Hey, Blog Blots,
I am taking a chance here hoping the virus is under control for a few minutes. This is the first draft of a story I want to enter into a competition and your input would be helpful. Some of you already have it but for those who don't, give me your best critique... don't pull any punches tell me exactly what you think of the story. THANKS
“Don’t you know how cold that linoleum floor is?”
“Well it might be colder than that floor you’re used to in the city, but it don’t matter, Kiddo. The surprise will be worth it.” The leprechaun was sitting on the foot rail of the metal bed I slept in. “A good surprise is worth a little discomfort if you ask me. So, come on, get up.”
“I ain’t gonna do it.” I rolled over on my side and pulled the heavy Granny Quilt my Aunt Margaret made for me over my head. But, I hated to have my head covered up so I stuck my face out and tucked the quilt under my chin. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the leprechaun jump down from the rail and almost disappear into the thick feather mattress. Then like a rabbit hopping through deep snow, he came bouncing over to me. As he came bounding over I saw two keys hanging from his neck. They swung back and forth with every bound he made. But rather than a necklace holding them, he had used a piece of baling wire. Granddaddy use baling wire for a lot of things but never a necklace. I almost laughed at the way the keys swung back and forth just under his long red beard. The swinging keys reminded me of pendulum on the clock in the middle room where my grandparents slept. Every hour on the hour the clock would chime in the new hour and then chime once on the half hour. Sometimes at night the old clock was the only thing keeping me from being afraid of the dark. But, tonight the rattling of the keys sounded nothing like the chime of the clock.
When he got to me, he squatted down right in front of my face and grinned.
“What’s the keys for?” I asked.
“What keys?” The leprechaun replied.
“The ones hanging around your neck.”
He reach his hand up and took a hold of the keys, “Oh, these,” he grinned even bigger than before, “Could be the keys to my heart, but they aren’t. Or, maybe, the keys to my house, but they aren’t. And, I guess, they could be the keys to the city, but since we’re in the country, I guess they aren’t that either.”
“So, what are they for?” I asked a bit disgusted.
“Why they are the keys to the kingdom.”
“Aye, the kingdom, the world, my world… maybe your world… if you had them around your neck.”
“You’re crazy. I can’t understand nothin’ you say… go away so I can go back to sleep.’
“No, no, Kiddo… listen, with these keys you can go anywhere you want to go. If you can think about it, you can do it. How do you think I got here?”
“You’re crazy. I’m goin’ to sleep now. Go away.”
But the leprechaun insisted. “If you don’t hurry up, they’ll be gone.”
I opened my eyes again, “Who’ll be gone?”
“That’s the surprise, Kiddo. Come on, City Boy, crawl out of that bed and see what I mean.”
“I ain’t getting’ up ‘till Granddaddy stokes up the wood stove in the middle room and Granny gets the cook stove hot.”
“That’ll be too late. You’re going to miss it for sure.”
“There ain’t no such thing as a leprechaun anyway, I must be dreamin’.”
“Well, now reach over here and touch me, I’m here ain’t I? You can’t feel a dream, Kiddo’?”
“Go away, I want to go back to sleep.”
“Sleep? Sleep when there’s things you’ve never seen before happening just outside that window.” He pointed to the window just across the room from my bed.
My room also served as the dining room when company came for big dinners. Sometimes the hands working for Granddaddy ate at the big table too, but in the winter it was mostly my room. If you went through one door you were in the kitchen where Granny cooked on a huge wood cooking stove. One door led outside. Right now it was covered in plastic to keep the cold out. And through the other door was the middle room where my grandparents slept and where we all watched television in the evenings. I wanted to get up just to see what the leprechaun was talking about but it was so dark I had no idea what time it was and I was just a little scared. I was hoping the clock would chime soon.
“Come on, Kiddo, times a wasting. You’ve never seen anything like this before, never gonna see anything like it in the city. Just think, the next time your mama comes in from the city you will have a big tale to tell her.”
“Too bad, I bet your country cousin, Larry up the lane hasn’t seen anything like this.”
“I’m just dreamin’ anyway. You ain’t real.”
“You might be right; imagination is the foundation of all reality, Kiddo. But, I’m tellin’ you, I am as real as the snow out that window.”
I loved snow. It hadn’t snowed much this winter and here it was February. Without thinking, I jumped out of bed and ran, barefoot, to the window. I paid no attention to how cold the floor was.
At the window, I cupped my hands over my face and pushed against the cold panes. Sure enough I could see snow coming down, even in the deep, dark of night. There was lots of it too; it was so deep it covered the foundation of the well where Granny pumped water for her cooking.
“Now, you see?” The leprechaun said, “Snow, beautiful, deep snow. But, what else do you see?”
I strained to see even without the help of an obscure moon. There were deer, as many as six or seven of them. Some with antlers and some with out. They had invaded the feed shed where Granddaddy kept the sweet feed for the work horses. Somehow they had overturned the five gallon lard buckets he kept the feed in. The tops had fallen off. The deer were helping themselves. It was a wonderful sight.
“Granddaddy is gonna be real mad when he sees this.”
“Maybe he will, but have you ever seen so many deer in one place at the same time? Aren’t they beautiful?”
