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 rifle.   

    “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 morning.

    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 jar.”

    “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 thunderstorm watch.”

    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 doing?”

    “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, Herb?”

    “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 banshee.

    “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, anyway?”
    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.

#   #   #


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