|Posted on March 15, 2011 at 4:12 PM|
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here is an old one from the archive.....
O'Leary the Leprechaun needed a drink. He was the only Leprechaun in town who didn't have a pot full of gold, and he was sick and tired of being ridiculed for it. So he combed his neat red beard, put on his green top hat, and sauntered down the road to his favorite watering hole, The Olde Shillelagh. Standing in the doorway, he looked around for a seat at the bar. The only available stool was between two of his acquaintances, O'Malley and O'Toole. These two frequently annoyed him with their bragging about their great wealth, but not enough to keep him from enjoying a wee drop of whiskey.
The bartender came around; an old, gnarled Leprechaun whose red beard had gone mostly to gray. “A wee drop for my parched throat, if you please.” said O'Leary. Soon the glass of fiery amber liquor was placed in front of him.
O'Malley, on his left, turned to face him. “Well, if it isn't O'Leary, the poorest Leprechaun in town!” he said jovially. O'Leary winced at the reminder.
O'Toole, on his right, also turned toward him. “Still lacking a pot o' gold, eh? What a shame.” He took a large swallow from his glass.
O'Leary looked back and forth at the two of them. “I'm sick and tired of being poor!” he said. “You two have great wealth. Can't you spare any advice for a poor soul? O'Malley, where did you get your pot full?”
O'Malley let out a great belch and hooked his thumbs into his finely brocaded waistcoat. He was from a wealthy family which was well respected in the Leprechaun community. He stroked his well-manicured beard. “Well, laddie, I inherited my gold from my great-great-great... something or other, grandfather. He pulled a sweet scam on the King of Ireland ten generations back, and swindled him out of a fortune, he did. My family has been nurturing and growing that nest egg ever since.”
“And you truly keep it all in an iron pot at the end o' the rainbow?” asked O'Leary.
“Well, no, not really. Most of it is in mutual funds and off-shore oil leases. We just keep a small cache of pocket money in a pot in the front yard, mostly for show.”
O'Leary turned to O'Toole on his right. “What about you, O'Toole? Your family wasn't always rich, were they?”
O'Toole had wild eyes and a long shaggy beard. He was “nouveau riche” and not particularly respected by his peers. He gave O'Leary a long stare. “Not at all. I had to earn my pile myself, I did, not get it handed to me on a silver platter like some folks.” He shot a derogatory glance at O'Malley, who studiously ignored him. “I set up a very sweet email scam a few years back, pretending to be a deposed Nigerian dictator. The money came rolling in, it did, and now I'm stinking of wealth.”
“You're just plain stinking in general, you are,” said O'Malley, rolling his eyes.
“Gold is gold,” said O'Toole loftily, and hoisted his glass reverently skyward before downing the contents. “Kowalski! Another round over here, if you don't mind.”
Kowalski, the bartender, approached with a bottle and topped off all three glasses, then scurried off to attend to his other customers.
“What sort of a name is Kowalski for a Leprechaun, anyway?” asked O'Leary.
“Shhh...,” said O'Malley. “He's adopted, and he's sensitive about it.”
O'Leary turned back to O'Toole. “Maybe I can work that same email scam. How does it go?”
O'Toole shook his head sadly. “Not a chance, laddie. When I pulled it off, the internet was still pretty new. Nowadays, everyone is on to the flim-flams. I send out a few thousand emails every so often, and rarely get a nibble.”
“There are lots of other scams out there,” offered O'Malley. “Find one that hasn't been pulled in awhile, and you'll do fine.”
“Well, there's the old Three Card Monte trick. But that takes some skill at cards to pull off.”
O'Leary considered this. "I've pulled a few card tricks in my day. I've even tried the Three Card Monte. They always seem to backfire on me, though."
“There's the phony money-printing machine trick,” offered O'Toole. “Are you handy with making devices?”
“Not really,” said O'Leary sadly.
“How about the Inverted Pyramid Scam?” suggested O'Malley. “Baseball season is starting up, and folks will pay big for betting tips.”
“I guess I've got lots of options to choose from,” said O'Leary. He drained his glass and set it down on the bar. “Thanks for the tips, fellows. I'm going to give them all some thought.” And off he went, into the night, to wander under the stars and consider his options.
