Frank prided himself on being a conscientious drunk.
Sure, after a few drinks, he’d talk a bit louder than usual, and there was that hot feeling in his ears that felt a little too cozy to be healthy. Yet all in all, Frank was the same person no matter how many beers or whiskeys or rum-infused novelty chocolates he had; no substance could alter his fundamentally responsible personality. He was so responsible, in fact, that when his date who was supposed to be his designated driver passed out at the bar, Frank chose to walk home instead of badgering people for a ride. Even though Frank had drunk quite a bit of wine and vodka at the bar himself, he still calmly and effectively secured help for his unconscious date before heading out. If only she had the same fortitude he did, Frank thought.
Then he wouldn’t be lost in these godforsaken woods.
“Note to self,” Frank muttered. “Only walk when the sun’s out.”
Frank felt like he was being punished for being responsibly frugal. His condo was only about two miles away from the bar, so there was no point in ordering an expensive ride-share, or asking to share a ride with some awkward stranger. But as he walked home, the sidewalk gradually became narrower and narrower until he was practically stepping alongside the speeding cars on the blacktop.
Thus, once he vaguely recognized the outline of some woods he had hiked through a few times, Frank responsibly decided to risk an encounter with a nocturnal forest creature instead of continuing to walk cheek-to-cheek with late night delivery trucks.
However, true to his nature as a straight shooter, Frank was visually oriented, which made it difficult to navigate the unlit woods. He’d occasionally use the flashlight built into his phone, but the all-encompassing foliage and the unending trees failed to provide any clarity. By realistically assessing the situation, Frank was starting to get terrified by how hopelessly lost he had become.
The feelings of terror only worsened when Frank tripped over something hard, toppling him onto the forest floor.
Too scared to notice the pain in his calf, Frank immediately got up and felt around. He was surrounded by a scattering of what felt like numerous cold flat stones. Through logical speculation, Frank theorized that he had accidentally knocked over some sort of nest, and that the residents of that nest would soon put him out of his misery.
With that in mind, he took a deep breath, and turned on his phone’s flashlight again.
The first thing Frank noticed was that the ground was covered with quarters. Oddly yellowish quarters. He then turned around, and saw that these oddly yellow quarters had spilled over from an overturned metal cauldron.
That’s some pretty conspicuous littering, Frank thought. Then, a bright lantern burst out from under the soil. The lantern’s holder crawled out soon after, a clammy little creature clad in stringy red hair and damp green rags.
“The name’s Spearmint O’Ryan,” said the creature. “I’m a leprechaun. You’ve heard of those, right?”
“Yeah,” said Frank, looking around. “Is this some sort of prank?”
Spearmint O’Ryan snapped his fingers. Frank felt a sudden chill. He looked down, and saw that he was wearing nothing but a pair of green underpants. He squealed like a kicked dog.
Spearmint snapped his fingers again. Instantly, Frank was back in his normal clothes.
“How?” said Frank.
“Magic,” said Spearmint in an annoyed tone. “It’s real. Anyways, you found my gold, so I gotta grant you a wish.”
“Why?” said Frank.
“It’s like pooping,” said Spearmint. “It’s dumb, but you have to do it.”
Frank wondered about the accuracy of this comparison. Then he realized that if magic was real, there were more important matters at hand.
“Okay,” said Frank. “So, based on the folklore, leprechauns grant three wishes, right?”
“I’m not a genie,” said Spearmint. “You only get one wish.”
“Are genies real?” said Frank.
“I don’t want to do this all night,” said Spearmint. “Just make your wish already.”
Frank went quiet. He still had his doubts, but this was clearly a remarkable opportunity. That said, growing up, he had heard and read many stories about the dangers of wish-granting creatures, and how they would cruelly use people’s heartfelt desires to enact ironic punishments upon naive wishers. Normally, Frank was too logically grounded to use fairy tales as a reference point. In this strange situation though, he had nothing else to guide him.
So, Frank did what most people do when faced with uncertainty: he played it safe.
“I wish I was home,” said Frank.
Green smoke filled the air. When it cleared, Frank found himself back in his condo, safe and sound. Thoroughly checking all the rooms and windows confirmed that nothing had changed, and after a good night’s rest, he resumed his everyday life. He wondered at first if he had squandered his one wish, but he soon concluded that using it to go home was the wisest choice. If he had wished for superpowers, or a perfect spouse, or some other unnatural perversion, it would have been a lot easier for that leprechaun to inflict some horrible fate upon him. Simply wishing to go home protected Frank against the numerous evil fates the leprechaun potentially had in store. It may not have been the most exciting option, but Frank was happy with it.
A few weeks later, another wandering drunkard would trip over Spearmint O’Ryan’s pot of gold. Unlike the sensibly-minded Frank, this particular drunkard was an irrational misanthrope, and he wished for a giant comet to collide with the Earth and kill every living thing on it.
As the world fell into disarray, Frank stood still and watched as the comet grew larger and larger in the burning sky.
I should’ve lived large when I had the chance, he thought.
Chris Zhang is a writer from California. People say he’s pretty cool.