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The Red Handkerchief This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "For forty-seven years I be a-breakin' me back in this field, Daniel," whined Aden McGentry to his uninterested mule. "And what do I have to show," he griped, "for all o' me toil. A sagging shack and a worthless beast." Daniel paid no mind to his master's insulting words. Instead he occupied himself with the eating of the lush, green grass which commanded the expanses for as far as the eye could see. Aden's shack and a rotting barn stood alone in the disruption of the depressing solitude of the Irish landscape. The first bold rays of light crept across the barren land and formed an arch of colors. The dawn both strengthened his soul and ached in his ancient joints.

Mr. McGentry had staked his claim to his land while still a young man. With the inspiration of youth he cultivated his small plot of land, but never gathered enough money to fulfill his planned immigration to America. Though he considered himself to be a most desirable bachelor, Alden never found the occasion to marry. He spent his years with his bitter thoughts and shattered dreams. The old farmer was not entirely alone. Through the years Daniel, his mule, had become an exceptional conversationalist.

His toes fought to survive the wet and cold of the morning dew. A shivering chill that warned of winter rippled from his gnarled toes up his wiry legs. The chill laid tracks of goose bumps across his unfed stomach. From there it moved up his spine like the fingers of a phantom. Up past his protruding adam's apple, beyond his rigid, cleft chin jutted his nose which came to a bend and then an abrupt drop. His eyes were wrinkled with age. Though now clouded and pale, they remembered days of a lustrous glaze.

Sparing no hindrance from Daniel, Aden made his way to the weary, old barn. Once inside Mr. McGentry retrieved a pitchfork with a sigh and a mumbled grunt. He thrust the fork into a haystack and began, "Daniel me boy had I ever known that-"

"Ow! You'd be doing right by me if were to stop sticking that thing in me backside, me lad!"

Out of the haystack rustled a peculiar man of very small stature. He stood not a full four feet in height. He was wrapped in a green suit with a green top hat. His eyes burned with wild Irish fury. A red beard crawled around his jaw. A long clay pipe flicked up and down in his mouth as he spoke in quick bursts.

"What were ye doing in me haystack, little man?"

"I was a-passing through last night, and it grew dark and cold. I put down here for the night, and when I awoke I was having holes put in me rump."

It was then that Aden took the little man for who he was. "God as me witness, I got me a leprechaun." He sprung upon the rascal and got hold of a foot. McGentry lifted him well off of the ground, and demanded, "Where have ye got yer pot o' gold? I saw yer rainbow. Ye don't fool me, leprechaun."

"Ye got me, and if ye kindly set me down I'll be glad to see ye to it."

Aden complied but took heed not to release his captive. They struck a path bound for the end of the rainbow. After their journey had continued for several hours Aden wearied of their travels. He demanded that they halt for a short rest beneath one of many spreading oak trees. From his pocket Aden drew a red kerchief to wipe his brow.

"Are we nearing the gold, little man?"

"Why, yer sitting on it right where ye are. My gold is buried beneath this tree."

McGentry shook with excitement. "I've got to get me ax and shovel." He tied around the tree his red handkerchief to distinguish this tree from its fellows. "Give me your word, on yer honor, that ye won't touch this kerchief, leprechaun."

"On me honor, me lad, I won't move this kerchief," promised the little man with fiendish twinkle in his eye.

Aden set off immediately for his tools. He ran until the pain in his stomach forced him to rest. After he got his ax and shovel he made haste to return to the grove. The last rays of the day shone down on the earth as Aden entered the clearing. He saw a tree with a red kerchief.

Wasting no time, he heaved his ax against the tree and woodchips flew. After several minutes Aden's back reminded him of his age. While stepping back to recover his breath he chanced to glance at another tree. It too was bound by a red handkerchief. In a moment of despair he raced through the grove and saw another red kerchief and another. A red handkerchief adorned every one of the hundreds of trees in the grove. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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