A few people have asked me to tell them about how Matt and I were harassed by the Evil Leprechaun at the Dublin Underground last Thursday night, when instead of going home like we should have after Man Night, we descended, like a pair of Persephones, beneath the surface of the earth, for another cold one.
So we're sitting in the booth at the bottom of the stairs. I'm facing the stairs and Matt is facing the room. And I look over at the bar and the first thing I notice is that there is an Evil Leprechaun there, his legs swinging randomly from his stool because they're too short to find purchase on anything, he's turned completely around on his stool so that he is pointed right at me, and he is staring right into my eyes with a kind of twinkling, crooked smile on his grey-bristled lips.
"See that guy?" I say. "Don't look."
Matt looks, nods.
"Something's going to happen. There's going to be some kind of event. He's just waiting for it."
The Evil Leprechaun tugs at the shirt of a girl going by and starts coughing and trying to speak to her. We order, start talking, and try to forget about the Evil Leprechaun.
At one point, I go to the bathroom, and on my way back, Tom the bartender hails me and says, "If that guy bothers you, let me know." That's when I see that the Evil Leprechaun is seated next to Matt on his side of the booth, leaning on Matt, and jabbering away. As I approach I hear a voice roughened and blurred something awful by both drunkenness and a lifelong habit of marinating the throat in booze, cigarettes, and other things, perhaps gravel and glass. I sit down. And the Evil Leprechaun turns and says, "Well, one time I panhandled with Willie Nelson."
"Where?" I say, hoping to catch him in a lie sooner rather than later.
"Orlando," he growls. So he can't be lying. Nobody would make up "Orlando." And he tells the story of how he found Willie Nelson begging for money to buy a pint of liquor on the sidewalk outside the venue where he would be playing later that night. The cops are involved. But then he mentions -- and I can't remember why, because I'm only half paying attention as I scan for Tom the bartender, who is busy somewhere, and maybe Matt can help clear up this point, as well as how "Freyed" I myself am with cider at this point -- the word nigger.
Because I am the one he's confronting with his cold, dead eyes as he says this, I take it to be my responsibility to set him straight. "Look, hold it. We're not down with that word, dude. It's offensive." The Evil Leprechaun draws back a bit. "Well," he grumbles, "Maybe you think you're too educated for me."
"No, I didn't say that. I said I don't like that word thrown around so casually, and you thinking it's okay, because it's not."
"Where are you from?" asks the Evil Leprechaun.
"I'm from Indiana, and he's from Tennessee."
"And Iowa City," Matt adds.
The Evil Leprechaun is disappointed, hoping to have heard Berkeley and Manhattan or something. Inspired, he blurts, "You know where that word comes from, don't ye?"
"It's from the French word negro, meaning black," I say.
"No, no," he says. "It means someone who never gives anything away. They keep everything to themselves, because they're so poor."
"No, it doesn't mean that."
He sits back again, his horrible lips working at something, and then he stumbles and slurs through the following: "If you're going to talk social science with me, you'd better know what you're talking about. But you don't like me. You think you're too smart. The nigger-way is called that and that's what it means."
"Well, no it doesn't," I say.
At some point he leaves our booth and carouses some more, looking for other victims.
"That was the event," I say. But then a few minutes later, the Evil Leprechaun is staggering toward us again. "Here comes the aftershock," I say.
He sits down again and says more shit, but soon Tom returns to my field of vision, and I plead to him with my eyes, and within seconds, Tom has brought the fellow to his feet and over to the bar for a good talking to. "Just go," I hear Tom saying. And after haggling for another minute while he finishes his beer, the Evil Leprechaun struggles up the stairs to the surface.
Matt and I start laughing and go over the event.
"You made that happen," he says.
"Yeah," I admit. "But I wasn't going to let him just talk ignorant like that."
After a while, Matt says, "You know he was saying 'niggard,' right? He was talking about 'niggardly'."
The whole thing dawns on me. "I was the asshole!" I scream, smacking the table. "He was right!"
"No," Matt says, "He was right but for the wrong reason. He had the right definition of a word, but he had mixed it up with another word."
I rub my face and shake my head. "So it was a wash," I say hopefully.
He nods. "Definitely a wash."