Wednesday, November 30, 2011


30th November 2011
Leprechauns are real.  I don’t need you to believe me.  My mind is settled on the truth.  But that’s my starting point.  So I thought I’d let you know.  It will help you to understand.  And another thing; it might surprise you.  Their hats are not green.  They are multi-coloured, chameleon if you like.  Only they offer no camouflage.  Leprechauns wear garish colours because they want to be seen.
There.  You have it.  And if you accept what I say in good faith, I’ll tell you more.  Even let you in on a little secret.  It surprised me when I found out.  Leprechauns do not laugh because they are happy; their happiness is silent.  Leprechauns laugh because they follow us about, and they know that we have so little understanding of our world, that we do not even believe in them.  As if it makes a difference.
Think about that.  Mary did.  She was sitting opposite.  We sat at our table in the window of a bright, airy restaurant.  Low, classical pop played from the speakers high upon the spartan pillars of the room.  The music took the edge off the space between the emerging voices.  Even at that hour the room was full, and the voices rose to a cheery buzz.  Goblets of wine and beer passed this way and that.
Mary’s face had softened from her earlier anger.  Had warmed from the tears she shed as I told her that I loved her, that I would always love her.  We had taken our usual seats after our embrace.  Waited our usual time as spaghetti, tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella was prepared.  And still Mary eyed me, gentle yet suspicious.  She was trying to accept what I had said about my days away.
My answer, unsurprisingly, was difficult to believe.  I had told her about the hats.  That is something that few people know.  And yet she was unconvinced.  This caused me to mentioned leprechaun laughter.  But she waited, eyeing me, expecting some other account of my time.  When none arrived I sensed her anger return.  I said I loved her.  Our food was served and she picked up her fork and spoon.
She turned the first strings of pasta.  Her skills were expert as ever, and I took the opportunity of her concentration.  I challenged what she already knew, told her what I had learned in Rainbow’s End.  The green hats, jackets, dancing and beer guzzling are advertising gimmicks.  They are completely untrue.  She said nothing to this.  She slopped red sauce onto her suit of deepest blue, her shirt of floral feminine.
Then she rested her cutlery on the edge of the white, shallow bowl.  She would eat no more, but her look encouraged me to talk on.  I guessed, even as she doubted, that she had accepted that I was telling her what I truly believed.  She was waiting for some further proof; you too, I imagine.  I have, after all, followed a rainbow to the leprechaun circles at Rainbow’s End.  And we all know what happens there.
I am right.  Amn’t I.  If I had penned this tale in a Daily Free, my narrative accompanied by choice photographs of my supercar, my mansion in the background.  My wife, for I would marry Mary then, would be grasping the bottle as we popped champagne for the paparazzi.  And you would believe me.  You would think gold and lottery raffles, not some idle diarist; that I am actually onto something.
And I am.  Only more than you think.  I did not disappear for days without a word, without a call, without a message on a social network, for a crock of crude, leprechaun gold.  That is not my way.  Mary means more than that.  No.  Leprechauns are visible and magical.  They are capable of answering any desire.  But that is not enough.  Mary means more.
I picked up my fork and spoon when we had reached this point.  I had no appetite, Leprechauns do that to you, but I understood the rituals of eating and chatting.  I knew that my news would be more credible if I delivered my words in a casual manner.  At the thought of this, my mouth full, I felt a stab of guilt; the pretence showed a lack of faith, threatening my love, just as silence threatened Tinkerbell.
I chewed on, committed; the slow eating gave me time to analyse Mary’s face.  I could see the shock that would appear at my next disclosure, and this added to my tension.  Mary was studying my face also, waiting for me to speak.  Her Spaghetti pomodoro was a forgotten thing, and the glass of cool, white wine remained just above her right hand.  As I swallowed I opted for Tinkerbell and said it: November.
Her silence was greater even than yours.  Her expression blanked, became inscrutable.  I knew from her continued presence that she loved me, trusted me, wanted to give credit to my words.  Yet, she was at a loss.  A moment in our love had arrived; a moment when she must allow me her final atom of faith.  I nodded to confirm that I knew what she was thinking, that I had really said that word.
November? she asked finally.  Yes.  What about it?    It is ours.  For how long?  For as long as we want it, need it, desire it.  And you want, need, desire November?  Yes.  It is the month before December.  It is.  A month I have never liked.  You haven’t.  And yet you would be gone.  Disappear for days.  Without a word.  Meet leprechauns.  And bring me back November?  Yes.
The length of our exchange was difficult to determine.  She questioned on and on, returning ever to the impossible treasure I had secured.  Our spaghetti grew cold, too cold to pretend that we were still eating.  And in the busy restaurant I could see the waiter hovering, wondering if we had done.  He clearly sensed our drama, could see the sauce and melted cheese harden upon the prongs of our forks.
When he did finally descend, he was apologetic.  But we made no excuse for the fullness our bowls.  Nor, did we allow him our attention as he offered a substitute.  Mary was firing questions and I answered each in the same direct manner.  Slowly, reluctantly, I saw the truth emerge, asserting its dominance over Mary’s features.  And gone was her anger, her sorrow, her disbelief.  She understood.
This understanding showed itself in her smile.  She took my hand and there was no need for further explanation.  At that moment she believed what I had done, as though Mary too had stood there with me, lost in the beauty of Rainbow’s End.  And she heard the voice speak up beneath the chameleon hat.  The leprechaun had a sombre authority, delighted with my faith.  Anything, Jack; anything you desire.
I had closed my eyes and thought of Mary, only Mary.  I knew that it was crazy to believe, and yet there I was, crazy in love with Mary.  The waiter delivered the bill; we shared it between us.  Mary was excited now, and we tipped generously.  She too had spent time wishing away days, weeks and months.  And too much of our short lives had been passed that way, only known when it was gone.
But the leprechauns had given it back.  And November will be our November.  Now, as Guy Fawkes burns we will not wait, wish the year already spent.  We will not long for Christmas and its lights, the distraction of Thanksgiving.  We will dress unsuitably, always too cold or too warm, and we will watch brown leaves fall from mostly barren trees, revel in the bluster and the showers. 
That is when we will be soon.  My story is ended.  Mary is freshening up, a girlish thing I know.  She laughed when I said this, took no offence when I pointed out that a few spots of tomato sauce were the least of our worries.  She is happy.  We will be together in November until we no longer desire it.  And that will be enough.  We will forget to count, each moment too precious to simply pass unlived.
©2011 Padraig De Brún

