I once met a leprechaun. I forgive you for being sceptical, but it was something that taught me a valuable lesson in life.
One day I was outside in the garden of my home in County Sligo, Ireland, mowing the grass. It was a hot summer day. Although the Sun was burning brightly in the sky, making me pour sweat and feel exhausted, all I could think about was Mary. She is a pretty girl with a slim build and long dark hair. Ever since I laid eyes on her I wanted her.
We used to go to the same school; she was in the year below me. I never had a proper chance to talk to her, but I have held doors open for her a few times during those years. I gave her the friendliest smile I could muster each time, but all I received in return was a mutter which I think was an expression of gratitude. She hardly even looked at me. I only had the pleasure of witnessing her beautiful smile from afar; how I wished that she would, just once, smile at me. It was only after we left school that I finally worked up enough confidence to approach her, thanks to quite a few pints of beer of course. The chance came on a Saturday night in town at the local pub called The Black Horse. Michael and I were standing in the corner. The place was full like the bellies of many that were there. Mary was waiting at the bar to get served. I could see another lad a few yards away from her, eyeing her and considering his approach. I knew I had to act fast.
“Should I?” I asked my friend, begging for encouragement.
“You should. If you don’t, you’ll never know.”
“Okay! I’m going to go for it!” I swallowed down a generous mouthful of beer and I started to fight my way through the crowd to the bar.
“Good luck!” Michael called after me.
My heart started to pound like the hooves of a cow that had been scared away. I had no idea what I was going to say to her. Just be normal, I told myself. It’ll be grand. As I dodged my way through the noisy crowd I noticed that there was a space beside her I could squeeze into. I went for it like an arrow, pushing past the potential rival who was too busy looking at Mary to see me coming like an ambush.
“Hiya, Mary!” I said. I had shouted too loudly, startling her. “Having a good night?”
“Aye,” she murmured, not smiling. She turned away from me, facing the bar.
“We used to go to the same school,” I said.
“Aye, I remember seeing you about.”
“My name is Seán.”
“Two vodka and cokes,” she shouted at the barman when he motioned to her.
“So what are you up to these days?” I asked. I knew that she worked in Linda’s, a local hairdressers, but I didn’t know what else to say.
“That’s nice. . . Do you like it?”
“Aye, it’s grand.”
She handed a note over to the barman after he set her drinks down in front of her. I felt like I was on a plane falling towards the ground. She slipped the change into her purse. When ready she lifted the drinks and said: “See you later.”
“Wait,” I said. She stopped and looked at me with an expression of inconvenience. “Look, I think you’re a very nice girl, and I would love to take you out sometime?” My heart was pumping so hard that it was forcing heat out of every pore on my body. She grimaced.
“Sorry, I would never touch a weirdo like you.”
Her words were like a knife to my heart. The falling plane had finally crashed and exploded into pain. She smiled as she watched my face drop. I always wanted her to gift me her beautiful smile, but not like that. She giggled and shook her head as she walked away back to her table. The rival, who had watched the whole thing, smiled as if victorious and took a long drink from his pint. All of the girls at Mary’s table grinned at her as she sat down, waiting to hear what had happened. I didn’t want to watch so I trudged back through the crowd to Michael with nothing but my pint and the charred remains of my pride.
The rest of the night was a terrible experience. Although Michael did his best to console me, it did nothing to numb the pain every time Mary and her friends looked over at me and laughed. I tried to drown the pain in beer; the only thing I remember after that is purposefully keeping a distance between Mary’s group and myself when we left at closing time.
Such were the dark thoughts that plagued my mind as I steered the lawnmower. Although the day was hot and I was sweating, my insides felt like a cold, dark cave as I replayed the previous night in my head over and over again. When the lawnmower’s bag was nearly full I stopped, easing the throttle back. As I lifted the heavy bag off the lawnmower I suddenly heard: “Help!”
I killed the lawnmower’s engine and listened: “Help
me!” was the call I heard. It sounded like it came from one of the gateways to
my drive. I had lifted the cattle grate off to clear the leaves that had
gathered in the pit under it, but it hadn’t been replaced yet. The space was
about three feet deep, and surely no-one could’ve fallen in there? “Help!” flew
from that direction again. I dropped the bag and ran at the gateway, expecting
to find a walker who had fallen in and injured himself. But what I found there
was not what I expected.
I peered over the edge, afraid of seeing lots of blood and bruises. But much to my amazement, there stood a little man only a foot tall. He was wearing a tall green hat with ginger hair hanging down to his tiny shoulders. He had a green jacket on with brown trousers and brown boots. He cowered when he saw me, as if I was a hunting dog closing in.
“Please don’t hurt me!” he cried, covering his face with his baby hands.
“I won’t!” I said.
