in front of the shed, held up his hands, and said a few words in Welsh. The fog dissipated. Tapping sounds came from the shed. Tick, tick, tap, tap, tap, like a small hammer being used.

Etienne Comeaux opened the door. The noise stopped. He looked around and saw nothing out of place. “Must be a rat or something,” he said as he climbed onto the tractor. Before he could start it, they heard it again, louder. Tap, tap, tick, tap. It sounded like it was coming from the cabinet where the hand tools were kept. Etienne got off the tractor and walked over to it. Tappity, tick, tick, tick. Allyn stepped in the shed. Tickety, tap, tap. Etienne asked, “Allyn, are you playing a trick?”

“No. Why would I do anything to slow you down? Evelyn wants the garden plowed today, not tomorrow.” Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap.

Jason said, “Maybe it’s the alligator with the clock in his belly from Peter Pan.”

“Or maybe it’s a leprechaun. It is St. Paddy’s Day,” Etienne said with a grin.

“We’re not Irish,” Bobby said, “And we’re in Texas.”

“You’re all Swamp Irish.” Allyn yanked the cabinet door open. The contents were exactly as they should be. He ran his fingers through his red hair, shook his head, and closed the door. “Get the tractor started and out of here. We have a garden to get ready.” Etienne cranked up the tractor and backed it out. They hitched the plow up and he drove to the garden.

Allyn said, “Jason, Bobby, take those hay forks and loosen that pile of manure so I can scatter it before Etienne plows.”

On the first turn, the handle on Jason’s tool snapped in the manure. “What the heck? This was a new handle.” He looked at the steel fork stuck in the pile and the handle in his hands. When he bent to pull the fork out of the pile, he fell face down in it. They heard a giggle. Jason scrambled to his feet spewing and spitting. “Bobby, I’ll get you for pushing me!” he shouted as he wiped his eyes.

“I didn’t do it. I’m on the other side of the pile,” Bobby said. They heard another giggle and tap, tap, tappity, tick, from the shed. “That’s creeping me out,” Bobby said.

“Me too,” Jason said as he brushed manure off his clothes. “Allyn do you have any idea what’s happening?”

“Yeah, it’s St. Paddy’s Day and we’re plowing the garden. Step back.” He waved his hands at the pile of manure and it went flying to the garden where it spread out evenly. As it drifted down, a gust of wind caught it and blew some onto Etienne.

He coughed and yelled, “Allyn, that got me!”

“I didn’t do that.” They heard the giggle again.

Etienne set the plow and started. Throughout the day, they were plagued with minor setbacks. Every time, they heard that laugh and the tapping sound. By late afternoon the sun shone on the freshly tilled garden. Etienne drove back to the shed. As soon as he shut off the tractor engine, they heard the tapping again. Tick, tap, tick, tap, tap, tap.

Evelyn Eden and her cat Bob walked up just then. “What’s that noise?” Bob’s fur fluffed out and he let out a low growl.

Allyn said, “Something’s making a racket in there. We looked and couldn’t find anything.” They heard the annoying giggle again. Tap, tappity, tap.

Evelyn said, “Bob, get it.” The big bobcat bounded into the shed and began sniffing around. Tick, tap, tap, tap. Bob began clawing at the cabinet door. Evelyn opened it. Bob pounced. A shrill squeal turned into a string of Celtic curse words. The cat had his teeth on something that did not want to be dragged out into the open. His haunches flexed as he pulled. He shook his head and growled.

They all heard the voice say in a thick Irish brogue, “Turn me loose, you monster!” Allyn’s right eyebrow went up. He stepped over to Bob’s side and reached into the cabinet and took hold of some cloth with a limb in it. He and the cat pulled. They heard, “By all gods in Ireland, are you trying to kill me?!”

“Maybe I should, you little pwka!” Allyn looked over his shoulder. “A little help here?” Etienne grabbed Allyn’s shoulders and pulled. Jason and Bobby joined in and they heaved back. A sound like a giant cork being removed from a huge bottle filled the shed. They all tumbled back into a pile. Bob got to his feet and shook the creature he held in his teeth.

“Bloody cath paluc! Call it off!” the creature squealed.

Allyn sat up and saw what Bob had.  A little man was struggling to get out of the coat Bob had his teeth in. Allyn shouted, “Bobby, Jason, grab him!” They scrambled to grab the man by his arms and legs. He put up a fight, thrashing wildly. Allyn and Etienne joined the fray. The four men and the cat rolled around, trying to subdue the little man.

