WINGLES AND WAFOONS
By Vera Searles
Just before he woke up, Herb thought he heard a
voice singing “W-i-n-g-l-e-s, W-a-f-o-o-n-s.” Then Edna stirred
beside him, and Herb came up out of the shadows of his dreams.
"Were you singing just now?" he asked.
His wife gave him one of her pained looks.
“What’s wrong with you? Every Saturday morning you ask me if I’ve
been singing or moaning or something. The answer is still
no!” She leapt up vigorously, leaving a warm niche into
which Herb declined to snuggle. She went into the bathroom
and ran the shower, also rather vigorously.
He stayed on his own side of the bed and folded his
arms behind his head. For the past month, Saturday mornings had
been full of strange, languid reveries that Herb could never remember,
yet he could hear traces of the music in his mind. They sounded
like Irish ditties on elfin voices, creeping into that early morning
limbo between dozing and waking.
Edna came out of the bathroom wrapped in her
robe. “Aren’t you up yet?” she demanded. “It’s
Saturday!” Married for over thirty years, Herb knew that she
meant: “ Get up, get dressed, we’re going to the flea market, like it
or not.” Saturday was always flea market day with Edna.
Herb could never remember the dreams, only the
music. Sometimes it sounded like the piping of tiny flutes, from
the land of the fairies
Edna swished past and yanked the draperies
open. Sunlight flooded the room, shelves and dressers, assailing
Herb’s eyes with a blazing spectacle of color. Their bedroom was
filled with macrame butterflies, Chinese fans with green dragons,
velvet paintings of unicorns and parrots.
The shelves held ceramic zebras, gray elephants,
orange tigers, pink flamingos. Ever since they retired and moved
into the villa in Florida, Edna had been decorating. Sometimes
Herb felt like he was living in a technicolor menagerie. It made
him think of Edna as the leader of a jungle safari, dressed in an olive
drab outfit complete with pith helmet and boots, toting a big-game
“Herb!” Edna stood glaring down at him.
“You’re daydreaming again. I can tell by that wimpy look on your
face. What good did your lazy daydreams ever do? If it
wasn’t for me we’ d still be living in that old rattletrap house your
parents left you. It’s a good thing I - - “ She began getting
dressed and her voice droned on.
Closing his eyes again, Herb recalled the old house
with the huge kitchen. He could almost smell the toasty
home-baked bread, almost taste his mother’s homemade preserves.
“ - - you never wanted to sell it, but thanks to me,
look at the nice profit we made - - Herb, get up!” She was
shaking his shoulder.
“All right,” he said, swinging his feet out onto the
floor. “But I don’t see why we have to hurry.” For
years they had risen early to go to work, and it seemed to Herb that
retirement should be more leisurely.
“How else can we get the best buys?” Edna
snapped. “All the bargains are gone by ten. Get your
shower, coffee’ll be done in a jiffy.”
* * *
“Isn’t this adorable?” Edna said, picking up a red
checkerboard rabbit doorstop at the booth called “The Doorstop Lady.”
While she dickered with the saleswoman over the
price, Herb’s mind wandered. Briefly he wondered where she’d put
another doorstop; they already had three. Another part of his
mind kept repeating “wingles and wafoons” from the dream he’d had that
He was staring at a sign across the aisle, and noted
that Edna was still haggling. Herb walked over to the opposite
booth. The sign read WINGLES AND WAFOONS in large green letters
with a border of shamrocks. Probably he saw that sign when they
were here last week.Still feeling befuddled, Herb looked at the
display. Jars. Empty Mason jars?
Suddenly, a small man popped up from behind the
counter. “Top of the mornin, sir, and it’s me pleasure to serve
ye.” If he wasn’ t a leprechaun, he was a good facsimile.
He wore a green scalloped tunic with tights and little pointy slippers,
and had a thick red beard. “Shamus McPatrick, at yer
service.” He extended a stubby hand over the counter. “
Call me Shamus.”
Smiling, Herb shook hands. “I didn’t know leprechauns really existed,” he said jokingly.
The man’s blue eyes glistened. “Ah, fer sure, ye must believe in the wee people, sir?”
“Well, I do now,” Herb said. He pointed to the shelves of empty jars. “What are they for?”