“Please don’t hurt me!” the miniature man repeated, peeking from between his fingers at me. “If ye let me go, I’ll grant ye three wishes!”
“Grand, grand!” I said, not taking his words seriously. I knelt down and offered my hand. The little man was hesitant.
“Ye won’t hurt me?”
“I won’t. Now grab my hand, wee man!”
He looked up at me with his little blue eyes. I could see him pondering to himself, but he must have decided that I was true to my word because he took my hand and let me pull him out. He weighed not much more than a bag of carrots. I backed off as he brushed his jacket down. I just stared at him, wondering how a man so small could exist.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“The Land,” he said.
“Oh,” I said. He straightened up like a ferret and looked at me.
“Thanks for helping me out there. Good man yourself! Ye were true to your word, and I’ll be true to mine.” he offered his hand to me again, so I took his hand gently and we shook: he had such a tight grip for such a tiny fella!
“My name is Fergal.”
Hiya, Fergal. I’m Seán.”
“Seán . . . that’s a good name.”
“Look Seán, I can’t hang about. I’m not really supposed to be anywhere near ye human beings. So let’s sort out our agreement and I’ll be off. Now, you’ve got three wishes. What’s the first one?” I laughed, but the little man looked serious.
“I wish for a million wishes!” I said.
“Are you a leprechaun?”
“I am, and an impatient one at that.” He looked around as if making sure that no-one else was about. “Just make a wish like a good man and I’ll be away.” I knew what I wanted more than anything else, but I still wasn’t taking him seriously.
“Alright, here you go: I want Mary to be my girlfriend!”
“Granted!” he said, pursing his lips as if he had heard better. “Right, that’s ye sorted now. I’m away, but sure I’ll hear ye when ye make the other two wishes and I’ll grant them on the spot for ye. Thanks again for getting me outta that predicament, Seán. Best of luck now!”
With that Fergal sped past the pit he was trapped in only moments before, and what a speed he hit too! He ran into the hedge and faded into nothingness as if he was a ghost. Strange.
I stared at the hedge to see if Fergal reappeared: he didn’t. I walked back to the lawnmower, laughing to myself about what it would be like if my wish actually did come true. If only life was that easy! Suddenly my text alert on my phone went off. I nearly exploded when I saw who the text was from: Mary. I didn’t have any Mary on my phone, and there was only one Mary I knew. The heat of the Sun above was meaningless as I opened the text.
“Hi. You still meeting me after I finish work?”
What is going on? I wondered. Did that wish actually come true? I quickly typed in a reply.
“Yeah. Where are we meeting again?” I sent back. I paced about the garden waiting for the return text.
“Cooks Café. Be there at 5.” was the reply. I looked at my watch: it was two o’ clock. It seemed that after I finished the lawn I had a date to get ready for!
“Grand. See you there,” I sent back. With that I
grabbed the bag of grass cuttings and hurried to the back of the hedges to dump
its contents. The excitement pushed me constantly like a supportive parent,
making sure that I finished that lawn quicker than ever. I can’t say I made a
good job of the lawn, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was what I was going
to wear that evening!
At 4.50pm I was in Cooks Café. I ordered a coffee and picked a table by the window. I had driven into town like a rally driver, overtaking cars like a madman in order to make it in good time. I even took a big risk overtaking on a corner, but I landed in town okay so all was grand. I rubbed my hands together as I looked about me happily: the place wasn’t that busy compared to the jitters that danced through my body.
At 5 o’ clock I kept looking out of the window up the street every ten seconds like a puppy waiting for its owner to come home and feed him. Soon enough, I could see Mary coming down the street from the direction of Linda’s Hairdressers. My palms went sweaty and my chest started to rise and fall so fast that I don’t think oxygen had a chance to absorb and calm me down. What will I say? Or what if she keeps walking on past this café? She didn’t though: she made a sharp left into the doorway; the jingle of the bell above the door confirmed her entrance. I held my breath as I watched her stunning figure move gracefully into the café, looking all around her. Finally her eyes rested on me, and she came over.
“Hi,” she said without smiling. “I want a bacon and cheese toastie and a glass of coke.”
“Er . . . Hi! Anything for you, my dear!”
I stood up and skipped off to the counter. My eyes were on the menu high up on the wall behind the counter so I could quickly decide what I wanted. I settled on a tuna toastie and I ordered, waiting for the drinks. I paid and carried the drinks back to her. She was doing something on her phone and didn’t look up as I sat back down.
“Did you have a nice day?” I asked her.
“It was alright, but Claire is such a bitch! All she does is complain about the lack of light around her chair and yabbers on about how difficult it is for her to see what she’s doing! It can’t be that bad! I think she’s overreacting, and it stresses me OUT!”
