A Short Tale of Golden Consequences

In America, everyone claims to be a little bit Irish in March. They guzzle green beer and generally have a good time. They talk about shamrocks and rainbows, and leprechauns and pots of gold. Never once do they stop to think about the consequences of their actions. This is a short-short about consequences, golden consequences to be more specific. (Trigger warning: includes allusions to sex and violence and may not be appropriate for younger readers.)

Image is a a pair of beer mugs with heads of foam over a green round banner that reads St. Patrick's Day against a gold background that welcomes you to the story world of Golden Consequences by Lynette M. Burrows

Golden Consequences

I’m an American with Irish heritage and I tell you, I love St. Patrick’s Day in America. Green beer—whoever thought that one up was a genius. Of course, I serve nothing but green beer on the sainted day. Oh, didn’t I tell you? I am the proprietor and bartender at Shawn’s Tavern. 

Oh, yeah, it was a little shop, one people call a hole-in-the-wall. Ah, who am I kidding? It was a dive. I had my eye on this swank place off of Main Street, but I didn’t have the cash. St. Patrick’s Day was one of my biggest days. Until the day I met one particular lady..

It was the wee hours of the night after St. Patrick’s Day and I’d just tossed the last drunk out, locked the door, and counted my till. I hung up my apron and headed for the back door when I heard a wee sound. A tiny sob. It came from the back corner, the darkest corner in the place. I made my way back there and almost missed her, a wee girl sitting on a stool and a-crying her eyes out. I didn’t think she’d noticed me so I say, “There, there little lady, I don’t know why you’re a-crying but things can’t be so bad.” Taking my handkerchief out of my pocket, I offer it to her. “Her now,” I say, “wipe your tears and tell me what’s troubling you. I’ll help you, if I can.”

She looks up at me and I see the greenest, most emerald eyes I’ve ever seen in my life. She took my handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes that never left mine. “Oh, sir, how kind you are, unlike the scoundrel who took all my money and left me here all alone.”

Image of a cute leprechaun girl with big eyes and long blonde hair stepping out of a blue globe with a green bow behind it, she may end up as golden consequences.

“Someone robbed you?” I say, “Here, in my bar? Tell me who did this. I’ll make the sod pay.” I pulled my phone out of my pocket and swiped up.

“Who are you calling?” She asked in a voice that fell on my ears like a melody of violins.

“The cops, I’ve got to report this, you know,” I told her. “Got to keep my license and my bar clean of this kind of stuff.”

“Oh, sir, please don’t. You’ll besmirch my name in my Da’s eyes.” She gave me a look that pierced my heart.

I turned my phone off and put it back in my pocket. “Then, at least let me take you home. You live with your parents?” I offered her my hand.

“In a manner of speaking.” She took my hand and stood. All of three feet tall, she wore a wisp of a dress that didn’t reach her knees.

My shock must have shown on my face. 

“You’ve never seen a little person before?” 

“Never one so small and beautiful as you.”

“Would you like to make love?”

My heart and my manhood swell in answer.

She puts a delicate hand over her mouth and laughs a laugh that teases and arouses me at the same time. 

My brain and my manhood spar about what is right and what I want “I don’t want to hurt you,” I say. 

Her tiny hand pulls me with a surprising strength that should have made me wary, but the desire in her eyes drove away everything else.

Never has love-making on the floor of the bar left me so completed and depleted. She rolled off me and snuggled into the crook of my arm. Her sigh was a warm breath of spring. Tears shimmered in those emerald eyes.

“Oh, please don’t cry again,” I say. “It’d break my heart.”

“It always pains me when the kind ones are bound to me.”

I laugh, low and heavy, with the afterglow of sex. “Bound to you?”

“It is a rare thing for a lady leprechaun to be seen. Rarer still for her to share her passion with a human.”

I laugh again, not as low or as comfortable. “So, did I earn your pot-o-gold?”

“Oh, lad,” she says. “Haven’t you already done that?” She smiles. Her lips stretch against pointed, wicked-sharp teeth. 

Image of a green leprechaun's hat full of gold coins with two large shamrocks above the hat with a the same golden background--an illustration of the short-short story Golden Consequences by Lynette M Burrows

That was five years ago. Now, I know what you’re a thinking. There’s no such thing as a lady leprechaun. But I swear on my mother’s grave, she is… If you don’t believe me, you can see her for yourself. Just go through that door there. 

No sooner than the door closed behind him that the lights went out. I busy myself with putting away beer glasses, noisy-like, so I don’t hear his cry of surprise. A green glow strobes around the door. Long after I finish stacking the glasses, the pulse of emerald light slows to a flicker, then dims to a glimmer. I wait until the room inside goes dark again, then rap on the door. “That’s the last of the stragglers tonight,” I say. “Is it safe?”

“Come, get your pot of gold.”

Sometimes my writing surprises myself. This story was inspired by a post about how there have never been any myths about lady leprechauns. I hope you enjoyed it. And I hope that you haven’t suffered golden consequences or any other kind from your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. 

