Why didn’t someone tell me it was St. Patrick’s Day? It’s important to be ready for these things in advance. Had I known this significant holiday was approaching I would’ve prepared. If someone had been kind enough to remind me I would have…would have… Would’ve…?
I glance down at the thin, green beer in my formerly frosted mug. I would’ve drunk less wine at Nick’s last night.
That way I wouldn’t have this cloud of guilt fogging my vision. Girls who are trying to get their lives together shouldn’t drink too much three nights in a row. It’s tricky enough business trying to see through one’s drunken haze without the nuisance of an emotional cloud of guilt making things worse.
Come to think of it, I’m not hearing so well either.
“Whaddya say, Riana?”
Riana arches across the tattered booth she, Nick and I have been using as our home base for the past two hours. “It says here”—she stabs at the helpfully informational, green flyer that was handed to us on the way in—“that there’s going to be a limerick contest.”
I twist my mouth thoughtfully, as if I can taste the question lurking there. “What’s the prize?”
Her eyebrows pull together as she positions the sheet closer to her face and peers at me across the top of it. “Dinner for two. The Rooney McNamara special!”
I try to ask, “Do you suppose that’s corned beef and cabbage or some other traditional Irish dish?”
Unfortunately, what comes out sounds more like, “Dahya sink thats cornbeefan cabbish?”
Before Riana translates, Nick slides in next to me, bumps my shoulder with his and grumbles, “Jukebox is broken.”
A sappy grin tilts across my face as I grab his left arm. “I’m so glad you’re out with us tonight, Nicky-boy.” I hold up my hand so my forefinger and thumb are about an inch apart. “I might be a little sorry you lost the toss, seein’ as you’re the only one of us who’s actually Irish. Or part Irish. Whatever.”
Riana frowns and pats the arm I’m clinging to. “You ought to be getting drunk on this nasty beer.”
“Clear the air, girls. It’s starting to look like one of those weep fests.” He shakes his head. “I guess I should be glad Josie isn’t here.”
I shift to Riana. “Are you feeling all stupid and weepy?”
She ignores my question and stabs at the air near Nick. “The contest! Nick! You have to know a limerick!”
Looking thoughtful, he takes a long drink of his Gatorade.
“I know a limerick,” I mumble, half-hoping neither of them heard me and half-hoping they’ll think I’m wonderful.
Creepy, slow moving puppets. Not at all a response I was hoping for. Or one I’d even considered.
Please God, don’t let them blink at the same time, because then I’ll have to scrabble over the table and bolt for the door.
Oh, relief. Nick is talking.
I stare at him for a minute because his teeth really are so nice and straight. “Huh?”
He waves his hand between Riana and him. “Tell us the limerick.”
Nice hands, too. Why haven’t I ever noticed that before? “Limerick?”
“To win the Irish dinners,” Riana says as if I’m some dolt who can’t remember bits of conversation from one piece to the next. “The contest, Hayley.”
Oh yeah. I ask them, “Do we even want that cabbish?”
Nick opens his mouth but the voice that comes out is cheerfully musical. I didn’t know Nick could do an Irish accent.
Oh. He can’t do an accent, it’s some round, little man wearing a green cap. He has suspenders and lime green striped pants. It’s a leprechaun? Can’t be. Yet there he is, right there in the front of the bar, standing on a tiny stage.
The leprechaun keeps talking and it sounds great. The right thing to put a person in the mood for a real old-world St. Patty’s Day. The crowd is so noisy, I can’t really make out what the little guy is saying but it doesn’t matter. “Rolling rolling jolly words.” He laughs and his world laughs with him. “More jolly words, something else…limericks.”
Nick shoots to his feet and does a weird saluting thing. There’s a warm round of applause. What nice people to clap for my friend. Maybe they like his smile too. And his arms. I bet they like his arms as much as I do. I peek at him from the corners of my eyes. His back is nice too.
While I’m giving him the once-over, Nick grabs my arm and rudely jerks me to my feet. After I totter a bit, I turn to glare at him but notice that everyone in the room is staring at me. Expectantly.
Actually, I have to admit, I feel their expectation more than see it, because mostly their faces are obscured by that damn guilt cloud.
The next thing I know, the nice leprechaun is taking my hand and leading me through the tables crammed with muddy brown and bright green people. He squares me in front of a microphone and nods.
Silence greets me.
I blink, puppet-like, and frighten myself as my head pivots stiffly above my neck.
A shout comes from my table.
“Say the limerick, Hayley.”
What would I do without Nick? I understand now. I’m trying to win some cornbeffan cabbish.
Public speaking is not in my comfort zone, that’s for damn sure. I hate it, as a matter of fact. So being at the microphone is a good thing. Right?
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