A flippant attempt to turn the tables on an angry leprechaun

 

DISPLACED IN MULLINGAR:A BIG MAN poked his finger in my arm at the ATM and said: “I have a bone to pluck with you, sir!” I suppose it was going to happen eventually.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

I said: “Yes, we met at that lovely dinner party over Christmas. Your wife lost her glasses.”

“Correct,” he said. “I’m the geezer you described in the paper as the upstart from Galway.”

I wanted to open my heart to him, like Barack Obama might, so I suggested coffee in the Annebrook House Hotel. He agreed. The dining area was full, so we sat in a quiet corner, which made me uneasy, because he looked like he wanted to bludgeon me to death with the leg of the table.

“Yes,” I admitted. “I did write about your position on the Lisbon Treaty. You claimed that Ireland had saved Europe from itself by voting No.”

“It was the Yes people who told the lies,” he hissed. And then he went on about the corruption of evil elites who control Europe, and the conspiracy of politicians who are undermining democracy, and other theories I could not fully digest.

On a television in the corner, Americans were wiping tears from their eyes as Barack Obama and the lady wife arrived at the White House with something that looked like a box of chocolates for the Bushes.

My companions’ fury reminded me of the black balloons released in Galway years ago for the arrival of Ronald Reagan, who reportedly joked with someone on the platform in University College Galway that there was nothing as terrifying as an angry leprechaun.

There was a lovely mother in a pink tracksuit at the next table with a small baby and buggy; she was treating herself to a big sugary bun. I wanted to go over and join her.

But instead I began to daydream.

An interesting thing about Donegal is that there are no trees in some places. “Not enough wood to make a fiddle,” as the busman was wont to say when I lived on the edge of Annagary, and travelled on the Lough Swilly bus into Dungloe every Thursday afternoon.”

“That’s the reason for the tin fiddles,” the busman explained.

The angry leprechaun in the Annebrook House Hotel was in full flow on the subject of neutrality.

I said: “If I can be assured that the Lisbon Treaty will be good for trees, then I will vote Yes.” The flippancy of my logic didn’t amuse him. “But trees,” I argued, “are the key to everything. From trees we are able to make tables. And at the table, we enjoy good food and share stories of love that linger in the air and demand to be remembered. Don’t you agree?”

He looked bewildered. He was fingering the crumbs of his scone like a guilty little boy.

I asked him was he ever in love. It was like hitting the Twin Towers with those planes all over again. His face collapsed. His lips turned to dust, the steel girders of his rage melted into a formless quivering lip, and he looked confused, and then angry.

“Are you toying with me?” he whispered, as he eyed me like a snake about to spit, or a panther about to pounce.

I said: “You look like King Lear.” He said: “I am a father of five.” I said: “Now you sound like him. I just hope you don’t end up wandering the streets in alternate states of rage and melancholy, because you never discovered tenderness with your own children. There’s more to life than politics.” That terminated the meeting.

The angry leprechaun headed for the street and turned his collar to the cold and damp.

I was alone, but the mummy in pink smiled. She knew me, and I knew her, and so I went over to her and poured my heart out; about how much I loved the long wooden table my beloved and I bought at the beginning of our marriage, and how many friendships were made at it over the years, and how often the cat stood up defiantly with her tail in the air and her nose in the remains of a breakfast, and how many nights of fun we had there.

“That table,” I said, “was the anchor of love for a lifetime.” She said: “You’re mad.” I said: “I know.”

mharding@irishtimes.com