The Final ALA Meeting

A deep and painful sigh escaped as his brow became deeply furrowed. Here it was once again, that fateful time of year when every fibre of his being vibrated with a fierce desire, when temptation became all the more seductive, and when his mood went on a downward spiral to below sub zero.

St. Patrick’s Day.

To look at him you would be surprised to hear this. He was a short wee man, dressed in a bright green suit, and a curly mass of ginger hair adorned with a dashing green top hat. He was the epitome of St Patrick’s Day.

Well he was a leprechaun after all.

But if you looked just a little closer, you would see the cracks in this facade. He was not your usual cheery leprechaun. There were wrinkles on his face, a result of a permanent frown rather than jolly laughter, his teeth were yellowed to the point of no return, due to the copious amounts of smokes he went through each day, and his hands shook from a disease he could not seem to rid himself of.

It followed him everywhere; Alcoholism.

It was in his nature to drink, it was in his blood. When other folks came across a leprechaun it was common courtesy to buy them a drink and have a chuckle at their drunken expense. Tourists. But he had gone too far, and had lavished in the constant stream of Guinness and whiskey, drowned in brandy and baileys, and then started afresh the next day with a Bloody Mary or maybe two. No one wanted to drink with him anymore, and he had squandered all of his gold buying his own drinks following his dramatic drop in popularity.

Now his pot lay on its side, empty, and with cobwebs building within. None of the leprechauns wanted anything to do with him because to them he was broken, a mistake, an embarrassment. What good was he if he couldn’t take a drink? It was only once a year that this animosity would be put aside; St Patrick’s Day. But it was torture to tease him with one day out of 365.

He had tried so many times to curb his habit, but had fallen off the wagon every time. They had said this was part of the problem. It wasn’t a habit. It was a disease. So now he trudged along passing bar after bar after bar. The sound of merriment erupting from each doorway clawed at his insides trying to draw him from his course. He kept his head firmly down, his eyes glued to the pavement, and a cigarette clenched between his teeth; a puff of smoke emerging from under the brim of his hat every few steps. He barked at anyone who dared smile at him, or raise a glass in toast as he walked past. He had to get inside, away from all of this devilish temptation. It had to be devilish because only a being as evil as the devil could possibly conjure up an alcoholic leprechaun.

He plodded along, lost in a bitter internal rant, until he reached his destination. Pushing open the door, he grimaced at the cold, bare, and uninviting interior, and pulled up a chair at the back of the room.

“Hi everyone, I’m Lucky and I’m an alcoholic leprechaun.”

There was a unified droning chant of, “hello Lucky,” but no one really wanted to be here, not when they were all acutely aware that there was a pub just four doors down. You could argue that having an ALA (Alcoholic Leprechauns Anonymous) meeting next to a pub is daft, but tell me somewhere in Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day especially, when you aren’t within walking distance of a pub.

Lucky went on to bore the crowd about how he was dealing with this difficult day. There were nods and small grunts of approval, but nothing more. This would go on for hours. Each of them would take a turn to bare their tortured, sober, soul, in a vain attempt to lessen the insatiable need scrambling for the surface. He dozed off every now and again; each story was just more of the same. Eventually it was his turn to stand at the pulpit. He dragged his feet, not really sure of what to say to this crowd.

“Hi everyone, I’m Bailey, and I’m an alcoholic leprechaun.”

“Hi Bailey.”

He grimaced at the chorus. He had never understood that part of the preordained ritual. Must have been concocted by the devil. Everything was the devils fault today.

“Now some of you might have picked up on the fact that my name is none other that a delicious creamy liquor we all know and love. So yes, it drives me up the wall and has my nerves on end when people use my name. There is no need for you to bring it up or ask me about it later.”

He leaned heavily on the stand, and let his eyes wander across each face. Half of them weren’t listening; the other half had merely perked up at the word Bailey.

“I haven’t got anything new to add, we all feel the same here. Aside from it being the worst day to be an alcoholic though, there are other updates. I still can’t find work, and I haven’t a shiny gold piece to my name, for that matter, not even a tatty gold piece. My rainbow is falling apart; the last time we met it was only working sporadically, with the indigo going missing on my trip to Cork. Just getting here today was a nightmare. It took me to Shannon, then to Kerry, and finally to Dublin, where the red had faded to a mere baby pink. So you’ll forgive me for being late.  Before you know it I’ll be living rough, trekking from place to place, and we all know that’s rock bottom because without booze, gold, or a rainbow, all you have left is the uniform, and my uniform aint in good condition either.”

To prove a point, he stuck a finger through his pocket and waved it around the crowd. There were sympathetic faces in the crowd, some copying him with larger holes, or pointing out patches on their suits.

“To be honest, I’ve been thinking about packing it all in and becoming a gnome.”

It was a joke. Well partially, the thought had crossed his mind. But there was a communal gasp. It was unheard of! You couldn’t be anything other than a leprechaun. It was blasphemous! But Bailey was spurred on by there overreaction. He was nothing, but he was part of a group of nothing. He wasn’t special, he wasn’t different. But he could be.

“ Yea! You heard me! An old, grumpy garden gnome!”

The room was alive with mutterings, and judgement seethed from the eyes of each individual. Bailey received enough of those looks from regular, healthy leprechauns. So he dismissed the lot of them, stormed out of the meeting, and slammed the door behind him. He raced past the few doors between himself and the pub, slipped inside, and slyly took a near full pint of Guinness off one table, and a tumbler of Whiskey off another.  If this was his last day as a leprechaun then he was going to bloody well spend it as one. He raised the glasses in the air and made a toast to the crowd of strangers.

“SLÁINTE!”

The pub roared his salute back at him, and they all sang their favourite songs late on into the night. The other leprechauns were far from his mind, his desire sated, and chemicals rushing joy through his veins.

But for Bailey this was his last night.

You can only fall off the wagon so many times before it breaks you after all.

Empty Bottle

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