The melee stopped when Evelyn stepped up, reached down and touched the intruder, saying, “Stasis.” The wee man ceased to move.

Bob turned loose and stood back growling, his fur standing in a ridge down his back. Etienne, Jason, Bobby, and Allyn disentangled themselves and stood, looking at what had given such a fight. Only three feet in length, he wore brown knee breeches and a white linen shirt. His brown stockings were bunched around his ankles and his green jacket was torn where Bob’s teeth had latched on. Shiny silver buckles gleamed on his leather shoes and on the belt around his waist. His craggy wizened face was frozen in a grimace, his limbs in the position he was in when Evelyn touched him.

Bobby was the first to speak. “We just caught a leprechaun, didn’t we?”

“It’s the guy off the Lucky Charms box,” Jason said.

Etienne nudged him with the toe of his boot. “Sure looks like him.”

“He shoved me into the manure.” Jason said.

“He screwed with us all day.” Etienne said.

“What’re we gonna do with him?” Bobby asked.

“We can’t feed him to the gators today,” Allyn observed, “they’re all hibernating.”

“I could use him as a garden gnome,” Evelyn said. A tiny squeaky groan came from the static leprechaun.

“We need to find out why there’s a leprechaun in Southeast Texas.” Allyn looked at Evelyn. “If you would be so good as to release him from stasis, we can ask him.” He looked at the cat. “Don’t let him get away.” Bob nodded and put a big paw on the leprechaun’s chest.

Evelyn waved her hand and the leprechaun’s limbs went slack. He lay on his back looking up at the people who caught him. “I guess you want me pot of gold? Well, you’re out of luck. I was robbed before I got here.”

Allyn leaned down and studied the captive’s face carefully. One side of his mouth turned up in a wry smile. He laughed. “You lying bit of fairie dust. You never had any gold.”

The little man curled his lip back in a sneer. “And you’d know, wouldn’t you, you miserable overgrown ginger mongrel. I know who you are. You’re one of the seven.”

“And I know you. Tell me why you’re here or you’ll wish I’d killed you back then.”

“No need to get nasty about it. I was looking for a place to hide and gather me wits.”

“That’s a lost cause. What are you hiding from?”

“A bit of trouble.” Bob growled and flexed his paw, putting his claws through the shirt. “Call off this beast.” Bob licked the leprechaun’s face. The wee man fainted.

Allyn picked him up and shook him none too gently. He came to and started kicking. Allyn set him on the floor and said, “Ev, stick his feet to the floor.” She pointed at him. The leprechaun struggled, but couldn’t budge either foot.

Evelyn spoke. “Finnbheara.”

“Aye, that’s me. You have me by all rights.” At that, the little man’s ugly face blurred and changed to a handsome one with fine features and smooth skin. He looked her up and down, and said, “I don’t believe I’ve made your acquaintance, my lovely.”

“I’m not your lovely anything, you womanizing little troll. You’re on my land and here I’m the Queen. Behave yourself or you’ll never see Eire again.” She had her finger pointed at him. “You’ll be a lawn ornament.”

Finnbheara bowed. “Your majesty, I beg your forgiveness and your protection.” He looked at the four men standing around glowering at him.

“I’ll give you no protection from them or the cat.”

“You’re no better than the Morrigan,” he groused.

She raised her hand and pointed her finger. “You can be dust to make my garden fertile. The fairies can find a new King.”

“Oh me, you may as well,” he sighed. “Me wife tossed me out of me house because I was dallying with the pretty girls.”

“I should send you back to her trussed up and in stasis so she can do with you as she pleases.” Finnbheara cringed.

Allyn said, “He owes us some time in the garden. He slowed us down and broke every tool he could. He’s not going home to Una until he’s worked that off.”

“Thank you laddie. I’ll see to it you have a fine crop. Might I have a bite to eat and a drop to wet me whistle?”

Before Evelyn loosed Finnbheara’s feet, she said, “You’ll turn to stone if you even think of acting out.”

“You have me word. I’ll mind me P’s and Q’s. Now what do we have to eat and drink?”

“Alligator gumbo and Shiner Bock.”

“We’re eatin’ dinosaurs and drinkin’ weak beer?”

Evelyn pointed her finger and Finnbheara became still and silent. She said to Etienne, “Bring the garden gnome along, he can watch us eat dinosaurs and drink Texas beer.”

I ate a leprechaun

Characters in this story, except for Finnbheara, appear in the novel Slant Well.

