The leprechaun was fed up with cheery rainbows. “‘Tis a fool who follows where he’s led,” he liked to say. “I learned me lesson in the old country.” He scuttled round the factory, beneath the ping of rain on sheet metal, rattling conveyor belts, and digestive pipeline gurgles.
Still, all stories can be relished at a distance. “‘Twas a dark and stormy night,” he began. That was a lie, but Bailey had no love of truth, which had never done him any favors. “I was delivering parsnips to the Hollows, a wretched place, scared heroes silly.”
Lucinda, Bailey’s wife, snorted coffee out her nose. Bailey ignored the interruption. “Curiosity grabbed me by the frock coat. I eavesdropped at the giant’s cave. Someone said, ‘Tis a forearm’ and another answered ‘Nah, a child’s hamstring. I shivered in me bones!”
Lucinda harrumphed. She’d heard it all before. “Their shadows skittered between cauldrons, eyeball soup and buttock pie. I turned to leave, tripped on a black cat’s tail, and me blasted invisibility charm just blinkered out.”
That part was true. For a leprechaun, he had atrocious luck. Warty fingers picked him up with roars of phlegmy laughter. They shoved a ladle in his hand, and turned him to a scullery maid, with an admonishment to separate the ankle bones and wrists.
“Three years to escape,” Bailey sighed. “And then,” he looked at Lucinda. “Well, you know the rest.”
He got seasick on the boat to Ellis Island. When the pirates came, he was so weak, they threw him overboard. He drifted to a floating garbage patch. “I survived on sludge,” Bailey boasted, which made Lucinda gag.
A science expedition fished him out, “but they thought to vivisect me!” so he wormed out through the waste disposal system — “flushed meself out the head!”
On the shores of Canada, he was rescued by an angel — “the plastic sludge had ruined me vision.” The angel was Lucinda. He married her. It turned out she was an ass. “Imagine!” Bailey liked to say, “married to a donkey.” Lucinda read him Shakespeare, but Bailey said, “You’re no Titania, either.”
She wrangled him a factory job. He was delighted, at the start. “Lucky Strikes!” he said, “I’ve always dreamt of smoke!” He was sorely disappointed.
It was an irony the donkey could appreciate — a luckless leprechaun in a factory that produced Liquid Luck, Fluid Fortune, and Chocolate-Covered Kismet-Kisses. The bosses were enamored with their mascot. “Just keep your stories to yourself,” Lucinda warned him.
But Bailey was a sucker for poking wrenches where they never did belong. The explosion made the global papers. There were mass evacuations — luck, when overheated, turns capricious, sour, and flinty.
The factory still stands, streaked with rust and soot, its damage all internal. Children lurk its shadows, on a dare. No one looks too closely. It is enough, they say, to hear the grumbling and the braying, as if a wee small man were at unending odds with a stubborn, scalded donkey.
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