“But did you see her outfit?” Seamus O’Reilly roared, the force of his bellow carrying him up and off the couch.
“Yes, I saw it, honey,” his wife returned calmly, unperturbed. She hunted through the bowl of candy in front of her, but didn’t find what she liked. She sat back and sighed, rubbing her rounded belly.
“You’re a leprechaun. She’s a leprechaun. She’s allowed to dress like a leprechaun, even if she does look like a slut.” This last was said softly under her breath, but the man pacing in front of her didn’t seem to hear it.
“We are not wee, green men,” he protested. “We are not wee beings dreamed up by the tourist board. Ma family fought with Cu Chulainn, the son of Lugh…”
“And you did it very well too, dear. Help me up please,” the small, blond woman interrupted, holding out one arm.
Sighing, Seamus braced both legs and wrapped an arm around his wife. “Maybe you should lay off the candy for a bit, at least till the baby comes,” he grunted as he lifted.
“Are you saying I’m fat?” Shannon leaned comfortably in her husband’s embrace and laughed up at him.
“Never, my love,” the tall man smiled down at her. “I’m just thinking the babe is maybe getting a might plump.”
“Oh, you do think I’m fat,” Shannon pushed at her husband as the doorbell rang. “Go give away my candy then.”
Sighing, Seamus picked up the discarded bowl and headed to the front door, looking back behind him at his pouting wife.
“I don’t think you’re fat,” he explained, one hand pushing the door open. “I’m just saying…”
A small “ow” interrupted him as the door swung out and caught a trick-or-treater unaware.
“Ah damn,” Seamus folded up his lanky frame until he was eye level with the little boy standing sniffling on the front step. “I’m sorry,” he started but stopped short.
A red scrape ran down one side of the boy’s face and his eye was rapidly turning black. Fierce tears mingled with bubbling snot as the boy flushed and pulled away from Seamus’s gently reaching fingers. Behind him, Seamus could hear Shannon gasp.
“Now, now,” Seamus soothed his wife as much as the small boy in front of him. “Tis not so bad. I’m betting the other lads look a sight worse. Shannon, fetch us a washcloth, and we’ll get this fixed up.”
Seamus gently propelled the boy into the kitchen and lifted him up on the counter to dab at the cut on his face. Shannon hovered behind them, making cooing sounds, but unable to get closer because of her belly.
“Now then,” Seamus finished and stood back. Shannon handed him an icepack, and he gently pressed it to the side of the small boy’s face. “What was the fight about? Not enough candy to go around tonight even?” His voice was stern, but his eyes were warm. Naturally, confronted by sympathy, the little boy burst out crying.
“They took my candy,” he wailed. Seamus stepped back, startled, but Shannon pushed him aside and took over.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” she wrapped one comforting arm around the child and resumed dabbing with tissues. “Who took your candy?”
The child sniffled and confided, “My brother. He was supposed to take me to City Hall, but his friends grabbed my candy and pushed me and he went with them and I don’t have any candy!”
The enormity of his loss sent the child into fresh wails, Shannon into more soothing dabbing, and Seamus hurrying to the far side of the kitchen. From there, he had a clear view of the little boy, dressed in dark green knee breeches and short jacket over a frilly shirt. A battered top hat was crushed over his ears. Seamus’ heart sank.
“Lad,” he had to stop for a fortifying breath. “Why are ye dressed like a … like a leprechaun?”
“They said it was stupid,” the child sniffled. “But in the movies, he was mean, and, and he beat everyone up, and…” His explanation ended on a hiccup.
Shannon reached out to touch her husband, in sympathy or restraint he didn’t know, but all he said was, “Lad, you’ll not be learning the truth about leprechauns in the movies. You need to go to the library.”
The child looked at him baffled, so Seamus just sighed and held out one hand. “C’mon then. Let’s go get your candy back.”
Shannon helped the boy off the counter and escorted them both to the front door. Handing Seamus his coat, she dimpled up at him. “My hero.”
Seamus frowned. “Yeah, yeah, you just stay inside with the doors locked. And don’t eat all the candy.”
Outside, he had to shorten his stride considerably to accommodate the little boy beside him. The night was dark, but not still, alive with the hum of insects and in the distance, the dull roar of cars and an occasional, starling burst of voices or laughter.
“You know it’s not safe to be out at night alone,” Seamus started. The city threw a party downtown just to keep the kids safe, but a lingering sniffle was the only response to his caution. That seemed fair enough to Seamus. The boy had already had one brush with danger tonight.
“Ay,” Seamus continued. “It’s Samhain, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Tonight’s when all the ghosts and goblins come out and roam the world freely.” He lowered his to a spooky timber, and the little boy, looking around nervously, crowded a little closer to Seamus’s long legs. Delighted, Seamus reached down and took the child’s hand.
“You know,” he continued. “Leprechauns were great warriors originally. We, they fought for Eire, for the Tuatha Dé Danann, and protected it against invaders. They weren’t originally little, green men…” His voice trailed off at the child’s blank look.
Seamus tried again. “Tonight’s the night when the magic’s strongest.” He nodded, pleased as the boy’s eyes lit up. “Ay, all kinds of things can happen tonight.”