“The snow is above their ankles.”
“I told you it was going to be a wonderful surprise. And, see you didn’t pay no mind to that cold linoleum floor after all.”
As soon as he said it, I realized I was freezing. I ran back to my bed and jumped right in the middle of the thick feather mattress and pulled the quilt up to my neck again. I expected the leprechaun to come bounding up right beside me but he didn’t. For a moment, I heard the jangle of the keys around his neck and then he was gone. I rose up, looked around the room and realized I was alone. I laid my head back and fell sound to sleep.
I woke to the screeching sound of the metal hinge of Granny’s oven. I knew soon the wonderful smell of her buttermilk biscuits and sizzling bacon would be filling the house. My room wasn’t warm yet but I could feel the heat beginning to radiate from both the middle room and the kitchen. When I heard the crash of split wood being dropped into the wood box beside the middle room stove, I knew Granddaddy had been outside. The crashing sound was his way of making sure everyone still asleep in the house woke up. That, of course, meant me.
Since my room was just beginning to warm up, I decided to wait a few more minutes before actually dealing with the cold floor on my bare feet. And, I dreaded telling Granddaddy about the deer getting into his sweet feed. Once breakfast was about to be put on the table, Granny would be coming in to tell me there would be no school today because of the snow. So, I lingered in the bed for a few more minutes.
Granny walked in, no sooner than I had processed the thought.
“You better be rollin’ out of that bed, Buffalo. Miz Zell won’t like you bein’ late for school.”
Buffalo was my nickname. Granddaddy never called any of his kids, grandkids or great-grandkids by their real name. Each of us had a nickname. There was a cocoanut, a kayo, tubby, rooster and, of course, Buffalo. I like to think it was because I was a dying breed, one of a kind; but Granddaddy said it was because I was so hard headed.
I protested the news of going to school, “But, we won’t have school today.”
“Why not?” Granny asked.
I was amazed neither she nor Granddaddy had noticed the heavy snow covering the ground outside. “The snow is too deep. It’s probably up to my knees.”
“Snow? There ain’t no snow out there. You must have been dreamin’.”
“I saw it last night when the leprechaun told me about it. That’s when I saw the deer in the sweet feed too.”
Granny walked over to my bed and laid her hand on my forehead. “You’re talkin’ crazy this mornin’.” She held her hand on my forehead for a few minutes and said, “You got a pretty high fever, no wonder you’re talkin’ so crazy.”
“But I seen ‘em, Granny, right out that window. They were in the shed eatin’ the sweet feed.”
“Omar, come here and feel this boy’s head, he’s burnt up with fever, and, he’s talkin’ about leprechauns and sweet feed…”
Granddaddy walked into the room and looked at me, “Leprechauns, huh? Ain’t seen none of them around these parts for sometime.” He laughed that hardy laugh of his, “I think maybe you got the epizootic, Buffalo.”
“I ain’t, Granddaddy, I saw them deer eatin’ up all the sweet feed you keep in them lard cans.”
“I just came from the barn and ain’t no sign of deer or leprechauns down there. You better get them covers back over you ‘til Edna can fix up some of her special medicine.”
Granny tucked me in and told me to lay still while she fixed up the medicine. My confusion about the leprechaun and the deer must have been because of my fever but I didn’t feel sick. I thought to myself, ‘that leprechaun put a spell on me.’ but I dared not say that to my grandparents. I laid my head back on the pillow and fell fast asleep.
Granny’s special medicine was an awful concoction of vinegar, sugar, lemon and, I am pretty sure a lot of dishwater. I am not sure if it was the Vicks Vapor rub Granny kept rubbing into my chest or the home made concoction she kept making me take every few hours, but one of those made me finally will myself back to health. But after three days of sleeping, sweating and holding my nose while swallowing Granny’s magic elixir I finally woke up feeling much better.
I was sitting up in bed when Granny came into my room with a big spoon and another dose of her “medicine”.
“Well, do you think you’re gonna live now?” She asked as she began pouring the big spoon full.
“I think so. Maybe I don’t need no more medicine.”
“I don’t know about that. You don’t want to take any chances of getting’ sick again.” She aimed the dripping, maybe even bubbling stuff towards my mouth, “Open wide, maybe this one will be the last you gotta take.”
There wasn’t any maybe about it as far as I was concerned. I opened my eyes, held my nose and slurped up the whole spoonful.
“Good boy,” She said, “now re you hungry?”
I was starving but I did not want to ruin the taste of a good biscuit and jelly with the aftertaste of the medicine in my mouth so I said, “Maybe just a cup of cocoa would be ok.”
“There’s still some left over from breakfast. I’ll warm it up for you. If you change your mind about being hungry, there’s biscuits in the warmer.”
“Maybe after I drink my cocoa.”
“Ok.” She said as she headed out the door and into the kitchen.
During the days I was sick, I am not sure if I dreamed or not; but I kept trying to remember the leprechaun and his jangling keys. I especially thought of him as I pulled my socks on while standing on the cool floor of my room. Maybe he was a dream rooted out of my fever but to me he was as real as anything I had ever seen. So were the deer, the snow and everything about that night.