The little man leaned forward so that his beard
almost rested on the countertop. “Fer the wingles and wafoons,”
he replied reverently.
“I see,” said Herb, bending forward to match the
man’ s secretive manner. He felt silly, like a child swept up in
a new game. A vision of catching fireflies in jars when he was
six years old flickered momentarily through his mind. “Where do
we find the wingles and wafoons, and what are they?” he whispered.
McPatrick grinned widely, his eyes almost
disappearing in the bowls of his cheeks. “Ay, they’re in there,
sir, trust me, they’re in there.”
“Where?” Herb stared at the empty jars.
McPatrick took one from the shelf and held it up to
the light. “It looks empty, but it aren’t, sir. They don’ t
show theyselves till after darkness falls. The wingles and
wafoons are the spirits of the night. Ye must wait fer the last
stroke of the bewitching hour, and they will show theyselves to ye
then. Ye'’ ll know they be comin when ye see the jar glowin with
the green light.”
Herb was amused. “What do they look like?”
“Ah, they be sprites and fairies, elves and
hobgoblins, pixies, brownies and imps. All the little people,
sir. They dance, and sing, and fly about their own wee
world. Tis a sight ye won’t ferget. When they tire, they’ll
shut off the light, but they’ll still be in there, trust me,
sir.” He winked. “It’s just that ye can’t always see em.”
“Can I put my fingers in to touch them?” Herb reached for the jar.
“No!” Shamus McPatrick grabbed the Mason jar
away quickly, put it back on the shelf. “Ye must never open the
jar, sir. Oh, no, never. Tis a dangerous thing to open the
“Will they escape?” Herb was enjoying this
“Not that, sir. Much worse. Twill remove
the magic line that holds the two worlds apart, and there will be great
smashings and whirlwinds and roarings and confusions. Twill be
bad enough to chill the bones of the dead. Tis not the wish
of the wee people to come into your world, sir - - beware, lest ye be
taken into theirn.”
Shamus McPatrick looked so serious. What a performer.
Herb asked, “How much do the wingles and wafoons cost, Shamus?”
“One jarful - - ten dollars. How many do ye want, sir?” He put one jar into a bag, and waited.
“Just one,” Herb said, getting out his wallet.
He figured it was a con game, but so what. McPatrick had put on a
show well worth ten bucks. “Here’s your money, Shamus. I
really enjoyed your performance.” He winked slyly as he took the
bag. “You almost had me convinced.”
The little man’s face collapsed into alarm.
“No, no, sir - - trust me, I be tellin ye the truth - - don’t be openin
the jar, please sir, twill bring yer blackest fancies to life - - twill
be a disaster like ye never saw!”
“Herb?” Edna materialized at his side, holding
a package out to him. “Here, carry this for me. Come on, I
want to look at the hanging plants.”
Herb turned to say goodbye to Shamus, but the little
man was gone. He must have slipped beneath the counter
again. Grinning, Herb followed Edna.
* * *
They arrived home just as the rain began.
Running back and forth from the car to the front door to take in
the packages and the two hanging plants that Edna bought, Herb
noticed the bag with the jar was still in the trunk. He snatched
it up, deciding maybe they could use it to hold cookies or tea
bags. Before his thought was even finished, a long shudder of
thunder trembled the earth, and the whole complex seemed to glow from
an immense slash of lightning overhead. Okay, Shamus, Herb
grinned to himself, I get the message.
He put the plants in the kitchen sink, the packages
on the bed, and the bag with the jar in the bottom of his closet.
While he shrugged out of his damp shirt he listened to the weather
broadcast: “ Rain bands from the disturbance are now edging ashore
along the west coast, and all central Florida is under a severe
They ate lunch while the rain shimmered the view of
their patio “Have to wait till tomorrow to put up the hanging
plants,” Herb said.
Edna grimaced. “Isn’t this the pits? I
was all set for a swim and then we could have gone out for
dinner. The rest of the day is shot now with this weather.”
They listened to the weather again and the forecast
was even worse: “All of central Florida is under a tornado watch till
eight PM tonight.”
A loud peal of thunder shook the villa, rattling
some of Edna’s ceramic animals. The zebra jiggled. The
elephant’s trunk swayed. The whole menagerie seemed to have
shifted closer, overwhelming Herb with bizarre colors. “ Think
I’ll take a nap,” he said, feeling the need to get away from the jungle.
