I wrote this short story around 2001 when I was living in Pictou, Nova Scotia. It was my first attempt at writing dialect, though this time it wasn’t Scots-English but Irish-English. I heard this dialect a lot as a youngster since my step-father, Bill Moorhead, was from Larne in Northern Ireland.
When picturing “Mary’s Mountain” I had Ben Guillion in mind, the mountain that I climbed many times just outside my hometown of Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula in Argyllshire, Scotland. On a clear day we could see the coast of Northern Ireland from Campbeltown.
I added the leprachaun character because I like the idea of leprachauns – even have a small one pinned up in my den and wear it in my pocket whenever I attend a St. Patrick’s Day party.
We Scots and the Irish are brother Celts and I like to try to dispel the false impression that we are enemies. I have no problem with the Irish – after all, the Scottish people originally came from Ireland (and St. Patrick was born a Scot). In fact, my great-grandfather Edward Morrens, son of Irish parents, Thomas Morrins and Rose Robertson, was born and died in Campbeltown (1832-1906), so I surmise his parents moved to Scotland sometime before his birth. As far as I can tell this was the beginning of the Morrans family in Scotland, at least my branch of it. You’ll note the variation in spelling of our family name. I can only conclude that the record keepers were careless spellers or some of my ancestors were illiterate.
In 2006, when my wife Gayle and I were living in Chapala, Mexico and attending the Lake Chapala Writer’s Group, I submitted this story to the local English-language magazine, El Ojo del Lago, where it was published. Here I’m including the story in its entirety for your enjoyment.
I like to think of “The Moonlit Meeting” as a fable and hope you can identify the moral lesson.
There were strange stories about the place. Some said it was haunted by a ghost named Mary who had been murdered up there many years ago by a jealous lover, and that her ghost still roamed the area, especially on full moon nights. Others said an old sea captain had hanged himself from a tree up there after losing his sweetheart, his ghost wandering around looking for her. I didn’t believe in things like that and wanted to prove to myself it was all a lot of nonsense.
The hill was quite high and steeper than the normal hill, although why it was called a mountain, I’ve no idea. During the day, one would get a nice view of the countryside from the top. Also, the town was so close that, with careful calculation, you could pick out the roof of your house if it was close to that edge of town.
Why did I decide to go up there that evening with all those weird stories going around? I suppose it was to save face. I had opened my big mouth, saying there was nothing to be afraid of. My friends immediately dared me to make the climb on the night of the first full moon.
“Hey, you go up there and meet the pirate if you like. We’re not going! Do you know he walks about with a huge dagger between his teeth?”
I had to do it. There was no way out; I had to go!
After a strenuous climb to the top, I stood for a few minutes, hoping it would help me to calm down. All I had thought of on the way up was the pirate captain carrying a great big knife between his teeth.
Suddenly, a man’s voice startled me. “You – you over there, you got any smokes?” My head snapped toward the direction of the voice, but the rest of me just froze. It entered my mind immediately that it was the ghost of the old sea captain.
“Hey you, you up there, you deaf? You got a smoke fer me?” the voice said again. I noticed there was some sort of accent, which reinforced the old sea captain thought. I still couldn’t see anyone and I didn’t know whether ghosts could be seen or not.
“W-where are you, I c-can’t see you? And I d-don’t smoke.”
“Oy’m ‘ere, look to yer roight and down. Oy’m – sittin’ – roight – ‘ere.” the voice loudly said, spacing the words like the listener was either deaf, stupid or both.
I looked over and down, and to my complete surprise I saw a little man sitting on a large, flat stone about fifty feet away, just a trifle lower on the hill than I was. He was very short, certainly shorter than I; dressed in strange clothes and wearing a funny-looking hat with a long feather, something like an elf’s hat. His clothes reminded me of what people wore a long time ago. He had a short, grey beard – and best of all – he wasn’t a ghost!
