Be Careful What You Wish For
A humorous fantasy novel for children of eight years of age and older
Finn is a bored young leprechaun. He wants something exciting to happen, but never having been blessed by the Good Luck Fairy, he soon gets far more than he bargained for. This is no fairy tale…
Finn O’Shea ran as if his life depended on it. This time he thought it might. He squelched along at a gallop, soaked through by the pouring rain that had begun suddenly when he was at the greatest possible distance from home. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Finn groaned when he saw the first flash of lightning. ‘Oh no!’ he said to the dark sky above him.
Lightning wasn’t good. It always chased him. The saying about lightning never striking twice in the same place had been proved wrong by Finn countless times. No matter how he zigged and zagged through the village in stormy weather, the black clouds dogged his footsteps and threw their bolts right at him. They were more used to zigging and zagging than he was, so they usually won. He had only been knocked out once, but he’d had so many jolts he sometimes wondered why he didn’t light up at night.
He veered right, narrowly missed by an almighty flash, then leapt over a huge puddle that threw itself into his path. The lightning had another try to the left, but Finn’s nifty dodge and scream still had him pelting for home. He could see the green front door up ahead, inviting him to safety. The sight gave him the extra strength to pound his feet, leap and dodge and fling himself head first through the unlocked door. It bashed against the wall with an alarming thump as Finn bent double, his hands on his knees, dripping all over the hallway and gasping for breath.
Finn’s mum appeared, a shocked look on her face. She stared at Finn, then at the open door beyond him. ‘Oh, lightning again,’ was all she said. She walked past him and closed the door, then added, ‘Go and get changed, then bring your wet clothes down.’
As Finn took off his soaked pants and top he thought about his attraction for lightning bolts. They didn’t aim for anyone else in the village, so why him? Once he was dry and his mum had taken his dirty, wet clothes away, he asked, 'Why me, mum? Leprechauns are supposed to be lucky. I thought we were born that way. What happened to me?’
His mum handed him a warm drink and sighed. ‘Well, we’re not exactly all born lucky,’ she began, ‘though I’m not sure the Fates smiled on you at all when you were born. It was more like they had a good laugh at your expense. Your first view of the world was upside down when Mrs Ahearne, the midwife, dropped you on your head. I don’t think it did you any harm though.’
Finn rubbed his head, just thinking about it.
His mum continued. ‘Contrary to popular belief, leprechauns aren’t born lucky. Fortune is a blessing bestowed by the Good Luck Fairy, providing she’s in an agreeable mood, and more to the point, as long as she’s there.’
Finn frowned. His mum wasn’t making any sense.
‘Many people wish on the name of the Good Luck Fairy, or leave little offerings for her under their pillows as they sleep in the hope she’ll grant them some good fortune. Leprechauns go one better. We encourage her to visit in person to bless our newborns. Magical types have a habit of sticking together, so she’s happy to visit Duntappin once every twelve months. The main reason being, if you ask me, is she enjoys the donations from the grateful parents.’
Finn liked a good story, and it was too dangerous to go out again until the storm cleared, so he curled his feet up under him and sat back to listen.
‘You know how your dad hates queues, so when we knew the fairy was due to visit the village to bless all the children born in the vicinity since her last visit, we waited a while to give the crush time to dwindle.’
She smiled, remembering. ‘It’ll be much better, your dad said. Let all the others queue in the heat with their screaming bundles. When they’ve gone, we can just walk right up and have our boy blessed in peace. So, what happened?’
‘I don’t know,’ Finn replied.
‘We arrived late in the beautiful dell just outside the village. The sun still shone, the bees buzzed through the cloudless sky, but something was wrong. The fact was we were so late the long queue had built, been blessed, then decreased, and gone away. The Good Luck Fairy had also clumped off back to wherever she hailed from with her grateful donations of cakes and sweets.’ She shook her head. ‘Your dad’s always determined not to get blamed for anything. He suggested we just place you on the ground where the fairy had trampled the grass down when she carried out her blessings. It was obvious where she’d stood as she was quite a heavy fairy due to her sweet tooth, and she had a habit of stomping around while she chanted.’
Finn laughed. He could picture it now.
‘We hoped some of the luck may have dropped off her while she blessed and stomped. I’m not so sure now how well it worked. Maybe you have a lucky backside; it was the best we could do.’ She chuckled.
Finn could tell his mum was enjoying the attention. She loved to talk, and he was often too busy to listen. This was about him, though, and it could be important.
‘Despite our best efforts, it soon became clear that you could have done with your blessing after all. When there was an illness to be caught, you came down with it first. This was, in part, due to the fact that if your pram was put out in the sun it was a sure bet the rain would fall before I noticed. Soggy babies catch chills, as I soon discovered. You also tripped, slipped, fell over and got lost, much more than any young leprechaun should be able to. The first years of your life didn’t prove easy for me and your dad, and you’re not much better now,’ she said, ruffling his drying hair.
