From the author: Some urban myths should be taken seriously.
So my boss really didn't want me to share this with anybody since it kind of makes him look bad. I mean, no one wants to be known for lying to little kids, right?
At the time, I thought the story was true; I'd never heard it before. Of course, if I'd taken a moment to check it out on Snopes first—before spreading it around—I wouldn't have felt like such an idiot afterward.
My esteemed boss, Principal Dexter, always speaks at our school assemblies, and last week he was determined to make the kids laugh for once. As you probably know, 5th and 6th graders don't usually enjoy dumb jokes from their principal. It goes against their nature. He told me ahead of time he had this hilarious "true story" he was going to share, and he was sure the kids would love it. "Bust their guts" was the phrase he'd used.
The assembly came and went. Principal Dexter shared his story, and it really was hilarious, I thought—albeit politically incorrect. It involved a developmentally disabled man and a door-to-door salesman (little person). The man mistook the person of short stature for a magical creature and grabbed him, locked him in the closet, called his mother with the gut-busting line, "Mama, I found me a little leprechaun, and he's gonna give me his gold!" The kids loved that. I did too. I mean, stuff like this was too good to be fiction, right?
In the story, the guy's mother ended up coming over and freeing the salesman from the closet. He didn't press charges, realizing that his captor wasn't exactly all-there between the ears. This led to the moral of Principal Dexter's story (and he always had one).
"Don't talk to strangers, kids."
Not directly related to the story, but a good moral nevertheless.
Eventually it came out that Principal Dexter hadn't done his research. His story had been in circulation for years and told with a slew of variations, apparently. It has involved a troll, a gnome, even a Jehovah's Witness (which doesn't really make sense, since they travel by two's). Anyhow, once the kids started spreading the word that Principal Dexter's so-called "true story" was anything but, he got on the P.A. system and read a formal apology, thanking the dozen or so students by name who had discovered the truth and commending them on their Internet-savviness.
I went home that evening expecting a dozen or so phone messages ridiculing my gullibleness. How many people had I told the story to? I avoided eye contact with the answering machine for a while—until well after my shower, my snack, my foot massage courtesy of a heavenly device I'd gotten myself two Christmases ago. Kicking back in my plush recliner with a Seinfeld re-run on the TV, I finally gave my phone a cursory glance.
No messages. I sighed with relief. An honest mistake, right? My friends would cut me some slack—I hoped.
The doorbell rang.
Frowning at the disruption, I climbed out of my Lazy Boy and tiptoed to the door. I knew the TV was on loud enough for anybody to hear it outside—and they'd know I was home, whoever they were—but I wasn't really in the mood for company.
I peeked out through the peep-hole. Nobody was there. Weird.
The doorbell rang again.
Really weird. One of the neighbor kids pulling a stupid prank? Probably.
I went to the kitchen window and peeked out through the blinds. There was someone there, and it wasn't a kid. It was a very short man in a suit. A little person. And he had a briefcase. Not a pot of gold.
I snickered, clapped a hand to my mouth and tried to regain my composure. I was going to answer the door. I had to. I mean, what were the odds, right?
"Good evening," said the little fellow once I'd flipped the deadbolt and opened the door.
"Howdy." I beat a grin into submission, even as I imagined grabbing the guy and stuffing him into my hall closet. Mama, I found me a little leprechaun—
"You like babes?" he asked, holding his briefcase level and thumbing the latches upward.
"Bikini babes. Models, actresses. Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous." He fished through the briefcase for a moment and came up with a colorful brochure, which he quickly handed to me.
"Magazines, buddy. Magazines. All kinds, you just take your pick. You sign up for three, you get this one for free." He shoved an issue of Maxim at me with a busty model spilling out all over the glossy cover.
"Oh-uh, you sell magazines."
"That's the stuff. And, speaking of Stuff—"
"Ever been kidnapped?"
His hand froze in the briefcase. "What's that?"
I shrugged. "Has anybody ever mistaken you for a leprechaun and locked you in their closet?"
"Can't say that they have."
"But you've heard the story, right?"
"What story would that be?"
For the twentieth time now, I told it, wiping away tears of laughter as I got to the end. "Isn't that crazy?"
"Yeah. It's a real hoot." He dropped the briefcase. Brochures and bikini models spilled out. He didn't move to retrieve them. "But that ain't the way the story goes."
You see little people in movies wrestling and what-not, and you never think it's real, that they couldn't possibly have any oomph to their oopah!, that it's all computer-generated effects. Well, let me tell you, I'm about ready to change my tune on that score.
I've been in my closet for a couple days now, locked up tight. The magazine man has commandeered my condo, and it doesn't look like he'll be leaving anytime soon. He's called my school and told them I'm on bereavement leave and I may not be finishing out the school year.
He's told me he plans to eat me. I hope he's joking.
Regardless, one thing's for certain: Snopes sure had this story wrong.
This story originally appeared in 10Flash Quarterly.