The next day, O'Leary climbed up the long tunnel that took him to the world of humans. He still didn't know what kind of a scam he would pull, but figured he should at least look around a bit. He poked his head up through the opening of the tunnel, emerging in the woods. A short walk took him into the nearby town.
O'Leary wandered the streets, looking for opportunities. Everywhere were signs of money: stores, banks, restaurants, all teeming with humans, each with a wallet full of cash. He wanted some of that money for himself!
On the sidewalk, near an alley, O'Leary spied a beggar. He was sitting cross-legged on the ground, a battered hat in front of him. He wore a pair of dark glasses, and around his neck was hung a crudely-lettered sign. It read, “Blind. Please Help.” Several of the letters were backwards.
O'Leary crept up close to the blind beggar. Leprechauns, as you know, can be completely silent when they want to be, so he had no fear of detection. He looked down into the hat; it was full of bills! O'Leary wanted the money so badly he could taste it. He reached down, fingers outstretched, prepared to scoop out a few bills for himself.
The beggar's hand shot forth, and grabbed O'Leary by the wrist, in a grip like iron. With his other hand, the beggar slid his dark glasses down his nose, and stared at O'Leary with a steely gaze. “And what do you think you are doing, little one?” he asked.
“You're not blind!” squealed O'Leary, desperately trying to break free from the vise-like grip.
“And you're not going to get any of my money!” declared the beggar. He stood up and dragged O'Leary into the alley. “You're a Leprechaun, unless I miss my guess. Am I right?”
“Of course, I'm a Leprechaun! What else would I be, a bearded midget?”
“Well, well,” said the beggar. “If I know anything about Leprechauns, it's that they all have a pot of gold. And if you catch one, he will give you his gold for ransom to set him free. Isn't that true?”
“Yes, yes, it's true enough,” said O'Leary, still squirming in the painful grip. “Now let go of my arm!”
The beggar loosed his grip. O'Leary massaged his sore wrist and glared at him.
“Well? When are you going to deliver your pot of gold to me?”
O'Leary thought furiously. How could he cheat this human? He ran through his knowledge of scams, and remembered one called the “advanced fee fraud.” It didn't perfectly apply in this situation, but it was worth a try.
“Okay, laddie, I'll give you my gold, my entire pot of gold. After all, you've earned it fair and square by capturing me. But I can't get it right away. You see, I keep it in another city, far from here. You'll have to advance me airfare so that I can go and get it.”
“Not a chance," said the beggar. "I'm a grifter, but I'm not an idiot. I'll give you bus fare, that's all. And how do I know that you'll come back with the gold?”
O'Leary looked him in the eye. “I solemnly swear, on my honor as a Leprechaun, that I will give you my entire pot of gold, every last coin. You can take that to the bank.”
“Well, I guess that will have to do,” said the beggar. He seemed to remember reading that Leprechauns never lie about their gold. He reached into his battered begging hat and pulled out a wad of bills. “This should cover bus fare. I'll be right here on my corner waiting for you to return. And don't be long about it. My name's Kevin, by the way.”
O'Leary accept the bills and shook Kevin's hand. “Nice to meet you, Kevin. I'm O'Leary. Goodbye for now.” And with that, he scampered back to the tunnel in the woods.
Back at The Olde Shillelagh, O'Leary told his two friends about his adventure.
"That's an excellent start!" said O'Malley. "Especially the part about promising him your 'entire pot' of gold, when you haven't got a farthing to yer name! I love it!"
"Yes, very clever," offered O'Toole. "Now, how are you going to parlay it into even more profit?"
"More profit?" asked O'Leary. "I was lucky to get away with me skin!"
O'Toole coughed into his scraggly beard. "You must be kiddin' me, laddie! Don't you realize the advantage you have over this human?"
O'Leary frowned and furrowed his brow, but couldn't see where he had an advantage, other than not to have his wrist in an iron grip. "Well, no," he admitted.
O'Malley chimed in, "O'Leary, you fool, you have a major advantage, in terms of knowledge. YOU know that you don't have a pot o' gold. HE don't know that at all!"
