Venturing into the cut-throat world of short story fiction, I subtly dis multi-level marketing and insult Leprechauns. All that glitters is not gold, but some people seem to think that maybe if we close our eyes and wish really hard, it will be. Nope.

Truth is, Finley reminded me of a Leprechaun. It’s probably because he had a beard without a mustache, and he always wore an impish little grin. Or maybe it was his bouncing manner, which seemed far too youthful for his years. I’m not sure.

But I am sure that Finley was the one who first told me about the idea of “free money.”

As Fin explained it, through an Amway-like multi-level marketing process (which Fin called “the best distribution network in the world”), I could make a fortune and retire after only a few years time. In essence, someone recruits Finley and takes a small percentage of the money he makes. Finley then recruits others, takes a small percentage of the money they make, and so on. The money comes from mail-order sales to whoever you can find to buy various trinkets of dubious value. If you buy products yourself, so much the better for you (and your recruiter).

“Most people are skeptical,” said Fin, probably sensing my wariness. “That’s why we give them this prospective tape.”

The “prospective tape” turned out to be an ex-community college economics professor gone off on some rambling, vaguely masturbatory economic discourse that had so little to do with “multi-level marketing” that I wondered what he was smoking.

“Don’t you want to have financial security?” asked the prof at the end of his monologue, “I sure do.”

When I met with Fin again, I could tell he was disappointed that I remained unconvinced.

“Don’t you want to have financial security?” asked Fin. “I sure do,” he said.

I told Fin that it sounded interesting, but I was pretty confused. Fin just smiled his goofy, blissfully ignorant smile.

“Really, what we need to do is sit down and talk about your interests,” he said. “I’ve got some other people above me that are more into it, and they’re always glad to sit down with me and help with my business. See, they’ll help you as you build your business and me as I build my business. At the same time, they’re building their business by helping you build your business and me build my business,” he said, each time emphasizing the word business with a inflection that made me think he was perverting the word and the concept.

I started to speak but stopped, and just sort of walked away. He tried to talk with me about the “business” in the days following, but I always made excuses.

I never had the courage to tell Finley that the head of Amway was convicted in Canada of running a pyramid scheme. I never told him that I thought that multi-level marketing “free money” was a perversion of the work ethic, with neither risk nor investment. And finally, I never told Fin that he really did remind me of a Leprechaun, except that there was no pot of gold; I knew that his gleeful chase for the rainbow of riches would lead to an open, empty hole.

I couldn’t have told him any of it—it would’ve broken his heart.