Seamus got down on one knee as they came up to City Hall. Bright lights and the sound of a loud, but not particularly good band spilled out of the open doors. “I know your Mom probably told you not to talk to strangers, but when we get inside, I want you to trust me. Be ready to scream like a banshee.”
“What’s a banshee?”
Seamus sighed and pushed his lanky frame upright. “Really, you need to visit the library.”
Sheparding his small charge inside with one hand, Seams scanned the crowd of laughing children and bustling adults inside. He didn’t have to look far. The disloyal brother looked up guiltily from where a group of older boys stood elbowing each other and sniggering. Ay, just old enough to be feeling their strength, but not enough sense to temper it, Seamus thought.
He smiled down at the small boy and stepped back to concentrate. The child looked scared and alone for just a second, then his eyes widened as he slowly levitated off the ground, spinning gently as he crested the head of the tallest adult. Then his body leveled out, and he went shooting across the open lobby straight for his brother’s cadre.
For someone who didn’t know what a banshee was, the kid could yell. The word candy might have been in there as Seamus sent him swooping and soaring across the crowded room, but any words were quickly lost as others joined in screaming. Children raced around in panic, adults frantically hopped to reach the flying leprechaun, and the erstwhile bullies quickly ended up cowering under a table. Seamus was pleased to note the brother still watching in open-mouthed astonishment, and then a blast of water caught him full in the face.
Sputtering, Seamus turned to see a man wielding a super-soaker water gun borrowed from a protesting child in camouflage. “You are ruining my party,” Jinx yelled and accidentally spit out his cheap, plastic fangs.
“Imigh leat!” Seamus, irritated at much by the man’s velvet coat over ruffles as by the unexpected bath, sent his miniature warrior rocketing towards the pseudo-vampire. Caught off guard, Jinx fired wildly, and Seamus ducked. The airborne assault wavered, hollering, for a moment, then dropped directly into the punch bowl, sending fruit and Kool-Aid in a bloody spray across the room and all the gaping onlookers.
Dripping orange slices, Jinx dropped the water gun and reached for the full-sized leprechaun. A wave of applause rolled over the tableau of fighters and brought him up short. Cries of “that was brilliant,” and “how did they get the kid to fly” reached the two combatants. Giving Seamus a disgusted look, Jinx left go of his collar and turned to bow elegantly to the admiring crowd.
Seamus rolled his eyes and started to lift the little boy happily enthroned in the punch bowl. He jumped when another small hand grabbed his arm.
“It is so nice to know,” Shannon laughed up at him, “that you’re going to be such a good example for our child.”
Seamus glanced at his wife, noted her pale face, and felt his stomach drop. Shannon giggled at his expression though she sounded a little breathless. “Yes, we need to go the hospital now.”
“Jinx!” Seamus shouted even though his erstwhile opponent was standing beside him. “Gotta go! Take the kid home!”
Still elegant despite the fruit garnish, Jinx looked in horror at the little boy thrust at him, but Seamus was long gone, hustling out the door as fast as his wife’s girth and assorted well wishers allowed.
“It’s not that bad,” the elderly man next to him commented wryly. “You just have to get him home. His mother will clean him up.”
“That may be, Gramps,” Jin gingerly set the damp child down, “but I have no idea who this kid is or where he lives.”
“I’m a leprechaun,” the little boy announced, “but first, I have to get my candy.” And he marched damply up to the other boys cowering under the drinks table and grabbed a bulging pillowcase from one.
“Here now,” the elderly gentlemen protested, but the little warrior was undeterred.
“Don’t pick on me again,” he ordered, and the boys behind him under the table all nodded in eager agreement.
Jinx raised one graceful hand to his forehead. “Let’s just go.”
Outside City Hall, the breeze had picked up. Jinx huddled into his sodden velvet coat, thin shoulders hunched, but the little boy bounced along beside the old man, oblivious to the cold. “That was a great party. We should do that next year too.”
“We do that every year,” Jinx grumbled, “but without the waterworks!”
His grandfather smiled gently. “You know,” he told the little boy, “You don’t have to do the same thing every year. There are all kinds of pranks you can pull. You can ring doorbells and run away. You can put dog poop on someone’s doorstep and set it on fire…”
“Gramps!” Jinx turned and directed a fierce glare at both young and old prankster. “Haven’t you caused enough trouble for one night? You ruined the party.” He leaned forward to impress the youngster. “Some people didn’t even get any candy!”
The little boy stared back at him, wide-eyed and opened-mouth. His eye had completely blackened by now and what was left of his top hat hung broken and crumpled over one ear. A red smear streaked along one cheek might have been Kool-Aid or another ugly scrape. His lower lip trembled and for a second, Jinx feared he might start crying.
Then the boy’s face brightened. “No, it’s okay,” he reassured Jinx. “They got a baby, so that’s all right.”
The old man laughed silently, uproariously, at his grandson’s stunned expression. Wiping away a soundless tear, he said out loud, “You see, Jinx? Everything’s fine. Trick or treat.”
Then, he stretched down one gnarled hand and, as Jinx watched dumfounded, the old man and little boy wandered off together into the night.