“Aw, I’m sorry to hear,” I said. I couldn’t think of anything to make her feel better. “I had a grand day. I just had a lie-in this morning and I spent the afternoon cutting the grass. When my parents were alive they really valued keeping the house tidy, so because it’s just me living there I make sure that I keep it that way.”
“Very good,” she said, still messing around on her phone.
“You doing much this evening?” I asked.
“No, staying in this eve. But I was thinking: you could take me to that new restaurant that opened on Scotch Street called Vevinos?” She finally looked up from her phone, fixing me with a look of expectation.
“Of course!” I said. “How about 6pm tomorrow?”
“Hmm, 7pm would be better for me.”
“Yeah grand so! 7pm it is!” I said. Soon our toasties were brought over.
All she talked about for the rest of the date was how
hard her life is. She went on about the people she didn’t like and how she
hated living at home with her parents. I was as sympathetic as I could be.
Every time I tried to change the subject she forced the conversation back to
herself. But she was so pretty that I didn’t care. I was lost in her amazing
brown eyes, even though they were lost to her phone’s screen most of the time. But
she only had to glance at me for a second to give me a moment that I treasured
with all of my heart. I drove her home afterwards and we shared a short kiss
that nearly knocked the sense out of me. I knew I was in love.
The next morning I awoke, feeling great. I lay in bed for a while, marvelling at how Fergal’s wish came true. I had two wishes left, and I knew I had to make the most of them. One thing I did learn about Mary was that she has expensive taste. She buys all of her clothes in Wilson Morrow’s who charge at least €100 for a pair of jeans. I knew that I needed more cash in order to meet her needs.
“I wish for a billion euros in my bank account!” I called, unsure as to whether Fergal would appear. He didn’t, but I did hear his wee voice echo around my bedroom.
“Wishes are not limitless, ye know! Try for a hundred-thousand, and that’ll do ye well!”
“Alright then,” I sighed, feeling disappointed. But still, one hundred-thousand was better than a kick in the balls. “I wish for one hundred-thousand euros, straight into my bank account!”
I checked my bank account on my phone: sure enough, the money was there. Now I had loads of money to keep Mary happy for a long time. The pay I took home from the building site would never have been enough.
That evening I drove to Vevinos, more aware of the debit card in my pocket than ever before. It even felt heavier, weighing my leg down as I accelerated. I would’ve liked to have had a beer with my meal but I wanted to be able to drive Mary home, rather than her having to get her parents to pick her up. I noticed how busy the place was as the waiter led me to our table. Mary landed about half an hour late. I was growing annoyed as the clock ticked on, but all of the frustration evaporated into the joyful atmosphere of the place when I saw her enter. She looked beautiful in her classy red dress. How could I stay angry with a girl looking like that?
“Sorry I’m late.”
“No worries at all!” I said.
“I’m so annoyed!”
“Why?” I asked.
“My dad! He is so irritating! He keeps treating me like a little child, telling me not to stay out too late! He wouldn’t shut up the whole way here! I HATE living at home!”
“Ah well. Maybe it’s just his way of showing that he cares,” I said. She stared at me as if I had just called her fat.
“A bit of support, please! You are my boyfriend, or at least you’re supposed to be!”
“Sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say so I picked up one of the menus. “Any idea of what you’d like?”
“No, because I haven’t even looked at the menu yet, obviously!” She was like a snake with a headache so I remained silent and focused on choosing what I was going to have. Everything was expensive.
We didn’t say much as we waited for our meals, so everything was grand until she cut into her steak. She threw her knife and fork down on the plate and called frantically at the nearest waiter as if she was shouting at a policeman to catch someone who had just stolen her handbag.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned by her dramatic gestures.
“Yeah. What’s up?” I asked.
“This steak! I asked for it to be well-done! It hasn’t been well-cooked at all! It’s disgusting!” The fun atmosphere at other tables dampened as other diners went quiet and peeked over at us. Mary was really making a scene and I felt embarrassed. What made it worse was that her steak appeared to be thoroughly cooked: there certainly wasn’t a lot wrong with it.
“I’m sorry,” the young waiter said, scooping up her plate. “Leave it to me. I’ll take it back and sort it out for you.”
“Don’t be long: I’m starving!” she called after him as he skipped off through the swinging kitchen doors. She then looked at me and treated me to her beautiful smile. “You’d think a place like this would get something as simple as THAT right!”
The waiter came back with her steak in under five minutes. I could tell by the stony expression on his face that he and everyone else in that kitchen knew there was little wrong with her steak, but in the name of customer service they were powerless to object. They even gave Mary a complementary bottle of red wine: an insult to pride that Mary didn’t seem to feel.
“Shy children get nothing!” she said when the waiter was out of earshot. I felt uncomfortable, but I reasoned to myself that no-one is perfect. The rush of the endorphins pleasuring my brain every time she looked at me helped me forget about the incident.
