(Reprinted from Mysterical-e)
So here's wishin' ye....
The Luck O' The Irish
By Christine Verstraete
The car lurched into another pothole, prompting Robert O'Flannery to check the address his wife Margie had written down and tossed wordlessly at him earlier that morning.
He hadn't turned wrong. Three twenty-was that a zero, a six? Anyway it was Sycamore. He was going the right way. The house numbers were getting smaller, just as the houses themselves and the lots they sat on were getting larger the nearer he came to the lake.
His anticipation, along with his suspicions about his wife's motives, grew during the drive. She'd given him some decent leads in the past, but she hadn't shown much interest in his work since the real estate market had started bottoming out.
He didn't want to admit that she hadn't shown much interest in him at all lately, except to throw a coffee mug at his head for coming home flowerless on Valentine's Day. Given their rocky relations, her sudden generosity was odd.
Maybe she'd forgiven him?
No matter. Even if she hadn't, he wasn't about to look a gift house in the mouth, he thought, laughing at his clever rephrasing.
Pulling up to the curb, he rechecked the address on one of the brick pillars, then turned the car into the long, curving driveway. He drove slowly down the narrow, gravel lane closed in on both sides by rows of barren trees and virgin pines that reached their spindly limbs upward.
The lane ended and merged into a blacktopped circle. At sight of the expansive brick home ahead, Robert caught his breath in surprise.
"Oh Margie," he muttered. "If this pans out, I'll bring you all the flowers you want."
The hanging shingles and broken windows on some of the smaller cottages and work buildings gave the place an unkempt appearance, but the main house was in decent shape. It looked unoccupied, too. All the better. No tenants to deal with.
Grabbing his appointment book, Robert stepped from the car and did a little jig like an overgrown leprechaun. He couldn't believe his good fortune.
The undulating overgrowth gave him a minute's pause. Overgrown brambles and bits of rough vines bit at his ankles. The brush probably hid insects, reptiles... He swallowed his apprehension and relaxed remembering the epinephrine pen he'd tucked inside the pocket of his appointment book.
He brushed the weeds aside impatiently, anxious to see what the house and some of the buildings looked like inside. He hoped they were livable.
His first peek into one of the outbuildings was a disappointment. The floor was covered with piles of brown leaves and other debris that had been carried in by rodents or blown in through the broken windows. The musty smell unnerved him. He shivered and moved on.
The next two buildings were no better. His spirits sinking, Robert headed across the deadened lawn towards the main house, his feet crushing the remainders of last fall's leaves underfoot.
He peeked inside a side window, nodding in approval at the sheet-covered furnishings filling the rooms. Maybe things weren't so bad. Someone cared enough to cover the furniture. The place wasn't totally abandoned.
At the front of the house, Robert set his calendar book down on an empty flowerpot and tried to see through the grime-encrusted glass panes of the door. His eyes took in the layer of dust covering the hallway floor.
"Hello?" He called and pushed the doorbell. It didn't work. He rapped on the wood doorframe and the window glass. "Hello? Anyone home?"
No one answered, so he reached out and grabbed the doorknob. It turned easily. He stepped through the doorway and sneezed. The musty odor tickled his nose and made his eyes water. He ignored it and continued.
His steps disturbed the floury coating of dust on the floor, sending it swirling into the air. He sneezed again. Despite the need for a good cleaning, the house was well kept.
He walked through the doorway and stopped. The kitchen was the exception. He looked around in disbelief. His nose wrinkled at the odor coming from the mounds of refuse and plates of decayed food littering the room. Had kids done this? Vandals, animals?
The stench was unbearable. His stomach churning, Robert rushed out the kitchen door into the adjoining greenhouse, no longer caring what had happened or who was responsible. Relieved, he breathed in the marginally fresher air tinged with an underlying scent of mildew. He noted the dead vines still clinging to the greenhouse supports. His eyes lingered on the decayed leaves covering the ground and the stalks of lifeless plants lying withered in the crusted soil.
Maybe his earlier impression had been wrong. His uneasiness growing, he reached for the St. Patrick's medal that never left his neck. It was time to end this tour.
He stepped through an opposite doorway, then walked backwards when a spot of bright green among the grim decay caught his eye. He edged closer to the planter and stared at-what? An envelope of all things. Here? It looked new, too.
He stared, the feeling of things being out of place fading as his curiosity grew. He grabbed it, slipped open the flap and-hey, what was that rustling?
It stopped. He looked around and, hearing nothing, pulled the card from the envelope.
"Happy St. Patrick's Day," it said.
He flipped it open and frowned. There was that sound again. What was--? Too late, Robert saw the leaves move. Snakes! He must've disturbed a nest hidden under the leaf pile. Eyes wide in panic, he lunged for the door, then winced in pain at the first bite on his ankle.
The card dropped from his hand as he grabbed at the doorframe, wondering how far he could drag himself. In horror, he realized that the appointment book, and the all-important emergency epinephrine pen, were still sitting on the flowerpot out front where he'd left them.
As he slid to his knees, Robert gazed at the inside of the card lying on the ground. With eyes nearly swollen shut, he managed to read the sentiment - "Here's wishing you the Luck O' the Irish!"
It was signed, "Love, Margie."