"So... That gives you the edge in your next wager with this human fellow. Think about it." O'Malley tapped his temple wisely, and then turned and addressed himself to his glass of whiskey.
O'Leary thanked his pals for their advice, and went out to wander the woodlands again and consider his options.
The next day, O'Leary approached Kevin, still begging with his hat near his alley. "Hey, boyo, got a minute?" he hissed from across the alley.
Kevin looked both ways, grabbed his hat, and jumped up to join O'Leary in the alley. "Have you got my money?" he asked.
O'Leary shuffled his feet. "Of course I do, laddie," he said. "That is to say, yes and no," he stammered.
"What do you mean, yes and no? We had a deal!"
"Oh, the deal is still a deal, no doubt about that," hastened O'Leary. "A Leprechaun's word is his bond. But I thought you might be interested in an even better deal."
Kevin was cautious. "I'm listening," he said.
"Well," said O'Leary, "Since you took me so easily for me entire pot o' gold, I thought maybe you'd like to wager a double-or-nothing for it."
"Go on," said Kevin.
"Well, I've got a large pot o' gold, as you know," said O'Leary, his fingers crossed behind his back, "and you've no doubt got a nice big nest egg from your phony blind begging activities, no offense of course. What do you say we wager one against the other, so to speak, may the better man win?"
Kevin thought about this for a moment. "Say that we do," he mused. "What would be our wager?"
O'Leary hopped back and forth excitedly on his feet. "How about a little game called Three Card Monte? It's a simple thing, I'm sure you'd be good at it."
Kevin was familiar with the scam, and was confident that he could beat the Leprechaun at the game. "Okay, I'm up for it. Who deals?"
"I do," said O'Leary, and produced a deck of cards from his waistcoat. "Where can we play?"
Kevin took him down the alley and turned an ash can upside down. "Here you go," he said.
O'Leary shuffled the deck in his hands, over and over. Finally, he laid out three cards, face up, on the head of the barrel. "A King, a Queen, and a Jack," he narrated, as the cards went down on the barrel head. "Now I turn them face down. A quick shuffle...." and he shuffled the three cards back and forth, up and down, over and around, the hand quicker than the eye. Soon they were so well randomized that it was near impossible to tell which was which. "...and nobody knows where the lady lies." Unbeknownst to Kevin, he had used his sleight of hand to shuffle the Queen out from the barrel and replaced it with a second Jack from the deck. He looked up at Kevin. "If you can tell me which card is the Lady, my entire pot o' gold is yours, and double. If you are wrong, though, your nest egg goes to me."
Kevin stared at the three cards, three blank backs. Which was which? He had no way of knowing. But the wager had been made, and there was no backing down. Fortunately, he knew the trick to beat this scam.
"Well," said Kevin, "I believe that the Queen is THIS card...," and he placed the index finger of his right hand on the middle card, pressing it firmly to the surface of the barrel. "Which I can prove, because it isn't THIS card..." and he turned up the card on the left, which was a Jack. "and it isn't THIS card, either," and he turned up the card on the right, which was a King. "So obviously, I have chosen the correct card, the Queen!"
O'Leary seethed in silence. To turn up the middle card would be to admit that he had cheated. Damn! Kevin had beaten him at his own scam! Double Damn! He would have to skin those bastards O'Malley and O'Toole alive for not warning him about this possibility. But all he said was, "Excellent! You are clearly a master of the game!" His mind raced. How could he save himself? He was desperate. "Since you are so good at this game, would you consider one more round, double or nothing again?"
Kevin was on a roll. "Of course!" he said. "It's the least I could do for a good sport such as yourself. One more of the same! But this time, I deal." And he snatched up the deck of cards.
O'Leary watched as Kevin shuffled the cards, and dealt out three, face up: Again, a King, a Queen, and a Jack. He flipped them over, backs up, and shuffled them around on the barrel faster than the eye could follow. "Well?" he asked, one eyebrow raised. "Which is the Queen?"
O'Leary, confident that he could pull off the same trick that Kevin had pulled on him, placed his finger firmly on the middle card. "I'm betting that it is this one, laddie," he said. "And I must be right, because it isn't THIS one...." He flipped up the card on the right, then stared, aghast, at the Queen.
