What would you do if a drunken elf showed up on your doorstep?
The knock on the door came at two in the morning. When Hanson opened the door to see who it was, he found an elf standing on his doorstep. The elf-man was short and bare-chested, with a ginger tuft of hair sprouting from his chin and two small, curved horns growing out of the top of his head.
“I’ll have a stout and two pints of Guinness,” the elf said, fumbling inside a canvass coin pouch tied around his waist.
“This isn’t a bar,” Hanson said, still befogged by sleep. “It’s my house.”
The elf’s eyes went wide, and he stumbled and caught himself against the doorframe. He grabbed Hanson’s forearm with a pleading look in his eyes. “I’m looking for McHenry’s Tavern,” he said, and with a throaty gargle fell into a heap on the floor.
When Hanson got out of bed the next morning, he found the elf sprawled ingloriously next to the fireplace. Hansen boiled water and brought him green tea in a tin mug.
The elf rolled away from him and groaned. “Guinness,” he muttered. “Rich, warm, amber Guinness…” and caressed an imaginary pint glass that seemed to levitate next to Hanson’s side table.
“Dervish Elves,” Hanson muttered. “Drunkards, all of you.”
“No!” the elf said, and sat straight up. “That’s a nasty ogre myth. The ogres pretend to like us, when really the only thing they know about elves are twice-told rumors about the O’Farell clan!” In his passion, the elf banged one of his horns against the fireplace’s iron handle.
“Pickle me pints!” the elf exclaimed. He clutched the tip of his horn and fell back against the earthen floor, glaring at the fireplace like it had hurt him on purpose.
Hanson shook his head, and left the mug of tea, still steaming, next to the elf’s bare feet. Hanson dressed, put on his coat, and wrapped a threadbare brown gingham scarf around his neck. Out the window, the day dawned grey and cold.
“I have to go work,” Hanson said. “We open in half an hour. I’ve left you some tea and bread, and there’s strawberry jam in the cupboard. Please, help yourself, but you ought to lay off drinking tonight, if you know what’s good for you. Good day.”
Hanson was half-way out the door when the elf’s voice stopped him.
“How can I repay you?”
Hanson turned and saw the elf sorting through a pile of bronze coins, rusty figurines, and emerald-colored jewels. The elf had scattered the contents of his purse all over Hanson’s pristine floor.
“Would you like a Tiruvian dollar? A Cameranian charmlet? A figurine of the High Holiest Elephant from the Temple of Oss?”
“No, thank you,” Hanson said. “I’m quite alright.” He couldn’t help be moved by how sincerely the elf wished to repay him in touristic elvish kitsch.
The elf plucked something from the pile and bounded to him. “This is perfect!” he said, proffering a long needle made of whale-bone. Before Hanson could stop him — and Hanson indeed wished to stop him — the elf placed the needle through the knot in his scarf.
The brown gingham transformed into a medley of richly died purple-and-green fibers, interwoven into a handsome weave. To his surprise, the wrap made Hanson feel preternaturally warm.
“Small magic,” the elf said apologetically, and cast his eyes on the ground. “But it’ll last you at least a day if my name isn’t Tyrone O’Donnell.” The elf extended a hand.
“O’Donnell, eh?” Hanson had heard of the O’Donnells. He chuckled to himself, feeling jovial, and wondering if the scarf could warm more than just his neck.
“Name’s Hanson,” he said. “Hanson McHenry. Can I show you to my tavern?”