The Blame Goblin’s Poem
by Perry McDaid
At the library outing, my best friend, Liam, and I joked and giggled behind the magazine rack until Mrs. Blair rounded us up by ringing the five-minute bell. The sound was tiny and muffled, but the woman behind the counter still gave Teacher such a look that I thought her head was going to explode with redness.
Mum had told me ginger-haired people go redder than normal.
“Isn’t that right, dear?” Mum chirruped. Father just nodded and grunted.
Anyway, Mrs Blair was very ginger and her nose had a head start — or nose start.
Liam fetched his favourite book, The Hobbit. No-one else had taken it because they were all reading thin books: either the adventures of The Worst Witch, or The Demon Headmaster.
Of course, Deborah Downey had to be different. Her father was the boss of The Daily Waily newspaper. She always picked books she thought made her look clever. She had her face in a book like a doorstop.
A tall blonde lady walked over to her and leaned over to read the title. Gently smiling to herself, Miss Terry, the science sub, prised Stephen Hawking’s latest from Deborah’s fingers. “This one’s not one of his Cosmic George adventures, dear,” Miss Terry purred. “It’s scary grown-up stuff. Here, try this,” she suggested, placing a girl’s annual in front of Deborah.
Teacher headed my way. I grabbed the thinnest book I could find and sat beside Liam. Nuts, I’d picked a poetry book.
“I didn’t think you were interested, Anthony,” Miss Terry said.
She always called me Anthony, even though my name is Tony. Must be an adult thing. Anyway, I had to think fast.
“Er, not all the time, Miss, I just love this poem.”
The book had fallen open at a drawing of a fierce but sort of friendly-looking goblin. His skin was covered in warts. “This one,” I lied, my face blazing. I knew then how Miss Terry felt when the librarian had glowered at her.
Teacher smiled a frosty smile. “Excellent. You can sign it out and practice reading for tomorrow’s class. Be careful. This could change your life,” she added sweetly and walked away.
I groaned, very quietly, laid my head down on the page. Miss Terry cruised the aisles of books, making sure none of her students were playing truant. That’s when it started: I went to lift my head and felt a tug on my hair.
I thought it had caught on the staples. However, the book stayed where it was. Only the goblin came away with my head. I started. He lost his grip, slipping down my face, only catching himself by grabbing my nose hair.
“Ow,” I yelped.
“Shush,” Liam hissed. “What’s wrong widya, dye wanny to go back to class?”
“Dees dot dy dose,” I whispered, pointing at the goblin.
Liam rolled his eyes and went back to reading.
“Deh Doblin.” I tapped the desk in front of Liam.
“He can’t see me, you know. He only sees Hobbits,” the goblin explained, letting go my nostril to drop gracefully onto the desk. “Hello, I’m Mister Milleán and I’ll be bothering you for, oh,” he checked a watch which he drew from a pocket, “as long as it takes you to learn my poem by heart.”
“Bye,” I blurted, and went straight to teacher. “Can I leave early, Miss? I’m not feeling well.”
Strangely, Miss allowed me to leave. There were always monitors on duty to escort students home, or onto their bus. I had only just closed my own front door when the real trouble started.
“Ah, there’s the culprit. Where’s my lemon tart?” Mum’s face was stern.
“And all the butter’s gone,” Father complained.
The goblin stood behind him, grinning like a fool. I pointed. He disappeared.
Father turned, following the direction of my finger. “What?”
“He was there, the goblin.”
“Goblin, eh,” chuckled Dad. “Best we give you a good bath in case you brought anything else home with you.”
“But...” I whined.
“But, but, but, the motorboat needs water,” quipped Mum.
Food kept disappearing that night, and I kept getting the blame. Sent to bed without supper, I found that book on my pillow. I opened at his page and began to memorise:
He’s always there,
he does not care
if hunger gnaws upon my gut.
Outside or in,
feast or famine,
he’ll lurk to snatch the meagrest cut.
Breakfast or lunch,
I hear him crunch
upon the food that’s meant for me,
for should I blink—
Before I can think,
he’ll gobble up breakfast and tea.
He snarfles soup...
“Look, I don’t think that’s a real word.”
The little guy had reappeared, swinging his legs as he balanced on my bedside table. He yawned and stretched his arms out in front of him, hands splayed. From down below I could hear raised voices.
“Why would he take a tin of those? He hates...”
