one night, belinda c, a woman of substance, a woman of enormities, passed through her back door and into her tiny garden like a warship oozing from the dock and heading out into a sea hardly big enough to contain it. there were noises in the garden, noises that did not belong and that she should not have been able to hear above the surface noise of the street, strange noises like clucking and high-pitched giggles and the sing-song falsetto of a 33 record played at 78.

it’s never really dark in the city. the garden was lit by streetlamps on both sides, neon lights from commercial signs on the roofs of nearby buildings, the spill from the rooms where wakeful neighbors watched television with the windows open, and even by the headlights of a passing truck or two. it was about as dark as a very very cloudy day.

she rumbled, the machinery of the warship’s cannon searching for a target. the noises had stopped. she stood for a moment, not sure if she had heard anything at all; maybe it was the whiskey whispering low and sultry and playing tricks on her like it used to do in the old days before she got better, before the house of pain. and then the noise came again, off to the right, near the fence. she swiveled carefully, quietly for a woman so large, and focused her guns.

she was prepared for a rat. she was prepared for a kid swiping her tomatoes, dry, shriveled things that they were. she was even prepared for a burglar, though what he might have hoped to steal in a neighborhood like this would bear explaining. of all the things belinda c was not prepared for, at the top of the list was what she actually saw–a leprechaun perched on her chickenwire fence, munching on a lettuce leaf and talking to himself. or maybe that was singing.

“shoo”, she said. “shoo. shoo.”

the leprechaun–if that’s what it was and what else could it have been?–looked up at her with mild amusement in his tiny hazel eyes. “i’m not a housefly,” he said. “or a timid field mouse with his racing shoes on at the slightest crack of twig. i’m not that easy to get rid of, if that’s what you’re hoping. why don’t you sit down in that old stuffed chair you threw out last year, and we’ll have a talk.”