Slant Well sales links





Sleigh Down on the Bayou

By MRJones

“Ivan, Olaf, Eddie, come to the sleigh barn.”  The trio, who had been dubbed, ‘the Insubordinate Clauses,’ due to some trouble down in Miami a few years back, looked up from the floor they were polishing when they heard that on the intercom.  They found Jolly Old Saint Nick tinkering with the propulsion system on his newest sleigh.  He finished up and wiped his hands on a shop towel.  “I know I put you on janitorial duty for five hundred years, but since you’ve been being good elves since I bailed you out, and you’re one of my best teams, I’m gonna let you take this new sleigh out for a test run.  You know the drill, over both poles and back here as fast as she can run.  Keep the cloaking system on.  I don’t want to hear reports of an early delivery.  Think you can handle that?”

“You got it, Boss,” the three of them said in unison.  Soon they were suited up and in the sleigh with Ivan as pilot, Eddie copiloting, and Olaf navigating.  Nick gave them the go and they took off.

“It’s three days before Christmas, I’m freezing and there’s no ducks.  I could’a been in my nice warm bed,” Jason Thibodeaux grumbled as he crouched in the duck blind with his cousins.  “But, no, Bobby wanted duck gumbo for Christmas. Chicken and sausage gumbo’d be good enough for me.  And we have all those wild hog hams too.”  He opened the big thermos and poured a cup of steaming coffee.

“Hey, pour some for me.”  Etienne Comeaux was no happier than Jason.  They huddled against the chill pre-dawn wind.

“I don’t know what you two are griping about,” Bobby said, “Neither of you brought a dog to fetch the ducks.”

Etienne slurped coffee and laughed.  “Allyn brought Bob.”

“I can’t believe he brought Bob.  Nobody brings a cat hunting.”

“I do.”  Allyn Jones and a big bobcat stepped into the blind.  He and the cat crouched down with the others.  On the edge of hearing, like music on the wind, the sound of a flock of ducks quacking as they flew made the cat’s ears prick up.

Jason nudged his cousin none to gently.  “Boudreaux, you gonna use that duck call you got from the Dynasty guys or are you gonna let these fly past?”

Bobby blew on the call, doing his best imitation of a duck.  It worked, the flock began to circle the small lake linked to the bayou.  All the men aimed their shotguns and fired.  Ducks fell from the sky.  A blur of tawny fur darted out and pounced on the nearest duck.

Bob was on his way back to the blind when a large object fell into the lake.  He dropped the duck and turned to face the unknown, back arched, fangs bared, and hissing.  Allyn’s eyes narrowed as he peered across the marshy terrain.  Etienne picked up his field glasses and looked at the lump in the center of the shallow lake.

“What do you see?”  Bobby was jostling Etienne’s elbow.

“It looks like a sleigh and three Santas.”

“Dude, how much did you drink last night?”  Jason was trying to get the binoculars away from his much larger cousin.

Allyn started laughing.  “That’s what’s out there, boys.  We shot Santa’s sleigh.”

“Why are there three of him?  And, for that matter, where are the eight tiny reindeer?”  Etienne lowered the glasses and handed them to Jason.

Allyn pulled out his cell phone and punched in a number.  “Nick, are you missing one of your sleighs?”  He held the phone away from his ear.  “Well, the boys and I found it.  Actually we shot it down.  It’s in a little lake in LaBelle.  Yeah all three of ‘em seem to be moving around okay.  Yeah, home in on this phone signal.  See you in a few.”  He put his phone back in his jacket pocket and looked at the cat.  “What’re you waitin’ for?  Go get those ducks.”  Bob trotted off to do his job.

“Who were you talking to?”  Etienne was watching the men waving their arms, trying to signal for help.

“Santa Clause.”

“You lyin’ piece of work.  Who was it?”

“Jolly old Saint Nick.  He’s not gonna be jolly when he sees this mess.  C’mon, let’s go check on those guys.”  Allyn strode away toward the lake.

Etienne followed, saying, “You don’t have your waders on.”  He stopped at the water’s edge.

“Don’t need ‘em.”  Allyn walked across the water.  He stopped and looked back.  “You just have to believe you can, Etienne.”  He turned and continued to the downed sleigh.

The men on the wreck stopped flapping their arms when they saw the tall man with flowing red hair walking their way.  Eddie asked, “Ivan, who walks on water?”

“I haven’t seen that trick in over two thousand years, and that guy sure isn’t Yeshua ha Nostri.”

Olaf squinted at the approaching figure.  “There was a Welch guy who could command the water to his will.”