Story Time Reviews “Lost Girls” by Jane Yolen

Story Time Reviews is a blog series that offers reviews of stories both read and read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “The Lost Girls” by Jane Yolen is a 1999 winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a retelling of Peter Pan—with a twist. It originally appeared in the short story collection titled, Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

The colorful, multi-image cover of Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast by Jane Yolen is the original book in which Lost Girls by Jane Yolen appeared

I read it in the short story collection, Sister Emily’s Lightship and Other Stories.

The Story

In this story, Peter Pan has spent years since the original Wendy recruiting more and young girls. These girls are then pressed into a life of service to Peter Pan and the Lost Boys in Neverland. They serve the boys food and do all the cleaning while the boys get to fight the pirates.

And life in Neverland would have continued this way forever, but Peter recruited Darla. And Darla teaches the Wendy’s they can demand equality.

The Author

Photograph of Jane Yolen

Do I really need to tell you who Jane Yolen is? If you’re not into children’s books or Science Fiction and Fantasy, probably no. For the rest of you, here’s a brief summary of who Jane Yolen is.

Born on February 11, 1939 in New York City, Jane Hyatt Yolen was the first born of Will and Isabel Yolen. 

Her mother, a social worker, quit working jobs outside of her home after Jane was born. But she did volunteer work, wrote short stories that didn’t sell and crossword puzzles and acrostics that did.

During his lifetime, Her father was a police reporter, a café journalist, a publicity flack for Hollywood movies, and a Second Lieutenant who was wounded in WWII. It’s no wonder that Jane was “writing up a fury” by the time she was thirteen.

Jane received her BA from Smith College in 1960 and her Masters in Education from the University of Massachusetts in1976.

She is a celebrated author of more than 375 books and stories. No, celebrated isn’t the right word…she has rightfully won more awards than I knew existed. Jane describes herself as a poet and a journalist/nonfiction writer who, to her surprise, became a children’s book writer. Jane also writes fantasy novels, many of which could be considered for children, but adults enjoy them as much as children do.

If you want to know more about Jane, I encourage readers and writers to visit her website. I love one piece of advice that Jane offers at the end of her list of the many successes of a writer: “Selling the piece is only an explanation point, a spot of punctuation.” Read about Jane’s life.

My Opinion

Full disclosure, I am a Jane Yolen fan. I love her lyrical, poetic style of writing. I’m fascinated by the way she can take old fairy tales and fables and present them in a new and interesting way. And if I’m honest, am envious of her writing craft.

The story begins with Darla’s complaint, “It isn’t fair!” She’s upset that Wendy does all Peter Pan’s housework and doesn’t get to fight the pirates. And instantly, I am on Darla’s side.

As the story progresses, I cheer Darla for confronting the inequities in Neverland.

The story’s mid-point crisis is perfect as is the plot twist and the final confrontation. The ending is appropriate, if a bit rushed. 

Conclusion

Cover image of Sister Emily's Lightship and Other Stories the book where  I read the story Lost Girls by Jane Yolen

If you enjoyed story time reviews “Lost Girls” by Jane Yolen, read other story time review posts.

Overall I give the “Lost Girls” a strong 4.5 for craft, characters, plot twist, and author voice. With a stronger or less rushed feel to the ending it would easily be a 5 star read. The collection of stories, Sister Emily’s Lightship and Other Stories, is a delightful collection of re-told tales. Some very short. I highly recommend it.

Story Time Reviews “The Last Question”

If you like stories with a twist ending, you’ll like Isaac Asimov’s “The Last Question.” Asimov’s short story first appeared in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly. The recording is 36:34 minutes in duration and the story is narrated by Leonard Nimoy

The Story

Two men stand and flip switches on a massive machine with rows of switches, the first Argonne Computer looks something like the Multivac in The Last Question reviewed by LynetteMBurrows.com
image By Argonne National Laboratory – Flickr: AVIDAC — First Argonne Computer (1953), CC BY-SA 2.0

The story begins with, “The last question was asked for the first time, half in jest, on May 21, 2061, at a time when humanity first stepped into the light.” Two of Multivac’s attendants make a five-dollar bet over highballs.

Multivac was a giant, self-adjusting and self-correcting computer. The men “fed it data, adjusted questions to its needs and translated the answers that were issued.” The computer had, for decades, designed the ships and plotted the trajectories that allowed Man to reach Mars and Venus. But Earth didn’t have enough resources to create the power needed for such trips. Multivac devised a way to use the sun and “all Earth ran by invisible beams of sunpower.”

After seven days of public functions, Multivac’s attendants take a moment of peace with the bottle and the computer. One man expresses his delight that the Earth has free power forever. The second man argues that it’s won’t be forever. Then the first man issues a challenge. “Ask the computer.” So they ask, “How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?”

The computer’s usual clicks and whirs go silent and its flashing lights go dark. Just when the men feared the computer had stopped, it answers. “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.” 

By the next day, the two men plagued with hangovers forgot they’d asked.


Years and years later, a family leaves Earth and travels through hyperspace. Microvac guides the ship. A rod of metal as long as the ship, Microvac runs the ship and answers questions asked by the ship’s passengers. The wife is sad to be leaving Earth and her husband tries to comfort her. Their discussion comes around to entropy. He explains to the children what entropy is and that once the stars are gone there’s no more power. This frightens the children so they ask Microvac the question. It answers,  “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.” 