“Just me bloomin’ luck, begorra, a youngster an’ all, too!” He slapped his hand on his knee. “Oy’ve been waitin’ up ‘ere fer ages, wantin’ a fill fer me poipe and the only living thing that comes up ‘ere during dark ‘as to be a lad who don’t smoke.”
He sounded rather annoyed as he sat there shaking his head.
Then he changed the tone of his voice to one I found a little more pleasant. “Hey, me boy – would ye care to go back down to that town and fetch me oop a fill fer me poipe so Oy can ‘ave a nice wee smoke? Oy’d be the ‘appiest little leprechaun this side o’ Dublin and Gloccamorra, and that’d be tellin’.”
“You? A leprechaun? You’re not a leprechaun – are you?” I asked as I moved a little closer to hear him more clearly. Irish, I thought, yes – definitely an Irish accent – I think – maybe.
“Well now, me foine young un’, ‘ow many like me d’ye see around ‘ere, eh? Now, looks ‘ere, ye know about us little leprechauns, don’t ye? ‘Ow we can do things?”
I said I’d heard something about a pot of gold in fairy tales but didn’t believe it. I also told him that I hadn’t believed in leprechauns either – at least, not up until now.
“Well – well now, there’s certainly no pot of gold,” he said with a little laugh, shaking his head at the same time, “Oy can tell thee that fer sure, or Oy’d be off with it me’self, wouldn’t Oy? But what there is, though – is luck. Now, if ye’d just take yerself down there and get me a couple of things that Oy’d like, then there’d be plenty o’ luck for ye for years and years. All the luck in the warld. All yer live long loife.”
“Oh – well – um, what is it you’d like?”
“Well now; just let me think a minute.” He put the fingers of his right hand to his lips and used them to drum gently, as though to help him decide. “Sure now – one thing is –,” he looked at me, “Now then, tell me this – does yer father loike a wee drink of the whiskey?”
“Yes, sometimes he does.”
“Well now, does he smoke a poipe, too?”
“No, he doesn’t, he doesn’t smoke at all. The only thing he has like that in the house is a box of cigars for handing out to friends at Christmas time.”
“Begorra, is that so?” he sounded surprised. Then a big grin appeared on his face. “Well now, a foine cigar would do just roight fer a wee smoke. You go down to yer ‘ouse and bring me oop some of yer father’s whiskey and a few of ‘is cigars and I’ll guarantee ye the foinest luck that anyone ‘as ever ‘ad. One thing, though,” he stopped speaking again for a few seconds, looked very stern, and pointed a long, bony finger straight at me, “ye can’t tell anyone ye are doin’ this for me; or instead of you getting all of that good, good luck, ye’ll get all bad, bad luck. You wouldn’t want that fer sure, now would ye? Fancy going all through yer loife with nothin’, not even a penny ever in yer pocket, and sick too. Ye’d be sick every day – ye wouldn’t loike that, now would ye?”
I told him that I would hate to be like that, it would be horrible.
“Well then,” he retorted in a curtly manner, “just go an’ get them things fer me and Oy’ll make sure that ye ‘ave every luck in the warld, just loike Oy sez.”
He then put a big smile on his long thin face as he got to his feet, walked towards me and then sat down again on a stone just a few feet away, wrapped his arms around his knees and rocked back and forward on his behind. It was then that I noticed his glossy, black, pointed shoes with a big silver buckle on each one. That proved it, only leprechauns had shoes like that.
I didn’t know what to do. If I didn’t go and get the things this little man wanted, I’d have terrible luck all of my life. And if I did go and get them, I’d have to steal from my dad’s liquor cabinet, for I knew I couldn’t ask – or I’d have all that bad luck. But then, on the other hand, if I did manage to get them, I’d have such wonderful luck that I’d be able to get my parents lots and lots of marvelous things, and that would make up for stealing them – wouldn’t it? Oh my – why did I ever have to meet up with this leprechaun?
“I’ll go and try and get them for you, but if I don’t manage it, you mustn’t blame me – will you?”
I raced down the hill as fast as I could. When I got home I was breathless. I had to wait for a few minutes before I could go in or my mother would ask me why I was panting so hard. My father had gone bowling with his friends, making it a little easier for me to get what I wanted.
