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Instead of Three Wishes EPB
A Plague of Leprechaun
Tuesday morning, the North Twicking Times of North Twicking, New Hampshire, ran a story on a leprechaun recently sighted by James Fairsidle on his way down to his south field. North Twicking was a town of Irish descent and Fairsidle was a man who'd always longed to see a leprechaun, certain that he could bully the little beggar into releasing his treasure. Now he had seen one, and he had the broken wrist to prove it, having fallen over a stone in his hurry to catch hold of the little green man. As a result, he'd be hiring Patrick Whelan to do his spring plowing for him. He came into Mrs. Malleaster's tavern very grumpy about the whole business and claimed that the leprechaun had magicked the stone under his feet. As this contravened the well-ordered rules of leprechauns, he found very little sympathy among the other midday tavern-goers.
"You'd have done better to keep you mouth shut about the whole business instead of letting the entire world in on what a fool you were," said Mag Malleaster. "I don't know why you did such a silly thing."
"Because Rob down at the paper gives a pretty good fee to anyone who brings in a story, that's why," said Fairsidle. "That money is the only good thing to come out of this business."
"Wouldn't surprise me if it was," muttered Mag, wiping down the bar. "This time tomorrow we'll be overrun."
"I thought you'd like the business, Mag."
"I would if they would come one after another like decent tourists. I've only got six rooms in the inn, haven't I? Mark my words, they'll all be here together, and just as we've orderedin enough beer to keep 'em, they'll all be gone and leave nothing behind but the undrunk Guinness I have to pay for."
North Twicking did its best to prepare, but by the next afternoon there were more leprechaun hunters than you could shake a stick at. They came from near and from far. A cowboy came all the way from Kingsville, Texas. There were old ones and young ones and single ones and ones that brought along their entire families. Mag's inn was filled. The only empty room she had was one that had been reserved several weeks earlier, and she'd been offered a great deal of money by a number of people if she would just cancel that reservation and let them have the room. Each time she'd said no, but it made her hot under the collar to turn down money, and as the day passed, she got more and more snappish. The regulars in the tavern looked carefully into their beers and only spoke when ordering a new round.
"But, madam," one of the visitors pointed out, "leprechauns are good luck."
"No," said Mag, "leprechauns are lucky. You don't get good luck without bad, and I'll tell you which kind those little men like to hand out."
Right she was. By the end of the week, all the milk in the county was running sour. The cows closest to North Twicking were the worst. Saturday afternoon the water main in town burst, and folks had to carry their water from the town well. Sunday the Holbins' barn caught fire, and they were lucky to get the animals safely out before it burned to the ground. These were just the larger disasters. Marjorie Sities turned her ankle, Caleb Bates's car got flats in all its tires one right after the other, and Jamie Walsh woke up Monday morning to find that his prize black Angus were scattered all over the Twicking Hills. Mixed in with these events were the six or seven search parties that had to be organized to hunt down missing tourists and their children, all of whom claimed to have been led off by the leprechaun.
Monday afternoon, a young man with a knapsack and a black briefcase walked into the tavern and asked if Mrs. Malleaster was the proprietress of the hotel.
Mag finished pouring the pint she was working on and stared at the bar a moment before she answered. She was, in general, fair-minded, congenial, and kind. Her customers liked her and she made a reasonable living with her tavern. Still, North Twicking got very few out-of-town visitors, it being much less accessible than South Twicking, located on the highway fifteen miles down the valley. It fairly made her blood boil to have so many potential customers and to have to turn them away. She reached for a slip of paper and slid it across the bar to the young man.
"We're all full up here. That's a list of families who will rent space to visitors, but I'll warn you that the town water main is burst and you won't be able to get a bath at any of 'em. You can use my phone to call around and see who's got room." She turned back to the tap and began filling the next pint.
The young man looked a little stunned, as well he might. He lowered his briefcase to the floor and sidled closer to the bar. "Uh, I don't mean to be rude, but my name is Roger Otterly, and I think I have a room here. I did make a reservation and, uh, I did pay in advance."
"Oh, good heavens!" Mag put the mug down on the bar half full. "What must you think of us? Yes, of course I have your room." She called over her one waitress and said, "Jen, keep an eye on the bar. I'm going to take this young man up to his room. It's right this way, sir."
As she preceded him up the narrow stairs to the second floor, she explained that it was the only room left in the hotel since the leprechaun sighting had brought so many people to town, and she'd had . . .Instead of Three Wishes EPB
. Copyright © by Megan Turner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.