"Ha! You lose, my friend!" said Kevin, triumphantly. O'Leary, in shock, didn't know what to do. In a trance, his finger still on the middle card, he reached out and flipped up the card on the left. It was also a Queen!
"What the deuce?" said O'Leary in confusion. Kevin gulped. O'Leary turned up the middle card. They were all Queens. "You cheated me, you bastard! You forfeit!"
Kevin chuckled. "Okay, you got me. I cheated. But you cheated me when you dealt! Hey, it's what we do, isn't it? Face it, little Leprechaun, we are two of a kind. We're scam artists, grifters, and congenitally incapable of being honest."
O'Leary squirmed, hesitating to admit any commonality with this human. But ultimately, he had to agree. "I suppose we are," he said, ungraciously.
Kevin swept up the cards and put them in his pocket. "You know, O'Leary, we're pretty evenly matched. So why should we waste our energy trying to scam each other? There's a huge world out there, full of pigeons waiting to be plucked. We should team up, combine our forces, and make a fortune off the less talented and less scheming folks of the world."
O'Leary considered the wisdom of Kevin's proposal. It's true, neither of them had taken the other to the cleaners, and both of them had scamming skills. And the wealth of the rest of the world far outweighed what they might steal from each other. "What did you have in mind?" he asked.
Kevin looked left and right, making sure that they were alone. "I've had a scam in mind for some time, you know. But it requires a partner. One that I know I can trust. Tell me: do you have any special Leprechaun skills?"
"What? You mean like dancing jigs, blowing smoke rings, wiggling my ears? Stuff like that?"
"Exactly! Irish it up. Saint Patty's Day is coming, you know. Here's my plan..." And Kevin outlined his scheme, in broad strokes, and then in minute detail.
O'Leary listened, skeptical at first, then interested, and finally with a broad grin from ear to ear. "It sounds crazy, laddie. But it just might be crazy enough to work!"
The next night, O'Leary the Leprechaun sauntered into Houlihan's bar on 17th Street. He had on his best green suit, orange vest, and green top hat. His clay pipe was clamped between his teeth, and his pointy-toed shoes were polished until they shone like the full moon. He hopped up on the bar, and flagged down the bartender.
"My stout yeoman! Might a fellow get a wee glass of Irish whiskey to wet a parched throat?"
The barman, wiping out a glass with a rag, stared in disbelief. "A real live Leprechaun? In my bar? And this close to St. Patty's day? Begorrah, you can drink on the house! Good luck it is!" He hurried to pour O'Leary a glass of his best liquor.
O'Leary chugged the fiery liquid down his throat. "Excellent, laddie! I'll take another, and dance to yer good health!" And with that, he proceeded to dance a vigorous jig on the surface of the bar, his hands behind his back, his hips swiveling, and smoke billowing from his pipe.
The other patrons of the bar were quick to notice. They crowded around, cheering and clapping, and soon were buying O'Leary drinks, urging him on, clapping and stomping along with his hyperkinetic dance.
O'Leary ate it up. "Thank you all, my fine folks! Watch this!" and he proceeded to blow smoke rings from his pipe; first simple donuts, then streamers, stars, half-moons, and even four-leaf clovers. The crowd clapped and whistled, and ordered more drinks. The cash register chimed like a symphony.
O'Leary looked out over the crowd. "Who wants to hear a song?" he asked.
"We do!!" shouted the crowd in unison.
The Leprechaun clapped his hands behind his back, looked at the ceiling, and began to sing. He started with "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." The crowd cheered and sang along. He followed up with "The Irish Washerwoman" and "My Wild Irish Rose," all the while blowing smoke rings from his clay pipe. The crowd went wild, clapping and stomping. When he broke out in a heartfelt rendition of "Danny Boy," the entire bar listened in hushed silence, with not a dry eye in the house. At the end of the song, pandemonium ruled as they whooped and hollered and carried him about on their shoulders!
Finally, reluctantly, O'Leary announced that he needed to leave. "Thank you all, for your kind attention this night. I hope that I have brought ye some small enjoyment. May the Good Lord keep ye until we meet again, at the end of the rainbow." The patrons of the bar cheered as he headed for the door, bowing and smiling.