As Finn settled for the night wishing weekend wasn’t over, he wondered if his life would have been very different if he’d received his blessing.
Monday dawned brighter, to Finn’s relief. No holes appeared in the road as if by magic for him to fall into, tree branches didn’t reach out to grab him when he passed by, and he managed to get as far as the main street without tripping over his own feet at least three times. He was hurtling along on his way to school when he spotted Mrs Ahearne and her friend Mrs Daly staring into one of the shop windows. They looked fascinated, so not wanting to miss anything exciting, Finn stopped to see what they were looking at. It was a shoe shop, something never in short supply in Duntappin. ‘Hi, Mrs Ahearne!’ called Finn, thinking what his mum had said about her dropping him on his head.
‘Hello there, my lad,’ she replied, before casting a greedy look back at a pair of shiny pink shoes in the window. The sight of them seemed to make her forget Finn was even there. ‘Now that’s what I call a pair of shoes,’ she said to her friend, Bridget.
Finn resisted the urge to say; well that’s what they are, because he was a polite leprechaun.
Bridget stared at the gleaming leather and nodded. ‘Why on earth didn’t you marry Brogan O’Keefe?’ she asked. ‘He’d have kept you in new shoes for life.’
Finn knew Mr O’Keefe; he was one of the best cobblers in the village, despite all the competition.
Mrs Ahearne sighed, shaking her head. ‘It was his wandering eye that put me off,’ Finn heard her reply. ‘I was never sure if he was looking at me or someone across the road. My old ma always warned me about marrying a man with a wandering eye.’
‘I’m not sure it would be what she meant,’ said Mrs Daly, looking across at Finn. He smiled at her. He wasn’t going yet. He wanted to hear the end of the tale.
‘Anyway,’ said Mrs Ahearne, ‘I couldn’t get used to his black thumbs either. Not that it’s his fault his hammer keeps missing the mark. He can only check his aim with one eye.’
Bridget nodded with a wise look on her podgy face.
‘Lovely shoes all the same,’ said Mrs Ahearne before moving on to walk down the street.
With nothing more interesting to listen to, Finn set off at a run again as fast as his legs would carry him, which wasn’t very fast because they were so short. He was now getting late for school. He scurried past the two ladies who had delayed him, shouted a hasty ‘See you!’ and headed on down the street in the direction of the tavern. Its green sign swung and creaked in the brisk wind that had picked up overnight. On the sign were the words ‘The Cobblers Last’. Finn always hurried past the tavern. He still hadn’t got over the embarrassment of asking his dad, ‘The Cobblers last what?’
He remembered it well. When dad had finished laughing, he had explained a cobbler’s last is a piece of equipment used by cobblers. Shaped like an upside-down foot, it’s the metal they use to shape and repair shoes over. Finn should have known, because there was a picture of one on the sign.
He saw a slight movement when he ran under the sign and ducked, but it still managed to pull loose from one of the chains holding it onto its hanging bar just at the moment he arrived underneath it, and thumped down on his head. After the pain, Finn’s last thought before he sunk into oblivion was now he had even more reason to be embarrassed by the tavern.
He knew no more until he woke up lying on a soft couch with the doctor hanging over him. The doctor’s grey beard hung forwards and pale blue eyes stared out of his wrinkled face in concern.
Finn blinked up at him and gave him a feeble smile.
‘He’ll live,’ the Doc said, since he was so used to Finn’s accidents.
Finn, in fact, believed he single-handedly kept the Doctor in business.
Finn wasn’t just late for school, he missed it altogether. This happened quite often. Back home and lying on the sofa Finn quite enjoyed his mum fussing around him.
‘Tell me some more about the Good Luck Fairy, Mum,’ he said.
She sat down on the armchair and thought for a while. ‘Well, there isn’t much more to say about her,’ she began, ‘but I could tell you about your good looks. You’re growing into quite a handsome young leprechaun with your thick black hair and those bright blue eyes, just like a summer sky.’
‘Aww, Mum,’ Finn said, a bit embarrassed.
His mum carried on as if he hadn’t spoken. ‘At least we managed to protect you overnight as a baby. That’s the time when the Bad Fairy is prone to call.’
Finn was shocked. ‘The Bad Fairy?’ he asked. ‘What does she do?’
‘She only managed to get in a few whomps with the Ugly Stick before being chased away,’ his mum told him in a very matter of fact way. ‘The whomps dealt had been on your bottom, which you know is lucky. They resulted in nothing more than the mole you have there. Not many people have seen that.’ She then laughed.
Finn knew what was coming. He flushed as he remembered.
