So, you want to know about my last encounter with one of the wee people?
So, you want to know about my last encounter with one of the wee people? That was a good one for sure.
It began on a snowy Saint Patty’s Day with me slopping along Cambridge Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the good old USA. But you don’t need to waste time hearing about that, so while I’m getting soaked walking the mile from Harvard to The Druid Pub, I’ll fill you in on my backstory.
My name is Harrison O’Lennon, and my gig is teaching Irish History and Medieval Studies — that’s two different subjects, not together, mind you — at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. With that kind of stuff filling my head, I found myself often tripping over these little critters, Leprechauns, you know. But back when I was casting about for my thesis subject, they got me curious, and The History of Leprechauns in Irish Folklore became my topic. Suddenly I was the expert and had a reputation.
Forward a few years, and the brass at Harvard and Trinity, probably getting drunk on the feast day of our beloved Saint Patrick, came up with an idea. They set up an annual exchange lecture where one of the lads from Trinity would come here on St Patrick’s Day, to talk about some subject related to Irish History. On some other day, a bloke from Harvard would visit Trinity and tell some tale about you kickin’ George III’s arse.
With the schoolhouse payin’ the freight, we compete mightily for the prize. This year I won.
About an hour ago, I finished my duty, having entertained a room full of ‘yanks’ by filling their heads with The Role of Leprechauns in Irish Folklore. With that done, and me being mighty thirsty, I asked where I might whet my whistle and celebrate the day of “the apostle of Ireland” with a few of our new world kin. A young lad, calling himself Jacob Keevan, I believe, pointed me to the Druid Pub. I thought he might give me a lift, but he said he had other matters needing tending, and that he would join me there later. So, I slugged out on foot. “Just a mile, straight along Cambridge Street,” he said. There the tale begins.
The room was full of merrymakers — green neckties, green jackets, crazy green hats, and a lot of green beer. It was as loud as the inside of a metal trash can in a hail storm. I pushed to the bar and ordered a Smithwick’s Irish Ale. A few recognized me and began to buy my suds. That went on for at least an hour during which young Keevan joined us.
I was happy, getting happier, while my new found friends from the west shore of the big pond asked of the old country and joshed me about the little people. With a night and a morning ahead before my Logan to Dublin flight carried me back to the Emerald Isle, I was in no hurry to leave the warmth and conviviality of the Druid Pub. Much better than a dreary hotel room, the Druid reminded me of O’Neill’s Pub and Kitchen, one of my favorites, just off Trinity campus, so I was content to stay.
Jacob asked if I believed in Leprechauns. I assured him that, although they put pounds in my pocketbook, they were just folklore. True this evening for sure. After my first Smithwick’s, no one had let me buy a drink. I didn’t fight too hard. Now, however, my beer tank was full, so I had to excuse myself.
The hallway to the loo was narrow, dark, and crowded with boxes, both full and empty, for spirits and beer — barely enough space for one person to pass.
Finished with the necessary, I started back along the dark hall toward the light of the main bar.
Whack! Like a bee sting on the side of my head. Ouch! What was that? I thought, rubbing my head.
“You don’t believe?” said the little man, standing on a Jamison Irish Whiskey box, which put him at my eye level, and the same level as my head wound. A small field of light enveloped him.
“I know your history,” he said. “You talk about us all the time. You line your pockets because of us. Then you claim we are just folklore.” He was shouting, jumping up and down, his face red, but it came out as a shrill, muffled squeak, fitting a creature of his size, no larger than a butterfly, or maybe Tinkerbell.
I had met his kind before since I was ‘the expert with a reputation.’ But the whack he gave me hurt, and I told him so, still I had to learn more because this was my first encounter on foreign soil.
“What’s your name? Where did you come from? How did you get here?” I peppered him with questions.
“My name is Wobbles McWhiskey. I came here in ‘46 with a young lad trying to escape the Great Famine. He fooled me into believing there were many wee people here.”
“There was no famine in 1946.”
“1846, dummy, 1846.”
“You’ve been here since 1846?”
“We came here to the Druid a lot. No Leprechauns. One night he took up with a lass who was a nonbeliever. They left me here and never returned,” he said, hanging his head.
“And you’ve been here ever since?”
“Aye. Tryin’ to find someone, a believer, I could hitchhike a ride home with.”
Interesting. They can’t transport themselves without a human carrier, thought I.
“What about that name,” I asked, “where did that come from?”
“I gave it to meself,” he replied. “Too many years stuck here with too much to drink and not enough to eat.”
I made another mental note for my journal: They need food and react to spirits.
“So, in all those years, you never found a ride home?”
“Once,” he said, “back in 1936, a young lad promised to take me. Said he was going to visit the homeland — after college, before work.”
“I take it that didn’t work out?”
“Nay, it didn’t. He suckered me … embarrassed me so bad, it took thirty years of Irish whiskey to recover.”
“I promised him three wishes when we got back to Ireland. He refused. Imagine that.”
“I can’t imagine. Continue …”
“He said I had to give him one wish upfront and the other two when we got to Dublin.”
“Aye. I was desperate.”
“Sounds like a new version of ‘The Leprechaun Trap’ to me,” I said.
“You know, once I grant a wish, I can’t take it back.”
Note to journal: Cannot rescind granted wishes.
“I gave in. ‘What would you like?’ sez I.”
“ ‘I want to be elected to Congress,’ sez he. ‘Done,’ sez I.”
I choked back a laugh and forced a straight face. “What happened?”
“The bloke got elected. Never came back to pick me up, never went to Ireland, never claimed his other two wishes. He conned me fer sure.”
“Who was he?” I asked, in complete bafflement.
“Thomas Phillip O’Neil — went by the nickname ‘Tip.’ I’ll never forget that name, fer sure.”
“I’ll take you back,” I said, “I’m leaving tomorrow, no down payment, jump in this box.”
Leprechaun Traps work. The last one made me a millionaire, so I can teach without worrying about income. What shall I wish for this time?
Word Count: 1,243