"Jaysus. Did you see her?"
"See her? Michael, I think we've just witnessed a miracle."
The Donnelly twins, with their salacious grins and gawking eyes, were not affected by Layla's bloom in the same way as nostalgic older men. They were, after all, only eighteen, with the prospects of a whole world of debauchery and mischief before them (hang what their mother had in mind). The sight of Layla's long legs, tanned even under her thin stockings, produced the basic, primitive lust expected of boys their age. On any other day, the twins would have followed Layla into the shop. But this was Monday. The boys never stepped into Danny Fadden's mini-mart more than once on Mondays.
As a matter of tradition, and to spite their mother for making them sit through two Sunday Masses, Peter and Michael Donnelly habitually paid a visit to Fadden's Mini-Mart on Monday mornings before school. In a ruse that had started their first year of secondary school, Michael would keep Mr. Fadden busy at the counter with some obscure mythology question, to which only the grocer, a devoted fan of Irish lore, would know the answer. Meanwhile, Peter would swipe two bottles of Beamish from the beer shelf, stuffing them into the pockets of his large duffel coat. The twins gleefully chugged their beers before school, passing them among the thick-necked boys who congregated in the woods beyond the football field. This ritualistic passing of backwashed ale was merely a frothy afterthought for the twins, though, for it wasn't the beer or the thrill of stealing it but the rather cruel game they played on poor Danny Fadden that tickled them the most.
Every time Peter swiped two bottles of beer (always from the back of the shelf), he left a piece of green felt in their place, along with an IOU note signed "Finnegan". It didn't take long for Danny (a man who starred in his own daydreams as a love-struck Diarmuid eloping with a witchy Grainne) to put two and two together to get five. The green felt, the missing stout, the name Finnegan. It all pointed to one thing: the mini-mart had its very own leprechaun. Danny Fadden counted himself supremely lucky to be blessed by the touch of the little people, and he awaited the leprechaun's Monday morning visits with barely contained excitement. Of course, everyone in Ballinacroagh joked of "Fadden's Fairy" and would often ask the shopkeeper, when stopping in for some milk or potatoes, how his little friend was getting along. Danny's wife, Deirdre, by contrast, did not find her husband's leprechaun fixation at all funny, and after nearly five years of his lunacy, she left Danny on the eve of their thirtieth wedding anniversary.
The shy grocer was softly tiptoeing up to the beer aisle when Layla walked into the store. Knowing full well the precarious temperament of leprechauns, with their complete dislike for anything human, Danny was always careful not to disturb his little friend's hiding place. He steered clear of the beer shelves from noontime Sunday to eight o'clock Monday morning, lest he stumble upon his unsuspecting visitor and frighten him away altogether. This meant, of course, that he never made the connection between the notes and the Donnelly twins' Monday morning visit. While Layla scoured the produce stands for onions, Danny was hunched over in the beer aisle, deciphering the meaning behind the little person's latest note: "I like barley, I like rye, I like stout in my pie. IOU. Finnegan". Neither of them saw Malachy McGuire standing patiently at the register counter.
The younger of Thomas McGuire's two sons, eighteen-year-old Malachy had somehow managed to sidestep the male McGuire DNA of turnip torsos and butchered complexions. Nor had he taken much from his mother's side, who along with Malachy's three plump sisters would have given a modern-day Rubens much to concentrate on. Peaking at six foot one, and slender with the hands of a pianist, Malachy sported a mop of unruly black hair and sapphire eyes that sparkled like midnight suns. His luminous youth was something to marvel at indeed. He was nothing like his older brother, Tom, who at twenty-one was an almost carbon copy of their father, though without the latter's ambition and talent for subversion. Tom Junior spent most of his time scurrying between amateur hurling matches and playing henchman for his father, while Malachy much preferred the complementary hobbies of football and astronomy, balancing the terrestrial with the heavenly, and excelling in both equally. Unknown to Malachy, the cosmos that he pored over so many nights from his bedroom window was in perfect alignment that Monday morning.
Excerpted from Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. Copyright © 2005 by Marsha Mehran. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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