Joseph Farley

A Man Walks Into a Bar

I had been in Irish bars in America, and a few in Dublin, but I had never been in a bar before like Harrington’s. 

I had visited a female friend who lived in another town. I had arrived on a Friday evening. I had expected to stay the weekend at her apartment, but was kicked out early on Saturday afternoon. Permanently. I won’t go into details as to why this occurred. Lets just say that neither one of us was without faults.

I had time to kill before my train home and good reason to drink. Harrington’s was near the station. I went in to get mellow. 

It was in some ways a typical neighborhood bar. It was dark. The walls and floors were faded wood with faded stains. Not many people attempted eye contact.

I took a seat at the bar and ordered a draft beer from the bartender. There was a bowl of salted nuts and a bowl of salted pretzels for sharing, items intended to stimulate thirst. There was also a bowl of dry cereal with multicolored marshmallow bits in it.

I asked the bartender about the cereal when he plopped a frothing mug in front of me.

“What’s that for?”

“To keep the leprechauns away.”

“You’re joking,” I said. “There’s no such thing.”

“Oh there is. Believe me. My family’s been under a curse from them for centuries.”

“Really? And this cereal scares them off?”

“No. It helps us pick them out of the crowd. If a short fellow, or a lass, comes in here, especially if he or she has a brogue or reddish hair, and eats only marshmallows from the bowl, we have good reason to suspect it’s a leprechaun.”

“That doesn’t seem a logical test. I would think there would be something more magical involving iron horse shoes or the like.”

“You’d be surprised how susceptible leprechauns are to modern advertising. The ad campaign for this cereal has taught them to believe that it is a prized food for them. That’s what advertising does. It creates the need then you are stuck with the need.”

“This cereal is advertised in Ireland?”

“Doesn’t need to be,” he said. “There are plenty of leprechauns in America.”

“How do they get here?”

“Stowaways. They hide in the luggage of tourists coming back from the Emerald Isle. Once here they set up home and breed like any other immigrant. The one’s born here are a bit taller due to the diet. They’re partial to those Mc burgers and green milkshakes truth be told. Some even intermix with the locals. In the old days we would just keep an eye on anyone under four foot tall who came in. Now we have to check out anyone under five foot five.”

I was glad to be five nine.

I asked, “Are there any other tell tale signs that a customer is a leprechaun?”

“They only order whiskey. Never beer or a cocktail.”

“For sure?” I asked.

“Dead sure,” said the bartender.

“Do they cause any trouble when they come in?”

“The sure do. They have a tendency to puke all over the bar, piss on the bathroom, and skip out without paying.”

“Don’t other customers do that?”

“On occasion, but leprechauns dance a jig on the sidewalk and jeer you through the window before disappearing in a puff of smoke.”

“Smoke?”

“Weed or cigarettes. No clay pipes. America changes people.”

“While bothersome that doesn’t seem so bad a curses go.”

“You’re not a bartender and you’re not a Harrington. You have not grown up with tales from great grandparents, grandparents and parents about the annoying antics of leprechauns. It gets to you. Hits you in your pride. Hits you in your wallet. I keep a shotgun under the bar loaded with rock salt. They move so fast I’ve never hit one. Maybe winged one, but she just stuck out her tongue and kept dancing on the sidewalk.”

“How did the curse start?”

“As I was told it started over a hundred years ago, back in Ireland. My great great great was a part owner of a pub in County Kildare. He was known for his drinking and for his strong bladder. He had some bad habits. The worst was that he hit the product. A wee nip here and there. Something you shouldn’t do if you run a bar. Eats away the profits. One slow night, he did much more drinking than pouring. After closing up he was heading home across a field. There was a pile of large stones that had been there for ever and a tall, wide tree that had been there close to forever. My ancestor’s bladder, which was large and could hold a lot, suggested that he empty it. The tree looked like a good spot. My ancestor undid his buttons and lifted his hose out. He sprayed gold all over that tree. He just kept going and going. Although he did not know it, a leprechaun lived under that tree, a leprechaun that was well connected in leprechaun circles. That leprechaun noticed a trickle leaking through his ceiling that fast became a flood. He rushed out to confront the man damaging his home, but my ancestor just laughed at the leprechauns threats and shaking fists. He kept on letting all that gold stream out, much of it on the hat and clothes and face of that leprechaun. The wee man, I mean the leprechaun not my ancestor, was angry but could do nothing about it because of the religious medals my ancestor was wearing. Still, he put a curse, a wide and lasting curse, on my sacred ancestor and all his descendants.”

“And the curse was…”

“I don’t know what the words were. Probably said in Gaelic or another tongue anyway. But I know the result. The leprechaun knew my ancestor was barman. It was stuff a barman hates. Vomit on the floor of the bar, piss on the floor of the bathroom, and unpaid tabs.”

