The Green Butt-pincher
“If that leprechaun come inside my house, I gonna punch him,” C. pouted, eyes reddened by the prospect of tears.
I dropped the construction paper fish in my hand. The other three children crowded around the table glued their gaze on me. Even the antsiest of them had put down her crayon just to stare at my guilty expression. I had upset a 6-year-old with a fairy tale.
C. crossed his arms and turned around in his chair, facing a wall full of ABC and spelling posters. I thought I detected the faintest whimper. That broad, chubby back told me that I was not forgiven.
When I was growing up, folklore was commonplace, even the ugly tales. My parents encouraged me to learn about myths and monsters, always reminding me that, though untrue, these stories reflected the demons present in real life. So I had no qualms about warning the children I tutored to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. They had to be prepared, lest the leprechaun come and pinch them.
After my quick summary of this small, mischievous man, the children had peppered me with questions.
One of the girls leaned forward and squeezed the tiniest bit of flesh on my forearm. “Does he pinch like this?”
“What's he look like?” another one asked.
“Well, he's about this big,” I said, indicating about a foot tall with my hands. “And he's got red hair. He wears a green suit and a green top hat, sometimes a black tie.”
“What color's his skin?” the first girl inquired. She, of the four children, was the only light-skinned one.
The others nodded knowingly.
"What his ears look like?”
“Like elf ears.” Then I asked if they'd seen elf ears before. One of the girls went on a tangent about a Christmas movie before the other one interrupted her.
“Will he come inside my house?”
“Will he pinch me in my sleep?”
“Not if you wear green.”
The children started chattering over each other.
“I ain't got green!” said the other boy, not C.
“I already wore my green this week!” the girls gasped.
I smiled and suggested that their mothers be sure they have something green to wear this weekend. The children soon calmed down after that and I proceeded with my lesson.
It was not until a few minutes into the lesson that I noticed how distant C. seemed. Then I realized he was upset.
“What's the matter, C.?”
His lower-lip curled.
An instant later, I felt not only foolish but cruel. “Oh...was it the leprechaun?”
C. shrunk and shook his head 'yes.'
I spent the rest of the lesson apologizing, trying to both comfort and include C. But I did not convince him of the story's fiction. The leprechaun had terrified him. And because of that, part of me wanted to laugh hysterically. That time would come shortly thereafter.
I sent the children back to their main classroom so I could complete my paperwork. When I waltzed in not much later, I assumed that the current class activity would have distracted C. to the point where the leprechaun story no longer bothered him.
Again, I was mistaken.
A couple of children stood by C.'s desk, asking him what the problem was. The girls had already blabbed about the leprechaun story to their teacher. The children by C.'s desk wanted to know what exactly the story was and what made it so scary.
Restraining a grin, the teacher kept telling the children to leave C. alone. The story was none of their business. But as soon as the teacher and I made eye contact, we chuckled and then guffawed. This poor, pouting little boy! His innocence! What a child will believe! If only adult woes could be so--
“Why you crying?” one of the girls asked me as she studied me. The humor of the moment had completely possessed me. Giggles had led to near weeping as I put my arm around C. He, meanwhile, was still close to tears of a more sinister kind.
“Are you scared of the leprechaun, too?” the girl asked.
I rocked my body, as if nodding from head to toe.
“It's okay,” the girl stated with such sincerity and reassurance, “It's just a story.”
Another child stormed up to me and demanded that I tell him the story.
“If it scared C.,” the teacher began, “What makes you think it wouldn't scare you?”
The boy thought for a second and scurried away, soon causing mayhem in another corner of the classroom.
My laughter gradually died down as I rubbed C.'s back.
“Remember, it's just a story,” I muttered into his hot ear.
He buried his big head into his arms on his desk as I continued rubbing his back.