And so the story goes. Hundreds of years pass and another generation worries about entropy and asks the question. Eventually Man leaves the Galaxy. In time, Man becomes a disembodied being. And after trillions and trillions of years, the stars and Galaxies died. And the last man asks the last question. 

Nope. If you haven’t heard the story, I won’t spoil it for you. Read it or better yet, listen to it here.

The Voice Talent

What can I say? Leonard Nimoy narrates this story in a video on YouTube. I love Nimoy’s voice and generally adore his performances. In this story, his narration takes on a bit of monotony. The story is not an intimate one and features this powerful computer, so I understand why he read it in that manner. 

I can’t believe it, but Nimoy did not enhance the story for me. Sacrilegious  I know.

The Author

Image of Isaac Asimov on the cover of his memoir. "The Last Question" written by Asimov is reviewed on LynetteMBurrows.com.

Born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov in 1920 Russia, his parents brought him to the United States when he was three. His family changed their surname to Asimov around this time.

Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Asimov began reading science fiction pulp magazines in 1929 and became a fan. He began writing stories at 11 years of age. His first published work appeared in Boys High School’s literary journal in 1934. His first published science fiction story, Marooned Off Vesta, appeared in Amazing Stories. 

He became a biochemistry professor at Boston University. In the 1970s, he gave up full-time teaching but did occasional lectures.  

A prolific writer and editor, Asimov produced about 500 volumes of fiction and nonfiction. He won dozens of awards. You can find his impressive bibliography here.

Asimov’s story, “Nightfall” (1941), his robot stories (beginning in 1940), and his Foundation series (beginning 1951) are his most famous works of fiction. In an introduction he wrote to The Last Question, he called it his favorite of all the stories he wrote.

Asimov died in 1992. 

If you wish to know more about Isaac Asimov, you may wish to read I, Asimov: A Memoir  and It’s Been a Good Life.

My Opinion

Typically, this is a story that is too distant and too passive for me to enjoy. However, the question is a great hook and one continues expecting the answer will come. 

There are signs of the story’s age. It does not mention skin color or ethnicities or sociopolitical situations. I believe Asimov wrote the story this way to allow all readers to relate to it on some level. I’m uncertain it works. But that would be for someone else to judge. 

When Asimov wrote the story, the twist ending was a total surprise. Today’s readers, steeped in science fiction tropes, won’t find the twist as surprising but it still made this reader sit back in her chair. 

The ending of the story and the answer to the question will have you pondering the themes of this story for days, months, perhaps years. If you’re interested, Google the story. You’ll find dozens of discussions of the themes. 

Conclusion

Because of the themes, I believe “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov is worth listening to for the first or the hundredth time. You can find it here. It’s short story that covers thousands of years and development and poses a question that stays with the reader. That’s a story worth studying. If you liked this review you might want to check out past Story Time Reviews here, here, and here.

A Surprise Written in Mud

I received a free copy of the January/February 2019 copy of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine from my friend and mentor, Bill Wu. He autographed his story in this issue, personalized for me. It was a surprise “Written in Mud” on two levels. If you have a chance, grab a copy. This Tall Tale is worth it.

A Surprise Written in Mud--Lynette M. Burrows reviews the story by William F. Wu

“Written in Mud” is the story of four friends who try to figure out how they are going to survive after fraking for shale oil in Oklahoma caused massive earthquakes along the Humboldt fault in Kansas and the New Madris fault in Missouri. The friends are on what used to be a farm belonging to one of them. It is now the shores of Kansas. These four friends try to find a new occupation.

A Surprise Written in Mud--review of the story by William F. Wu.
I’m giving away one of the Easter Eggs. You’ll have to hunt for the rest.

They make a trip upriver and discover that the answer to their dilemma was…well, you’ll have to read it.

A Surprise Written in Mud- Lynette M. Burrows reviews of the story by William F. Wu
A hint from the 1968 movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpit

Not only did Bill not give me any warning that he sent this to me, he didn’t tell me the story existed. It’s arrival was a Christmas surprise gifted to me without any expectations or obligations. This story is especially delightful to me because it contains a lot of nuggets or Easter Eggs that refer to books, stories, and personal memories. Memories I share with Bill and the other characters depicted in this story. No, I’m not going to out them. That’s their choice to make.

William F. Wu is a multiple award finalist and has had a long career in science fiction and fantasy. His story, “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium” was adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone in 1985. He lives in California with his wife and son. Read more about Bill’s amazing career on his website.

You can find William F. Wu’s novels and stories on Amazon. His most recent release, A Temple of Forgotten Spirits: The Complete Adventures of Jack Hong is available as an ebook or an audiobook.

The story, “Written in Mud,” makes a statement about fraking and about genetic manipulation. Perhaps it’s a bit of a warning, but it’s one that will make you laugh. Do you like humorous science fiction? Have you read “Written in Mud?” If not, be sure to pick up a copy of Asimov’s and find out the surprise that’s “Written in the Mud.”