I sighed, pulled my pillow around my head like ear muffs and continued aloud.
and llammers butter from the dish.
He gulps red meat
with pickled beet,
chomps toffee ice-cream with his fish.
Mother just laughs,
and threatens baths.
Father glowers as if I’d lied.
My mother was standing at the door with a puzzled frown marring her features. I frantically pointed at Milleán. He grinned and blew a raspberry at her. She didn’t react.
Dad suddenly peeked from behind her, slid an arm around her waist and pushed a tin of spaghetti into her hands, tenderly turned her around and patted her backside in a way which made me feel awkward. This wasn’t like him at all. He was smiling. Mum looked surprised as well.
“I’ll handle this,” he mumbled into her ear, and something else I didn’t catch.
She laughed in a way I’d never heard before and retreated to their bedroom. Father watched her all the way with a big grin, and then came into my room, the gleeful expression dropping to the floor like a cheap mask whose elastic band had snapped. I got frightened.
Father raised his finger to his lips and winked at me, somehow keeping his face serious while reassuring me.
“You bothersome little wretch...”
Milleán rubbed his hands together with a chuckle. “This’ll be good.”
“Oi, not him, you,” Dad snapped nodding directly at the goblin, who nearly fell off the table. “Don’t remember me, do you?”
The goblin squinted. His jaw dropped, and he tried to disappear. Dad did that weird non-blinking stare of his.
Milleán patted himself up and down, found himself still corporeal, and blanched. “Er,” he said. “I can see there’s been a mix-up here...”
“Who wrote the poetry book, son?” Dad said in an oddly determined, yet mild tone, maintaining the stare we had all become accustomed to over the years.
“Anthony Monaghan!” I hadn’t noticed. He had the same name as me. “That’s my name.”
Dad raised the corners of his mouth in a bleak smile. “And mine.”
“Oh dear...” Milleán began with a slight snivel.
“See, way back when I was young, I met this little liar. He convinced me something bad that happened was all my fault.”
“What are you going to do to him, Daddy?”
Dad winked — not blinked — winked. One eye remained fixed on the goblin.
“Not much by our standards, son. A kindly witch named Mystery taught me how to write the spell to banish him. But he’s a Blame Goblin, you see, and can disappear unless you keep your eyes fixed on him. I wasn’t able to do that when I was your age, so he hid in the spell itself. Very clever, really. The spell can’t affect what the eyes can’t see.”
The goblin was looking increasingly worried.
“Despite Hollywood’s films,” Dad continued conversationally, “Leprechauns can do pretty much as they please, whether you keep an eye on them or not. They’re good-hearted creatures, you see, and the Creator saw no need to build a fail-safe into them. Milleán are different.”
“What’s a fail-safe, Dad?”
“Excuse me, can I go? I’m terribly sorry.” Mister Milleán was definitely agitated.
“Finish the poem, son. I’ll tell you later.”
“You know, I’m not really all that bothered whether he finishes it or not. Really, don’t trouble yourself.” Mr Milleán’s gleefully mischievous grin was somewhere far away right about then. It left a woefully unconvincing stand-in.
I looked at Dad. He nodded encouragingly, still glaring at the goblin. “My eyes are starting to water, son. I’d appreciate it if you could finish as quickly as possible.”
But I’ll show ‘em,
and write a poem,
to tell them where the goblin hides.
Hush, OVER THERE.
Something in the nature of the poem had me sweep my arm up dramatically to point at Milleán. He popped like a balloon, leaving nothing behind. I stared at the space while father rubbed at his eyes.
“A fail-safe is something you put into something in case it goes wrong.”
“Eh? Oh, like the fuses in the plugs?”
“You’re a smart boy,” Dad said, pulling me out of bed and putting his arms around my shoulders. “Come on, let’s go find that lemon tart.”
“Down here,” called Mum from the kitchen. “There’s cocoa too.”
Confused, I looked into their bedroom. The bed was still made, the dressing table light still off.
“Ah, that,” Dad said giving me a quick hug. “Did I ever tell you about wizards and witches?” I gave him a funny look. He laughed. “There are some things schools don’t know. For instance, they don’t really know Miss Terry.”
I could smell the lemon tart as if it had just been baked. It had never smelled so good before. It was like Dad’s big grin was an extra ingredient.
Copyright © 2015 by Perry McDaid