タンポポ通信2014年8月号 3. A Fruitful Encounter

Darren had to accept that he was lost.  He had been driving for hours, his satellite navigation device had stopped working ages ago, the road was unfamiliar and he hadn’t passed a signpost for miles. On the bright side, Darren was travelling through unspoiled and forested Irish countryside on a beautiful day and even though he was lost, he was enjoying the drive. Ancient oak, elder and ash trees lined the road to either side and beneath them lay a lush carpet of ferns and bluebells, illuminated by beams of sunlight that broke through the foliage at random intervals. It was beautiful.

No sooner had Darren had this thought than the first few drops of rain began to fall on his windscreen, within moments there was a deluge unlike anything he had seen before. Rain spattered on his windscreen, forming rivulets, then such a powerful flow that his windscreen wipers couldn’t keep up. Darren was driving blind.“ This is crazy,” he thought,“ I’ll have to pull over.” For the sake of safety, Darren pulled the car over to the edge of the road, turned off the engine and sat staring at the torrent of water that ran down the glass in front of him.

Almost as suddenly as it had begun, the downpour stopped. Darren’s mouth dropped open in astonishment as he gazed out of his window. A few meters in front of his parked car there was something incredible. Curving down from the sky in a magnificent arc was the brightest, most vivid rainbow that he had ever seen, the arc of it terminating in the middle of the road before him. It was the end of the rainbow. Without taking his eyes from the sight, Darren groped for the door handle and let himself out of the car. He took a few steps forward, not believing what he was seeing.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost, lad,” a voice called.
Darren’s head snapped to his right, looking for the person who had spoken. Among the wet ferns and grass, that lined the edge of the road, sat an old wizened man. He was dressed in a tattered old green tweed suit and wore a peak cap on his head. In his right hand he clutched a hefty walking stick and at his feet lay a bundle, half covered by the ferns that grew there.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,”Darren replied, pointing at the rainbow.
“That? Rainbows have to end somewhere,lad, there’s nothing unusual about it,” said the old man, grinning.

Darren tore his gaze from the rainbow and took a moment to survey the old man. He was very short and his face was etched with deep lines that made him look truly ancient. Despite the downpour that had fallen only moments before the man appeared to be totally dry. When he looked back to the road, the rainbow had vanished.

“Were you caught in the rain just now?”
Darren asked, returning his attention to the old man.

“Not at all, I stood between the drops.”

Darren remained silent for a moment before dismissing the old man’s comment as a joke. It was time to be on his way.

“I’m headed for Ballindrennan and I’m a bit lost. You’d be welcome to a lift if you can direct me,” he said.
“Ballindrennan? You’re a bit off track lad, but I know how to get there from here,” the man replied as he sprang nimbly to his feet, gathered the bundle that lay at his feet, and began to stride towards the car.

As the two men sat into the car, Darren realised that the bundle the old man carried was in fact an old, battered suitcase. The man gripped it tightly between his knees, as if he was afraid he would lose it if he didn’t  hold on tightly enough.

“The name’s Darren,” Darren said with his hand outstretched.

“Lorcan,” the old man replied as he hesitantly loosened his grip on the suitcase, took Darren’s hand and shook it vigorously.

Darren eased his foot down onto the clutch, put the car into gear and began to move from the side of the road. Lorcan was smiling broadly, his gaze flitting about the car as though he was totally unused to travel ling in such a vehicle. As the car began to pick up speed, there was a loud click as the door locks automatically engaged.

Suddenly, Lorcan’s demeanour changed.  The smile vanished from his face. His eyes narrowed and he bellowed an exclamation of surprise.

“AAARGH.”
“What is it?” Darren asked.

“Oh I suppose you think you’re very clever lad? I suppose you reckon you’ve got me now?” Lorcan hissed. His left hand tugging the suitcase up onto his lap as his right hand brandished his walking stick at Darren. “I’ve played this game before, you know!”

“What are you talking about?” Darren cried as he pulled the car back over onto the edge of the road.

“Don’t play the fool with me, boy” Lorcan replied, his voice calmer but even more menacing now. “You’ve captured me. So what will it take for you to let me go?”

Darren said nothing, he was too stunned to speak. The man, Lorcan, was clearly crazy.

“I suppose it’ll be the usual price, will it? So what are you after? Eternal Youth? Three Wishes? Or is it wealth you want? You could have what’s in the bag,” Lorcan said, gesturing to the suitcase.

Darren swallowed. He was becoming frightened now. Eternal youth? Wishes? What was this man talking about?

“What’s in the bag?” Darren whispered.

Lorcan’s eyes widened and a smile flitted across his face before being suppressed. His long, bony fingers danced along the edge of the case, and undid the leather clasps that held it closed. As the contents of the case were revealed, Darren’s eyes opened wide in amazement. He glanced up at Lorcan’s face, which now held an expression of eager smugness, then looked back into the bag. It was filled with a multitude of large, gleaming, golden coins. Darren began to reach forward to examine the coins when Lorcan, as quick as a viper, snapped the case shut.

“Not so fast lad, not so fast. Do we have a deal?” Lorcan said.

“A deal?” Darren asked.

“I told you not to play the fool. If you want the gold, you’ll let me go. Now do we have a deal?”

“Who are you?”

“I told you that lad, are you deaf as well as a fool? My name’s Lorcan, it’s short for my old Gaelic name.”

“Your Gaelic name?”

“Aye lad, they used to call me Lioprachán, but that was a long time ago. Now stop your messing and tell me if we have a deal.”

Darren took a long moment to consider. The man was clearly even crazier than he seemed, and if he was so eager to hand over the bag of gold, why not take it? After all, if Darren didn’t, the man would probably give it to the next person he ran into. “It’s a deal,” said Darren as he pressed the button to release the door locks. Without hesitating for a moment, Lorcan flung the door wide open, leapt from the car, sprang from his seat and raced into the forest. Within moments he had vanished completely. Laying on the passenger seat, where Lorcan had been a few seconds before, was the battered old suitcase. Darren grasped greedily at the handles
of the bag and pulled it towards him, he could feel the heft of it in his hands and could hear the dull jangle of heavy coins bouncing and bumping around inside. With shaking hands, Darren began to unbuckle the clasps that held the bag closed, pulled the flaps open and peered inside. His heart skipped a beat. His mouth dropped open. His breath stopped. Darren reached into the bag and grabbed a handful of the contents. The bag was filled to the brim with old, dried and yellowed oak leaves. The gold was gone.

Darren sat, staring at the handful of leaves for a very long time, then he pushed the bag back into the passenger seat, turned the key and began to drive. After a while, Darren spotted the first familiar landmarks he had seen for hours and realised he was closing in on his destination, Ballindrennan. From time to time, he would glance across at the bag, and each time he looked at it he grew more and more certain that he had just had an encounter that nobody would ever believe, an encounter with a Leprechaun.

 

Adam from Ireland

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