But just as O'Leary reached the door, he suddenly stopped. His eyes became wide as saucers. He reached for the pockets of his waistcoat. He felt the pockets of his trousers. He frantically slapped himself up and down. He was aghast!
He ran up to the bar, flagged down the bartender. "I've misplaced me magic clay pipe!" he moaned plaintively. "Have you seen it?" He turned to the crowd. "Has anyone seen it? My magic clay pipe? I'm lost without it!" The patrons of the bar began scrambling, looking desperately for the lost pipe. But after twenty minutes, the missing pipe had still not appeared.
O'Leary hung his head. "I need to be going for the night; I have to be home before the full moon sets. With the grace of the Saints, me bonnie pipe will turn up soon. I'll be back tomorrow night; I pray that my wee pipe will have been found by then. It has been in my family for a score of generations!"
He turned to the crowd. "If anyone finds me magic clay pipe, I'll pay twenty thousands dollars, in solid gold, for its return! Begorrah, by my pot of gold and all the Blarney in my soul, I'll pay a fortune to have that pipe back!" And with that, he scampered sadly out the door and into the night.
The crowd sat in hushed silence. Every patron in the bar had enjoyed the Leprechaun's antics, and wished him nothing but the best. They continued to look under tables, inside cabinets, behind shelves, hoping to find the missing pipe. They wanted to help out the poor Leprechaun. But even more, they all wanted the twenty thousand dollar reward.
But nobody found the pipe. Eventually, the crowd thinned out, paid their tabs, and went home. Finally, only one patron was left, sitting quietly at the bar, nursing a beer. His name was Kevin. He flagged down the bartender for his check.
As he hopped down from his bar stool, he got a strange look in his eye. "What the devil?" he said, and bent down to the floor. He came back up with a small clay pipe.
The bartender stared at the pipe, eyes wide and mouth agape. "My God, you've found it! That's the Leprechaun's pipe!" he exclaimed, in hushed, reverent tones.
"Oh my God!" said Kevin in a hoarse whisper, staring at the pipe in his hand. "Damn it all, I'm leaving town first thing in the morning. I'd love to be here tomorrow night to get that twenty thousand dollar reward, but I have to be on my way. Damn!" He looked pleadingly at the bartender.
The barkeep licked his lips. "Well," he said, slowly, "I'll be here all day tomorrow. Tell you what. I'll give you, ummm, a thousand dollars for that pipe."
"Are you kidding me?" said Kevin, deeply offended. "The Leprechaun promised twenty thousand for it! And you want it for one thousand?"
"Well, if you can't be here to collect, what do you expect?"
"I expect at least ten thousand, that's what I expect!" said Kevin indignantly.
The bartender chewed his lip. He thought about his bank account, his mortgage, and his cash register. Twenty thousand minus ten thousand was still a lot of money. "All right, you've got a deal. I'll give you ten thousand for that pipe right now. And we'll all profit."
Kevin stuck out his hand. "You've got a deal, friend." He handed over the magic clay pipe, and they went together to the safe in the back room of the bar.
A half hour later, Kevin made his rendezvous with O'Leary at a McDonald's down the street. The Leprechaun was sitting in the back, nursing a Shamrock Shake. Kevin slid into the seat opposite him.
"Well?" asked the Leprechaun.
"I got ten thousand. Here's your half."
"Not bad. Five thousand each!"
"Minus the two dollars we spent on that cheap pipe at Walgreen's."
"Right, boyo. Same deal tomorrow night?"
"Why wait? It's still early. Gilhooley's on 10th Avenue should be jumping about now."
"Works for me, laddie."
A month later, O'Leary sauntered into The Olde Shillelagh, puffing on a cigar and hooking his thumbs into the waistcoat of his fine new suit. He proudly perched himself on a stool between O'Malley and O'Toole. "Kowalski!" he cried. "A round for my friends. Make them doubles!"
O'Malley and O'Toole swiveled to stare at him. "You're in fine spirits, laddie," said O'Malley. "I gather that fortune has been smiling on you?"
"New suit?" asked O'Toole. "And a new hat, too, if I'm not mistaken."
O'Leary handed them each a stogie from his vest pocket and raised his drink. "Gentlemen, here's to wealth!"