“Grandma,” eight-year-old Justin yelled as he came running into the house, “the 17th of March is Leopard’s Day.”
“It’s what?” I asked, thinking a new holiday was created after I went to bed last night.
“It’s Leopard’s Day. You know, where everyone dresses in green clothes.”
“Oh! You mean St. Patrick’s Day.”
“Yah, that too. My teacher said we should wear something green and tell a story about
“Justin, they’re called leprechauns. It’s an Irish/Gaelic word that means ‘little body’.
The Irish contend that these knee-high elves or leprechauns, bearing their symbol of a green shamrock leaf, can bring you good luck if you believe in them.”
“I believe in them, Grandma. But I don’t know any stories about them. Do you?”
“Well, all I know is, that if you capture a leprechaun, or ‘little people’ as they’re often referred to, it’s suppose to share its pot of gold with you. However, these little people would rather play devious tricks than give you their pot of gold.”
Heading toward the door, Justin said, “Grandma, I’m going to get my fishing net to catch me a leopard so I can buy me a new computer game.”
“Wait a minute!” I called to him. “Catching a leprechaun isn’t easy. According to an old Irish Legend there’s only one way you can capture a leprechaun. And that’s to sneak up on it, grab it by its red beard and look it right in its emerald green eyes. Once you do that, it must tell you where its treasure is hidden. And if you can also make this leprechaun your friend, it will bring you life long luck.”
However, I know sooner finished my sentence and Justin was out the door. Yelling after him, I asked, “Where are you going to catch this leprechaun?”
“In the woods, Grandma.”
“Okay.” I shouted back, “but just make sure that you don’t leave the yard.”
I laughed at Justin’s entrusting innocence about these mythical creatures. Yet I knew Justin would be safe in his leprechaun adventures, because what he refers to as the woods is only ten trees on the other side of the garage — which is still visible from my kitchen window.
A few minutes later as I looked out the window to check on Justin’s whereabouts, I caught sight of him zipping across the yard, loudly screaming, “Grandma, help me! There’s a ugly monster trying to get me.”
The daunted look on his face told me that this was not one of his pranks, so I rushed out the door to meet him. He grabbed me tight around my waist. With tears streaming down his cheeks and his thin body quaking, he blurted, “Grandma, I saw this creepy looking monster with a wrinkled face, red hair and green eyes. He tried to take me with him. Honest, he did.”
I hugged him to me, chuckling inward, as I knew there wasn’t anything resembling that description near the garage or anywhere beyond, because there were no leprechauns. So I tried to calm him by saying, “Why don’t we go see what it is that frightened you.”
“No!” He cried, clutching me tighter. “I’m never going back there again, Grandma, please don’t make me, please.”
“Justin, we need to check this out. You don’t want to have nightmares over this, do you?”
With his face partially buried against my body, he looked up and timidly said, “Nooo.”
Slowly walking toward the garage with him having a choke hold on my arm, I asked him a riddle to deflect his fear, as he liked playing brain-teaser games.
“Justin, do you know what one cat said to the other cat?”
He peered up at me with a wide-eyed look, waiting for me to tell him, so I said, “One cat said to the other cat, do you want to whisker me?”
Justin gives a nervous little chuckle. Then jerked my arm back, partially moving behind me as we round the corner of the garage, walking through the trees.
“Be careful, Grandma!” he yelled. “That monster is through the trees in the field.”
As we exited the trees, I stopped short. My heart began to race. Justin released his hold on my arm in his attempt to bolt, screaming, “He’s still there, run, Grandma, run.”
Grabbing Justin back to me, after adapting my eyes from the shaded trees to the light, I shouted, “Justin, wait! There’s nothing frightening here, look.”
He cautiously peered around me. Then gave me one of his big eyed, basset hound looks, and said, “But Grandma, it really did look like a leopard monster, honest, it did.”
We both burst out laughing at our silliness. What Justin imagined was an ugly leprechaun, was just my neighbor’s old headless scarecrow peeking through some dried-out corn stalks.
As we walked hand-in hand back to the house, giggling, I noticed the fingers on Justin’s other hand were curled into a tight fist.
Curious, I asked, “Justin, what’s wrong with your other hand?”
He looked down at his hand, also surprised that it was fisted, then, ever so slowly opened it.
And there, in the center of his palm was a tuft of red hair.