For the week of St. Patrick’s Day, The Deli Counter of Justice will only be $0.99 for the Kindle! Click here to get the book. We’ll also be releasing three FREE short (very short) stories set in New Caliburn, all of them St. Paddy’s-themed. Eric Sipple already got you wasted with“St. Paddy’s Day,” then Paul Smith taught you to fly with “Whiskey Magic.”
Now, for the last of our three stories, “Fear the Clurichaun,” Arlo J. Wiley invites you inside Cook’s Deli as proprietor Carl Cook AKA the retired superhero Piecemaker endures his least favorite day of the year into the wee hours. This may be our final story (for now!), but the sale continues for the rest of the week.
To distract himself from the remaining St. Paddy’s revelers crowding his deli, Carl silently cursed the shamrock hanging above the counter. Tabitha had bought the dumb thing at an antiques shop, teasing her dad about his newfound hatred for St. Patrick’s Day (discovered when he opened an eatery subject to late-night drunks on the Row) as she nailed it up.
Now it was 2:30 a.m., only another half-hour before Carl could wash the smell of corned beef and sauerkraut from his clothes. He made his way behind the counter, where he was bombarded with orders for two more Reubens. Heading to the kitchen to boil another slab of beef, Carl decided the overflowing bags of trash needed taken care of first. He went out the backdoor, propping it open with an old packing crate.
The lid to the dumpster was already open, and he noticed a dog sitting in the alley. It was fitted with a little saddle.
Carl slammed the dumpster shut and approached the dog. “Hey, buddy,” he said, crouching down. Its saddle was emblazoned with a…was that a shamrock?
From behind Carl, a muffled voice cried out, “Hands offa me mount!”
Carl turned and saw no one. “Hello?”
The dumpster flew open. A tiny, gnarled hand grabbed hold of the edge. The creature, all of two feet, lifted himself up. He was clad in a tattered green jacket, tufts of wiry red hair peeking out from underneath his miniature buckled hat. His face was knobby, his nose bulbous.
“Hands offa me mount, ye gobdaw!”
“Are you a lep—”
“Ah, hold yer whist, eejit. Ye’ve ne’er heard of the clurichaun?”
“Is that English?”
“FEAR THE CLURICHAUN!” the creature shouted, leaping onto Carl. His claws — or at least nails which hadn’t been clipped in years — scratched at Carl’s face. The clurichaun’s ratty shoes burrowed themselves into Carl’s midsection. With a great heave, he kicked against Carl’s belly, sending him tumbling backwards. Freed from Carl’s grasp, the clurichaun ran to the backdoor. Turning to his dog, he yelled, “Wait for me, Lucky!”, and hobbled into the kitchen. He kicked the crate back inside.
Carl watched as the door clicked shut. “Great.”
Sprinting past Lucky, Carl ran down the alley and around the block before finding himself back at the deli. As he walked in, one of the inebriated mass mumbled, “Thosh Reub’ns…”
“Just a second,” Carl said, heading into the kitchen, where he was greeted by a loud crash and a pickle-y odor.
The thing must have gotten into the dills.
Carl quietly opened a cabinet. Inside was an antique clock. During his Piecemaker days, Carl had often scoured junkyards and pawn shops for household items long past their prime, anything he could disassemble in a pinch. His naïve hope upon opening the deli was that he wouldn’t have any need for such rainy day junk; after his tussle with Doc Battery, he realized his error.
Carl cleared his throat. The clurichaun tottered into view, wringing pickle juice from his hat.
“Is there something I can help you with?” Carl asked, hands raised.
“Actin’ the maggot, are ye?” the clurichaun responded.
“Is that accent real? Never mind. Can I ask what you’re doing in my kitchen?”
“The shamrock, ye gowl!”
“The one above the deli counter?”
“Aye, if’n that’s where ye hung it. Ye done summoned me.”
Oh, Tabitha would be hearing about this. “I assure you, this is a misunderstanding.”
“And I assure you, I am here on official Saint Patrick business. I’m the Great ‘n Powerful Patrick’s emissary to the wakin’ world on the day o’ his death. Meanin’ every seventeenth o’ March, I pop up wherever that damn shamrock be.”
“To remind the world o’ Saint Patrick’s vindictive wrath! What, ye thought ‘e was up in ‘eaven, smilin’ down on yer stupid parades and yer—yer bloody Bennigan’s? ‘E was the most powerful sorcerer o’ the fifth century! ‘E ain’t in ‘eaven, ‘e ain’t in ‘ell, e’s waitin’! Waitin’ to come back and rule ye lot wid’ his iron shamrock!”
“All I want to know is,” Carl said, “how do I get you to leave? Is there something I say three times? Do I have to sign—”
“FEAR THE CLURICHAUN!”
The clurichaun leaped into the air once more. With a wave of his hand, Carl sent the clock hands spinning toward the clurichaun’s face. First the little hand caught one of his nostrils, then the big hand smacked him in the forehead. Carl dropped the clock face on the clurichaun’s head, raining glass around him.
With that, the clurichaun fell to the floor.
He looked up with weary eyes. “You’re one of those superhumans, huh? I wish there’d been a way to tell before I showed up…”
“I want to—hey, wait a second. What happened to the accent?” Carl asked.
“Oh, the whole ‘faith ‘n begorrah’ shtick? I can’t believe anyone falls for that.”
“All right, I’m pretty damn confused. Who are you? What are you doing in my kitchen?”
“The name’s Steve.” The clurichaun held out his hand. Carl’s remained firmly planted on his hip. “Yeah, that’s understandable. Look, most of the year, I’ve got a pretty nice cave in Jersey. I keep to myself. But I guess Saint Patrick was a pretty bad dude back in the day, and he duped my whole family — literally, generations of us — into going out once a year to remind people. My dad did it, his dad did it. I’m gonna level with you: I’m not sure I even believe in Saint Patrick.”
Carl leaned against an oven. “Hoo boy. Can I ask why you decided to trash my kitchen?”
“Oh, sorry,” Steve said, brushing glass off his jacket. “Most folks kinda start freakin’ out whenever I show up, let me do whatever I want. All I ever do is look for beer. Only way I get through the night, y’know?”
Running his hands through his hair, Carl sighed. “One, you’re gonna clean this up. And two, I’ve got a present for you.”
The clock chimed four. Carl had the deli looking respectable again; Steve had taken care of the kitchen, Lucky cleaning pickles off the floor.
Carl reached up and removed the shamrock, handing it to Steve. The little clurichaun snapped it in two, taking a long look at the pieces in his hands. “Been wantin’ to do that a long time.”
Carl nodded approvingly. “Boy, I hate St. Patrick’s Day.”
“Aye. I mean, yeah.”