The meal came with a hefty price tag. But I didn’t
mind, especially with a massive account like mine. Plus Mary seemed to be
satisfied by the time we left, although she was drunk. She just about managed
to stay on her wobbly feet as we left. I drove her home as she talked about
herself and what she wasn’t happy about in her life. The only time she stopped
was when I parked up outside her home where we kissed passionately. I loved
every moment of it and felt sad when she pulled away and said goodbye. I
watched her struggle to climb out of my car. She blew me a kiss before slamming
the car door too hard. The sadness didn’t leave me as I drove home.
I found myself at work the next day wondering what I could do to fill the empty void in my heart. As I result I wasn’t the most productive worker and I got scolded by the foreman for not getting much done. But towards the end of the day I figured out what was wrong, and it would take my final wish to make it right.
“I wish for Mary to love me!” I said, driving home.
“Limits! Remember: there are limits!” was the warning that startled me. It sounded like Fergal’s words came from the back seat. But I could see nothing in my rear view mirror and when I stopped at a junction I turned and confirmed that he definitely wasn’t there.
By the time I arrived home I had thought through what was wrong with my relationship with Mary: she only talked about herself and didn’t seem interested in me at all. I couldn’t wish for her to love me, but if we lived together then I could work on that. If we lived together it would provide her with the perfect opportunity to see what a nice guy I am and what a happy life we could have together – what a happy life we will have together.
I chucked my lunchbox down on the kitchen worktop and squared up to the wall as if I was facing somebody. “I wish for Mary and I to be a married couple, living here in my home!”
“Granted,” came Fergal’s reply. His tone sounded unsure, but I knew what I was doing. Mary always went on about how she hated living with her parents, and now her wish had been granted. Now she was free and able to concentrate on our relationship. I looked down and there was a thick gold ring on my ring finger. I could hear someone moving upstairs.
“Mary?” I called.
I jogged happily down the hall and up the stairs into my bedroom – our bedroom. There she was rolling the duvet down the bed. She was wearing pyjamas, ready to climb in.
“I’m shattered! I’m going to take a nap!” she said. The room was a mess with puddles of her shoes and clothes all over the floor.
“Do you not want any dinner?” I asked.
“No. But if you’re making something, will you leave me something nice in the oven?” She smiled sweetly at me and hopped into the bed.
“Uh . . . Okay,” I said. “Have a good sleep.”
“Humph!” was all I heard as I closed the bedroom door
“Will you do me a favour and iron my clothes?” she asked, fluttering her eyelids at me.
“Well, I have to weed the flower patch this evening. Can you not do it? Have you anything else planned?” I asked, sick to the stomach of her many requests.
“I don’t know how to iron! Mummy used to do it all for me! And there’s a programme on TV I want to watch!”
“What? Your mum did that for you as well?”
“Right. You can’t cook, you can’t iron. What can you do?”
“Don’t you speak to me like that!”
“I’ve no problem helping out around the house. But you’re going to have to learn to do your fair share!”
“YOU’RE GIVING ME A HEADACHE! HOW AWFUL!!!” she roared at me, marching out of the kitchen as if she was in the right.
Such were the frequent arguments we had. The joy that once filled my heart every time I saw her was becoming less and less. I found myself having to do everything because she couldn’t, and wasn’t prepared to learn, I realised that there’s a lot more to being married to someone than meets the eye. Within three weeks I didn’t want her to be there. All she did was complain. I didn’t want to be around her yet I had little means of escape; all I could do was pop off to the shop if I wanted a break from her. But the misery followed me like it was my own shadow, only darker.
One evening when I was throwing rubbish into the outside bin I heard a little voice behind me: “Well, Seán!” I spun and there stood Fergal. “How’s it going?”
“Not very well,” I said. “I’ve found that things aren’t working out the way they’re supposed to.”
“Sure that was always going to happen!” the little man cried, slapping his hat. “I had to come to ye and do my pieces! You had THREE wishes! Ye could’ve wished for anything within reason, yet ye wasted them all on that selfish girl! Ye stupid fool! Now look at where you’re at!”
“I know,” I said. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of having three more wishes?”
“Ah now, Seán! Not a chance!”
An evil thought grabbed my mind, and I debated the possibility of catching that little leprechaun who could give me so much help if he wanted.
“But I saved you!” I said.
“Aye! But sure didn’t we make a deal?”
“To hell with you!” I cried, launching myself at him like a pitchfork. But he was too quick; he turned and tore off across the garden like a green hare.
“Ach, there’s no need to put us on bad terms!” he said, stopping a safe distance away and turning to face me.
“Come here!” I demanded, charging at him like a bull. But he fled, vanishing into the fence, never to be seen again.