The woods behind the apartments in Indianhead were the first place I ever encountered them. I’d heard stories, sure, but the woods were a liminal space, where they crossed over and I caught my first glimpse of the others.
One afternoon, I caught a glimpse of movement across the steep-banked stream, in the brambles. Something was moving in there. When I got as close to the edge of the bank as I dared, I noticed a hole. Not just an opening, not a natural thing, but perfectly circular. As I stared, trying to figure out why someone would cut such a hole in the thorny brambles—I caught a glimpse of a tiny man. Stocky, and bundled in a yellow coat, with a green cap pulled down over his head at an angle.
I blinked. I had seen him, clear as day. Then, there was a sound, like an “oof”, and I saw a small hand point my direction. The little gnome’s face turned and peeked at me, and then was suddenly gone. I had the impression that he’d come home, not realizing I was watching, until someone pointed it out. I blinked, and the hole was gone.
I was certain I’d seen a Leprechaun, though really, he looked more gnomish. I was certain I’d seen a Leprechaun. Really, he looked more gnomish, but I’d heard stories about Leprechauns. I tried several times to catch another glimpse, but they were elusive. The hole never reappeared. On St. Patrick’s Day, I figured it was my best chance. I went out to the woods, determined to wait all day if I had to.
I brought something shiny. Maybe a silver dollar from a lost tooth, or a piece of jewelry. I remember playing with it, thinking they’d be drawn to it like a crow. There was a crumbling log, full of insects and mushrooms, near the bank of the stream. It was gross, but pulled it into position and sat on it anyway. It had been raining, and the woods smelled beautifully of dampness and decay. The hem of my pants soaked up water from the muddy earth.
Mom and Dad came out on a walk, and ducked into the woods to check on me. (I know now, but didn't then, that they came out there to get high.) I told them I was waiting on the leprechauns, and tried to explain I’d seen them before. I was worried that they were too loud, too grown-up, and would frighten the little men away. They laughed it off, giggling to each other, but told me to be careful not to get too close to the creek and left me at my post.
They passed the treeline, back out onto the playground and out of the woods, and, while my head was turned, the hole reappeared. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see it. Perfectly circular. And in the moment it took for me turn my head and look directly at it, flashed three figures. Two little men and a woman. By the time I was looking directly at them, they were gone—but the hole was still there. A hare hopped into it and disappeared.
Knowing I had little time, I jumped up, and tried to leap across the creek—but the steep slope on the other side was slippery. The hole closed as I landed, and I slid down through the mud, into the murky creek. I covered in muck, and my teeth were chattering. And I was stuck.
My parents heard me. They came running. “What in the? What were you doing?” I asked if they’d seen the Leprechauns. They looked down at me from the edge of the bank, and busted into hysterical laughter.