* * *
He woke sweating. Something was wrong.
It was very hot in the room, and almost dark, except for the frequent
streaks of lightning. The luminous dial of his watch read only
three-thirty in the afternoon. Wind and rain hurtled against the
building, and thunder boomed every few seconds.
He sat up, and in a flash of lightning saw Edna
kneeling forward into his closet. “Edna? What are you
“Looking for that big lantern that goes by
battery. I thought we put it in here someplace. Electric’s
off, no air. Hot as hell.” He heard her shoving his
shoes around. In a gleam of lightning he saw her pick up the bag
from the floor and lift out the Mason jar. “What’s this for,
“Oh. Um.” He had forgotten it was
there. A blast of thunder ruptured the air. “Just a jar I
bought this morning.”
“You bought this? What for?”
He felt too ridiculous to tell her the truth.
“Thought maybe you could use an extra jar for something. Tea
bags, maybe?” The wind made a shrill wailing sound, like a
“It’s just a worthless Mason jar. Which booth?”
“Across from your doorstop lady.”
Over a low growl of thunder, Edna said, “There’s no
one at that booth. The sign says it’s for rent. It’s been
empty three weeks.”
Empty? Impossible. Shamus McPatrick had
been there, with a sign that said WINGLES AND WAFOONS. “It was
directly across,” Herb insisted.
“Don’t tell me what’s across! That space has
been vacant for three weeks. How much did you pay for this thing,
It couldn’t have been a hallucination. If it
was - - where did he get the jar? While he tried to recall the
exact location of the booth, Herb replied, “Ten bucks.”
“What?!” Edna got up, came over to the
bed “You paid ten dollars for this lousy jar? You
idiot!” She stood over him, her face distorted as the lightning
danced. “It’ s not even big enough to hold half a box of tea
bags, see?” She began unscrewing the top of the jar.
From somewhere in the distance, Herb heard a train
barreling down a track toward them. The jar began to glow with an
eerie green light. With cold fear crawling over him, he recalled
the words of Shamus McPatrick; “ When ye see the jar glowin - - tis not
the wish of the wee people to come into your world - - beware, lest ye
be taken into theirn.”
“No! Don’t open it!” Herb screamed,
jumping up, trying to snatch the jar away from Edna, but she already
had the top off. Lightning blazed and flickered, leaving pulsing
arcs across his eyes, and the wind yowled and screeched like wild
animals. The train roared in his ears The building
wobbled. “Oh God, it’s a tornado!” he yelled. “Get under
the bed, Edna! Where are you?”
A great sucking noise pulled at Herb. He was
lifted from his feet, then flung back to the floor as all around him he
heard furniture, shelves, dishes, bursting and smashing.
* * *
A soft rain dripped on his face as Herb opened his
eyes. He had no pain and was sure he wasn’t hurt, but had no idea
how long he’ d been out. His watch was shattered. Through a
missing section of roof he saw the leaden sky and it was still
daytime. Pieces of furniture were overturned and crisscrossed
with pillows, shoes, scraps of insulation.
“Edna?” he called. “Edna, where are you?
Are you okay?” He struggled to his feet, looked under the bed,
then went into the kitchen. “Edna?” Where could she be?
Back in the bedroom, he saw the clothes in her
closet swaying in a breeze from the opening in the roof. The
hangers slid back and forth, making sounds like the piping of tiny
flutes. And on the floor, the Mason jar stood upright, with the
top on, even though he had seen her open it….
Wind curled through the room, wailing W-i-n-g-l-e-s,
W-a-f-o-o-n-s. With a chill prickling his damp body, Herb
realized this was what he had been dreaming for weeks.
Something was in the jar. He picked it
up. Inside was a miniature jungle safari, with a tiny zebra,
elephant, and Edna’s entire menagerie, reduced to miniscule size.
And with them, a tiny ceramic Edna, dressed in boots and pith helmet,
her face frozen forever in a silent scream of agonized terror.
“Wingles, wafoons,” sang the breeze as Herb smiled, and placed the jar on Edna’s favorite shelf.
Vera Searles can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org