I was about to tell the bartender that he was serving baloney, or should I say blarney, when a smallish man, no bigger than five foot two, with a pale face and red freckles came into the bar. The bartender eyed the new arrival with suspicion, but said nothing. The new customer sat down at the bar two seats away from me.

The man called out to the bartender, “Give me a shot of Jameson.”

“Are your sure of that?” replied the bartender. “We have a special on Guiness. Draft. Three bucks a mug.”

“No thank you,” said the new customer. “I’m more of a whiskey man.”

“Suit yourself,” the bartender replied. He wiped down the counter with a brown rag, using this more or less as an excuse to lean over the bar and sneak a better look at the man. When the bartender straightened up he looked at me and touched his nose.

I snuck a glance at the character. I didn’t see anything particularly odd about him until I saw his socks. Green socks. Emerald green. This suggested bad fashion sense to me, not evidence of the guest being a leprechaun. He notice me and winked. I turned away, focusing on my drink.

The bartender set a bowl of cereal and a bowl of salted nut on the counter next to the man. Then went to pour a shot.

There was a mirror on the wall behind the bar. I could tell the bartender was watching the man while trying not to be obvious about it. This of course made it even more obvious.

I tried watching the little man out of the corner of my eye, curious to see if he would reach for the nuts or the cereal. The little man seemed to ignore both bowls next to him. I noticed all the marshmallow shapes in the cereal. I was relieved when the man glanced at the bowls, reached over and took a handful of nuts.

The bartender had taken his time getting the shot for his customer, but finally put it down in front of him. 

“Six bucks,” the bartender said.

“Can I run a tab?” asked the man.

“No tabs. Cash now.”

“No problem.”

The little man pulled a wallet out of his back pocket, He took six crisp dollar bills from the wallet and placed them on the counter.

“Here you go.”

The bartender seemed to relax. He reached for the money.

What happened next was a blur. The little man downed the shot in one gulp and slammed the shot glass on the counter. The sound froze the bartender for a moment. One of the man’s hands snatched the money back from the bartender while the other moved across the bowl of cereal. When the hand left the cereal bowl all of the marshmallows were gone.

The little man jumped down from his stool, shoved the marshmallows in his mouth with one hand and the dollars in a pocket with the other. He jumped back further from the bar and did a little dance. Then he threw up on the floor. 

The bartender reached for his shotgun. As he did so the door to the men’s room at the back of the bar began to open. 

The leprechaun whipped his cock out of his pants and let loose a stream of golden piss. It jetted across the room, winding around wooden pillars and startled customers. It dodged the customer coming out of the men’s room and splattered on the bathroom floor before the door had a chance to swing shut. 

The bartender aimed the shotgun and fired. The blast of rock salt his the leprechaun in the chest, propelling him into the air. It landed hard on the floor, but popped to its feet right away.

“So it was and so it will ever be,” it laughed.

The bartender let out another blast.

“Get out you bastard. May all your gold turn to rot.”

“Fine with me,” said the leprechaun. “I traded it all for crypto.”

The leprechaun ran out the door of the bar with his cock still hanging out. He did not pause to do another dance or shout more rude remarks. Instead it took off down the sidewalk. 

This showed that the bartender’s information about leprechauns was not necessarily correct. I wondered if he would update his check list.

The bartender ran out of the bar and chased after leprechaun. No one was tending the bar.

I left a tip on the counter and prepared to leave. I had seen enough. I figured someone must have called the police about the shotgun going off. It didn’t matter that it was rock salt. The police wouldn’t like it. I didn’t want to be there when the police arrived. I didn’t want them to make me miss my train. And I didn’t want them to ask me any questions. That usually led to trouble.

As I got up to leave I noticed no one else in the joint seemed upset. I asked an old man seated further down the bar why no one showed any surprise or concern.

He replied, “Most of us are regulars. Seen it all before. Something like this happens a few times a year. It’s part of the charm of the place. Where else can you see such a show?”

I asked about the cops. He told me no one bothers to call them anymore.

One after another the regulars helped themselves to free drinks. Not a lot. Most just topped off what they already had.

“It’s a tradition now,” said the old man. “Whenever there’s a leprechaun incident. The surveillance camera doesn’t work and the owner blames any losses on leprechauns, and none of us says otherwise.”

I wished I had known that sooner. Still, I thought it was time for me to leave, and best that I do so before the bartender returned. I grabbed some marshmallows from one of the bowls on the counter. And some of the nuts. I l left the cereal. I stuffed them in one of my pockets as something salty and something sweet to chew on later. Then I climbed over the bar and took a bottle of the good stuff. Then I decided to go for two. I stuck both bottles in my travel bag.

I left the bar and walked to the train station, just as fast as my legs would carry me. That’s kind of fast. Believe me. I can walk rather quickly. Almost a blur. 

My father, all six five of him, used to say, “You have to keep changing. Adapt. Move with the times.” I’ve always tried to do so.

My mother used to say, “No matter how much you change, never forget where you came from.”

I never have. I always listened to my momma. All four foot five of her.

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