Ivan shook his head.  “Those guys are long gone.  This one probably knows where the shallow spots are.”

“Whatever, I hope he can help us get this thing out of here before Nick knows we wrecked it,” Eddie said with a shiver.

Olaf rolled his eyes and said, “You think he can just tow us out of this muck with his pickup truck?”

“He looks nice enough.  Maybe he’ll do it.”  Eddie squeezed water out of his hat.

“Fenris the crack dealer looked like a good guy when we met him,” Ivan said.  Olaf shuddered at the mention of that name.  “Remember how well that turned out?  Besides this guy and his buddies shot us down.”

Olaf snapped, “I told you to stay away from those ducks!  But noooooo, you had to chase ‘em.”

“Cut it out,” Eddie said, “he’s almost here.”  Eddie raised his hand in greeting and called out, “Can you give us a little help here?  We need to get this thing out of the water.”

“Yeah, I can get you out of the cold water.  The hot water, that’s your problem,” Allyn said as he stepped alongside the downed sleigh.

“Hot water?  What do you mean?”  Ivan asked, eying the tall redheaded stranger.

“Nick’s on his way.”

“I told you to stay away from those ducks!  Now we’ll be mopping floors forever.”  Olaf glared at Ivan, then, turned to Allyn.  “How do you know he’s on his way?”

“He knows when you’ve been naughty.”  Allyn snickered.  “I called him.”

Olaf looked closely at the man standing on the surface of the water.  “I know you, Celt.

One copper eyebrow raised.  “Do you, Elf?”

“You’re that magician, Manawyddan fab Llyr.  I thought you were dead.  What are you doing here?”

“Duck hunting.  Now that you and your buddies have dropped in on us and ruined the chance of me shooting another one, I’ll be getting this neutron powered bucket out of the way.  All of you, walk to shore, I’m not wasting my energy on you.”

Ivan stepped out and sank in cold water and mud up to his waist.  He shrieked.  Eddie said, “I told you he was walking on water.”

Allyn reached out, pulled Ivan up, and stood him on the surface.  The elf teetered and began to sink.  “Believe,” Allyn said.  “Isn’t that the business you’re in, belief?”  Ivan pulled his feet out of the water, steadied himself, and started for the shore.  The others followed.  Allyn shook his head.  “Putzes.”

He got in the sleigh and found the controls.  In the driver’s seat, he lay his hand on the dashboard and felt the hum of energy begin to pulse through the sleigh.  It lifted out of the sucking mud with a pop and a splash of cold swamp water.  Keeping it a few feet above the lake, he flew it to shore and landed.  As he got out, he saw a bright red crew cab pickup truck rolling slowly down the trace of a trail toward the duck blind.  He waved.  The truck drew alongside and stopped.  The driver’s window lowered.

“You shot my sleigh down?  With a shotgun, you shot it down?”

“I had help.  There were four of us shooting.”

“You shot my sleigh down with shotguns.  How did you manage that?”

“Steel shot.  Cold iron trumps magic.  They were chasing the ducks and flew into a cloud of steel shot.”

“Gaaahh!”  The door opened and Nick got out.  He glared at the Insubordinate Clauses as they stood wet and shivering.

Ivan hung his head and said, “Don’t blame them, Boss.  This is all my fault.  They tried to stop me.”

“Thank you for being honest, Ivan.  You’re back on floor duty.  Eddie, Olaf, take it back to the barn.”

Eddie’s teeth were chattering when he said, “Uh, Boss, we’re freezing, can we get dried off first?”

Allyn raised his left hand, pointed at the three wet elves and spoke a few words of ancient Welch.  They were clean and dry.  Eddie and Olaf thanked him, climbed in the sleigh and took off.

“Get in the truck, Ivan.  We’re gonna have a little talk on the way back to the shop.”  Ivan climbed into the rider’s seat and shut the door.

Allyn reached out and put his hand on Nick’s shoulder.  “You coming to dinner Christmas Day?”

“Is Evelyn cooking?”

“Yep.  Wild hog ham, duck gumbo, and all the fixin’s”

“I’ll bring some gingerbread.”  Nick got in the truck, started it and took off over the bayou, disappearing from sight.



Halloween at T’ Mamou’s by MRJones

Late afternoon sun angled through Spanish Moss and cypress trees, sending spotty light to the murky bayou. A small aluminum john boat, laden with bags of groceries and two young men skimmed over the water. The wake sloshed against the banks and disturbed dense mats of water hyacinths. At the tiller, Jason Thibodeaux followed the twisted path of the bayou. They passed egrets stalking through shallows in search of supper. Alligators floating at the surface, in hopes of an egret dinner, ducked under the water when the boat passed.