Old Man - extract

Michael set the kettle upon the hob and lit the gas.  The blue of its noisy light occupied his gaze momentarily.  Then he turned away, his eyes upon the mottled brown of the floor-tiles.  These simple acts had had their effect, nonetheless, and knowing that the darkness still sat in the chair that he had shared all afternoon he looked up and scanned the pale cream walls in search of some further distraction.
When it came the distraction was obvious, a delicious surprise, as though he had not stared at it for hours, sitting in the gloom.  It was something of his old self that lifted the ornate, French clock from the place where it had long hung, its weight familiar and the feel of its gold casing adding to the certainty that was forming.  He gave a bashful smile to the markings that remained where it had been.
What had prompted him to such an act he was as yet unwilling to consider; the broken clock had hung in that spot above the kitchen table for ever.  What he did know, and what he was unafraid to acknowledge as he stepped from the kitchen, making his way to the lean-to workshop, was that the clock he held, a birthday present from his children, deserved to be repaired.
The weeds between the paving-stones showed their usual resilience, the thick green of their stalks robust as they peeped between every available crack.  Michael was not a gardener, he took no pleasure in such work, and if his mood had been a fraction closer to its norm, he might not even have noticed the decay.  As it was he kicked idly at the weeds as he passed the kitchen window and into the shed.
There, with the exception of the light left burning carelessly, he found things as expected.  The old leather chair, the only gift he had accepted from City Clocks, was just so, and he felt the reassurance of its much-worn leather as he pulled it out and took a seat.  The bench in front of him showed all the order he had acquired during his many years of work, his back-log of jobs tidied with his usual care.
He gave no thought to these as he placed his own clock on the bench; nor did it worry him that the front room remained cluttered as before.  The task ahead required his full attention, and he had no space for other thought as he unpinned the delicate hands and unscrewed the gilt-edged face.  He might, thus, have slid from under Mary’s feet, just as she had been telling him to do.
To his right, in a cabinet he had bought during his first week of retirement, were the tools he would need for the repair.  He used these to remove the movement, arranging the casing on a tray where the four upturned screws stood in a row.  The next step was easy, the mainstay of his career, and though he had often worked with such mechanisms, he enjoyed the slow, patient concentration it required.
He returned to the drawers of the cabinet, reading each label though the tools were in place.  The let-down key, stored neatly in a size-ordered set, was his particular favourite.  He had fashioned the handle himself out of wood, and though there were few now to appreciate the skill he had employed in the making of such a simple device, he had enough self-pride to enjoy his own work.
He examined the handle slowly, appreciating its weight, before attaching it to the barrel.  The movement was similar to many he had seen, and he was already guessing at the give of a bushel and the wear of a pivot as he prepared to release the ratchet.  He did not do so, however; the wheels, trains, barrels and fly remained untouched as the let-down key paused above the spring.  

©2011 Padraig De Brún