‘That is apart from when your dad made you some new trousers with an elasticated waist. You were so proud to walk through town wearing them until the elastic snapped and down they came, dragging your underclothes with them. Tripped by the pants around your ankles you ended up flashing your mole to everyone in Duntappin’s village square.’ Finn’s mum had to pause to wipe the tears of laughter from her eyes.
It was something Finn remembered well, despite trying very hard to forget.
Finn’s mum left him to rest while she went off to make tea.
He lay and pondered about his life in Duntappin. Staring sideways through the tall, leaded window he stared out over the village. It was a beautiful place, quiet, secluded, peaceful…and boring. Well, in Finn’s opinion it was. He loved the tree lined cobbled streets and well kept little cottages and often stared around at the beauty all around him, but he still decided there must be more to life. The best he could hope for in his village was to become a master tailor like his dad, or a cobbler if he decided to follow the trade of most leprechauns. Finn wanted more. He needed change, and craved excitement. He soon nodded off dreaming dreams of adventure.
Once Finn went back to school, he amused himself looking around and deciding who had been whomped by the Bad Fairy, and where.
He decided very soon that Dallan Murphy had been whomped good and proper by the Ugly Stick when he was a baby. His parents had obviously not been very vigilant overnight when the Bad Fairy called. Finn stared at him. His ears, eyes and lips seemed to grow out of all proportion to the rest of his face. As Finn stared, Dallan turned to look at him. Finn didn’t have time to look away, and felt himself flushing. He smiled to cover it. Dallan grinned back, a look of delight on his googly face. Maybe no one usually smiled at him, Finn thought. He felt guilty for never even having talked to him.
At lunch break, Finn made a point of seeking Dallan out. He was sat alone eating his packed lunch. Finn went to sit with him, and soon found that despite his strange looks, Dallan was quite good company. Finn supposed he had to be in order to make any friends.
From that day on, they remained firm friends.
Finn found his choice of best friend most useful when he got a bit older. Once he discovered girls could be interesting for other reasons than dropping squirming worms down the necks of their dresses or pulling their hair, Finn decided that standing next to Dallan made him look all the more handsome. Girls may not have done more than cast him fleeting glances otherwise. After looking at Dallan beside him, however, their eyes always returned to him with more avid attention.
Finn never felt guilty about this, because his unfortunate friend gained from the experience too. Girls had a habit of hanging around in pairs; therefore Dallan got to talk to the one who drew the short straw. Finn’s buddy began to get the impression he was quite popular. Finn encouraged this, and refrained from saying, I don’t think much of yours, before the attractive and plain leprechaun girls walked over. He had to leave Dallan some hope, after all.
By the age of fourteen, Finn had dated a number of girlfriends. He tried to stay on good terms with them, but they were not always so keen to remain friends with him. He found it hard to tell whether they still liked him or not, apart from the ones who made it clear by throwing things at him in class. In general, they were more likely to just ignore him in school, in a friendly way, he liked to believe. It was Aine’s turn to tell all her friends about him today which hurt his feelings a bit. Math’s was bad enough without having girls whispering behind your back too.
Dallan tried to keep him amused by rolling his goggle eyes heavenwards when the teacher mentioned ‘sums’, then sticking out his fat rubbery lips when he hadn’t a clue what he had just been asked, which was often.
Finn was glad to get out of the class.
The next one proved far more interesting.
‘I’m going to tell you the tale of Bleary O’Leary,’ the teacher began.
That sparked Finn’s attention. When he took an interest in something he listened well, soaked it in, and remembered. He knew a little about Bleary, the famous founder of Duntappin, and was keen to learn more.
‘Bleary had been a cobbler all his life,’ the teacher explained, ‘but on retirement, he set off alone into the wilderness. Well, he left the village where he was born anyway.’
Finn’s ears pricked up. Into the wilderness sounded fantastic.
‘No one knew Bleary’s actual birth name,’ the teacher continued, ‘but he had always been fond of his mead, hence the name by which he was known. Even during his working years, we are told some of his customers found themselves with two left shoes because of his liking for a tipple.’
The teacher paused at this point to give her pupils time to laugh. Finn saw Dallan’s rubbery lips almost swallow the rest of his face.
‘Bleary wandered the countryside for a few years, living off the land and visiting any local hostelries where he could see over the bar. A few more leprechauns joined him in his travels, some older, and others younger.’
I would have joined him, thought Finn in a dream of his own. It would be such fun!
‘When the band of travellers reached this beautiful valley at last, they decided it was time to settle down. Duntappin seemed the perfect name for the retirement place of a cobbler, and so our village began.’
Finn loved the tale, and asked the teacher many questions. His mind went over all the adventures Bleary must have had on his travels. ‘One day’, he told Dallan after class, ‘I’ll travel too.’
Dallan wiggled his ears at him. It was the one thing he did well.
Somehow when Finn’s adventure did begin, it wasn’t to be quite as he expected.