After some small talk with my mother, who was watching TV in the den, I slid myself into the dining room to the liquor cabinet. I left the light off and, after making sure my mother wasn’t watching what I was doing, made my way quietly to the cabinet, opened the door and gently took out one of the bottles, hoping it was the right one. Hurriedly looking at it – it was almost half full – in the light of the street lamp coming in through the window, I could make out the word “whisky” on the label. I was in luck.
Putting the bottle into a grocery bag I moved silently over to the desk where I opened a drawer, then the cigar box, only to find just one cigar in it. I took it. Whew! I’d managed to get both items.
I stole silently through the kitchen to the back door, opened it very slowly, and then headed up the hill to where the little leprechaun was waiting for me. I handed him the bag with the stolen stuff in it.
“I got you some whisky; but I’m sorry, sir, there was only one cigar left, is that okay?”
“Oy, me hearty, yer a foine young lad, that’s fer sure.”
And with that remark he lit the cigar. Puffing away, he then unscrewed the bottle cap and had a good swig.
“This is the best noight Oi’ve ‘ad for a long toime, just loverly i’ tis. Tell me yer name, young ‘un, and ‘ow old ye are.”
“It’s, umm, Richard,” I told him as I nervously cleared my throat, still a little jittery after my ordeal. “I’m thirteen.”
He gave the impression of being very content as he puffed on the cigar in between mouthfuls of whisky. He just sat there, looking out over the town and not saying a word, just puffing and sipping as though I wasn’t there.
After what seemed like a long time, I was still waiting.
“Sir, will I now have all the luck in the world for getting you these things?” I hesitatingly asked.
“Well then, young Richard, how should I know? You told me you didn’t believe in leprechauns and you were quite right.”
I immediately noticed he didn’t have an Irish accent any more. Then he continued. “You see,” he gave a slight laugh, “I’m one of the actors with the Bromlake Theater Company that’s on its way here. I came to town early to do some promoting for our show.” He stopped to have another little laugh. “I came up here to relax and when I saw you coming here alone, I thought that, as I was still wearing one of my stage outfits, I’d have a little fun with you; and you were silly enough to believe me! It should teach you in future not to pay too much attention to what others try to make you believe, or make you do, solely for their benefit. You can see how easy it was. Really had you fooled, didn’t I?”
“You’re not a leprechaun and you’re not even Irish?”
“No, sorry to disappoint you on both counts. I’m not. My name is Larry, Larry Wakely. Look for me on the billboards.”
Then he tucked the bottle between his knees, reached into his vest pockets and took out a couple of things, wrapping one inside the other. He was still enjoying his laugh as he handed something over to me.
“Look ‘ere, me boy,” he let out one more leprechaun-like phrase before reverting to his normal accent, “here’s a ten pound bill. Give it your father to cover the cost of the goods you brought me, I wouldn’t want to be accused of stealing them. And you’ll find wrapped inside three free passes to the show. I hope you enjoy it. No hard feelings, eh? So – well – goodnight, young man. Thanks for the drink – oh, and the smoke, too. And by the way, how did you like my “Oyrish” accent? Not too bad, eh?”
And with a wink and a nod that would have made any leprechaun proud, he jumped to his feet and walked off into the night with the almost empty whisky bottle. He was puffing away merrily on my Dad’s cigar and laughing out loud as he disappeared down the hill.
“Never again,” I said to myself, “that’s the last time I’ll be sucked in like that.” And I meant it, too. Ever since then, I’ve been very careful who I hang around with. If ever someone tries to “peer-pressure” me, as it’s called, I just walk away – it’s as simple as that. I think that’s why I’ve never smoked.
Then, of course, next came the hard bit. I had a massive pile of explaining to do to my parents. I can still remember it – and it wasn’t easy. It was good I had free passes for the show to help prove my story! © Ian Moore-Morrans, 2006
*”whiskey” is the Irish spelling; “whisky” is the Scottish spelling.