“Jason, you think it’s true that T’ Mamou’s house moves around the swamp?”

Jason laughed and said, “Yeah, it get up on its legs and walk around to find the best spot to be. “Seeing the look of fear on his cousin’s face, he added, “That old house don’t walk. It’s always been in the same place, just past the big cypress around the bend where the bayou double back on itself.”

“We should have brought Etienne.”

“Why you think we should bring him?”

“He knows this part of the bayou better’n we do. He knows magic, too.”

“Bobby Boudreaux, you think we’re gonna need magic to find T’ Mamou’s place?”

“I’m jus’ sayin’ weird stuff happens out here and this is Halloween.”

Jason gave the engine more gas as the sun dipped below the horizon. “The only thing we need is light an that’s goin’ away fast.” They rounded a sharp bend and passed a giant cypress tree with knees standing five feet out of the water. The rotted remains of a dock marked the spot. “Here we… ,” Jason started to say when the words dried up.

The house wasn’t there. The engine died and the drifted by the mouldering dock. Wisps of fog rose from the dark water. Bobby’s voice quavered. “The house ain’t here, Jason. T’ Mamou made it walk away.”

“Shut up, Bobby. We just ain’t gone far enough.” Jason pulled the start rope and the little engine fired up.

A crescent moon rose as they continued up the bayou, adding only a ghostly bit of light. Bobby pulled out his flashlight and shined it along the bank, watching for a dock by every cypress tree they passed. Around another bend and another big tree, they saw a small neat dock. Jason slowed the boat. There was no house.

A loud crunching and crackling came from the woods. Bobby shone his flashlight into the trees. In the beam, they saw something moving, something big. Spider-like, the house walked on its stilts to the edge of the bayou and settled in place. A flight of stairs rolled out from the porch to the dock.

“I told you, Jason! I told you her house walks!”

“Our eyes playin’ tricks on us in this light. Tie the boat up.”

“Both our eyes saw the same trick.” Bobby grumbled as he hopped to the dock and tied off.

A dry cackle came from inside the dark house. The screen door creaked open and a tiny skinny ancient woman in a long black dress hobbled out onto the porch. “You boys bring me groceries?”

“Yeah, T’ Mamou, we bring you groceries,” Jason said as he handed the bags to Bobby.

“Bring dem in. I got gumbo and boudain and fried frog legs for Halloween, We’re havin’ a party.” She turned and went back inside. Yellow light from a kerosene lamp glowed through the screen door, lighting the dock and stairs.

Toting the bags of groceries, Bobby and Jason climbed the rickety stairs. Each tread groaned as they stepped on it. The porch boards screeched when they crossed it. Bobby whispered, “I swear, Jason, this place is alive.”

“I think you’re right. I wish we had Etienne here.” As Jason reached for the door handle, a shadow filled the doorway and deep evil laughter wafted through the screen. Jason shrieked, dropped the bags he carried, and jumped backwards, falling over Bobby.

The shadow stepped through the door and said, “You jus’ in time for de party. I hope you bring dem chips and dips. De beer, it cold already.” Jason shrieked again as he scrambled to get to the stairs. A hand caught his tee-shirt, dragged him back kicking and screaming, and stood him in the front room.

The darkness wafted away from the shadow and there stood his cousin, Etienne Comeaux, grinning. Jason turned to see Bobby leaning against the door post, red-faced and laughing. Together, Bobby and Etienne said, “Trick or treat!”

“You two! I’m gonna get you!”

The odor of sulfur, like a freshly struck match, reached Jason’s nose. From behind him a deep voice said, “You don’t stand a chance, toad.” A large hand caught him by the scruff of his neck. “This is my holiday, so kick back, drink some beer, and enjoy the party.” The hand sat him in a chair. Jason looked behind him and saw Allyn Jones, the redheaded magician who married his aunt. He took the beer the magician offered.

“Okay, where’s Aunt Nan?” Jason asked. “I know she’s in on this too.”

“Right here,” Evelyn Eden said as she set a platter of smoked boudain on the table.

Several beers and lots of food later, Etienne picked up his accordion, Bobby and Jason got a couple of old guitars off the wall, and Allyn produced a violin from thin air. The strains of Jolie Blond filled the air and drove away any evil spirits that may have thought to join the party.

Happy Halloween from the swamp.