I finished putting on the rest of my clothes and headed for the kitchen.
Granny was just putting my hot cocoa on the table, “You sure you don’t want anything to eat?”
“I guess a biscuit would be good. Do we have any of Aunt Margaret’s raspberry jelly?”
“Your grandfather opened a jar this mornin’.” Granny pulled open the warmer drawer. The aroma of those biscuits made my mouth water. I realized I was a lot hungrier than I thought.
I sipped the cocoa while watching Granny put two of the big, fluffy biscuits on a saucer. She sat them in front of me with a little grin on her face. I broke one in half and they were as warm and fresh as they were when she made the batch this morning. I was smearing on gobs of butter when she sat the raspberry jelly down beside my saucer. I could hardly wait to spoon on a big daub.
Granddaddy came in the back door just as I was licking off the remains of my first biscuit. “Well, looky there, I think it’s alive.”
He went over to the stove and poured a cup of coffee then sat down across from me. He dipped his spoon in the coffee and let it dribble back into the cup to cool it down some before he took a sip. “Buffalo, I reckon that there Leprechaun of yours was right. Something got into the sweet feed last night and just about ate it all. It don’t look like deer doin’s but I reckon it could’ a been.”
“Now, Omar, don’t be encouragin’ him to talk about some Leprechaun again, or I might have to give both of you a dose of this medicine.”
Granddaddy and I made faces at the thought and laughed.
“Is there such a thing as Leprechauns, Granddaddy?” I asked
“I’ve heard ‘em talked about, come from over yonder in Ireland but I don’t rightly know for sure. At least I ain’t never seen one. What’d this’n you saw look like?”
Granny gave us both another look.
“He was little, almost got lost in the feather tick. And, he had on funny clothes, like one of Santa’s elves.” I thought back on the night, “And, he had a beard too. Not like Santa’s, his was red and pointy. His hair was red too, kinda like Pixie.” Pixie was one of my girl cousins who had fiery red hair and a temper to match.
Now Granny was banging pots and pans around. I knew she was getting real mad at us. I think Granddaddy was carrying on with me just to tease her.
“Well, he sounds like a cute little feller. I’d like to meet him sometime.”
“And,” I added a bit more excited, “he had some keys hangin’ around his neck.”
“Keys?” Granddaddy asked.
“Yes, Sir. He said they was to his kingdom and said if I had ‘em they’d be the keys to my kingdom.”
“Alright, you two, that’s all the leprechaun talk I wanna hear. Omar, ain’t you got work to do outside?”
I didn’t say a word but kept glancing back and forth at my grandparents, and then Granddaddy said, “Yeah, I got work to do. I’m gonna set me a Leprechaun trap down there by the shed.”
I could not help myself; I broke out in a giggle I could not control. Mean while, Granny grabbed the fly swatter and took a swing at Granddaddy. He jumped up and ran before she could connect with the side of his head. She took off after him, swinging the fly swatter with all her might but he was out the door and gone before she could catch up with him. She stopped at the door shaking the fly swatter at him as he disappeared down the road to the barn. She slammed the door shut and turned toward me.
I was gulping down my last swallow of cocoa getting ready to run myself. She pointed the fly swatter at me and said, “And you had better be getting’ dressed so you can find something to do too, young man.”
I was up and gone before she had to say anymore.
It was a warm day for February but I put on my warm over clothes just in case. The last thing I wanted was to get sick again and have to take more of the “dishwater” medicine. Outside, I decided to head down to the barn and see what had gone on with the feed shed and maybe find Granddaddy. I wasn’t a lot of help on the farm in those days, but I loved to tag along with him anyway.
There was no one at the barn. It looked like Granddaddy had already cleaned up the mess. I wondered what could have done it if it wasn’t the deer, but I never found out.
While I was standing in the barn lot, looking out across the field trying to find Granddaddy, I heard a rattling sound in the barn. I was pretty sure he was not inside because the big double doors were shut and secured with the big wooden lever across them. He could have gone in the back door but that wasn’t his usual way. I decided to have a look.
I pulled on the rope that operated the wooden lever. It took all my seven year old body had to get the lever to swing up, but I did it. I pushed open the big doors and the scent of ricked hay, cows and horses carried its way to me on a warm breeze. It was the smell of the farm, a smell I loved and there is no other scent to this day that compares to it.
The noise had probably been one of the barn cats chasing a mouse or maybe even the big snow owl I had seen last week roosting on the upper rails of the barn. I looked up from the middle of the barn driveway but saw nothing. But while I was looking up I heard another rattling, jangling sound coming from near the tack room.
My heart was pounding as I walked a little closer to the tack room where all the harness for the horses was kept. I wasn’t actually afraid because the sound was strangely familiar. Yet, I was cautious as I approached the door.
I reached for the handle. As I did, my eyes fell on something that made my heart nearly leap out of my chest.
There, hanging right beside the handle, on a nail, hung two keys kept together with a circle of baling wire. Then from somewhere way up in the hay loft I heard a laugh; a laugh I could never forget.
I thought of deer and sweet feed and deep beautiful snow, but I never spoke of Leprechauns again.