Sean O'Gill did not know how long he had sat with Walter and Saoirse. Time itself had seemed to disappear somehow. It may have been hours. It may have been only minutes. In between bouts of uncontrollable sobbing had come the questions, so many questions. Although there had been so many questions, there was really only one question at their core - why?
As more and more questions had come, Sean had noticed something he had not experienced in a long time. He felt himself getting gradually lighter and lighter. It was an immense relief that he felt physically. Aching joints began to become free of pain, as though they were no longer supporting a great weight. An immensely dark and threatening storm cloud, one which had loomed on his mental horizon for as long as he could remember, began to disperse, first allowing rays of light to shine through, and then beginning to break apart into smaller islands of doom. It was as though he had finally found an answer to his perpetual why, but the funny thing was that with every question that Sean asked, neither Walter nor Saoirse had made any attempt to give an answer.
Saoirse used her gentle touch and powerful presence to comfort and reassure Sean as his why dam burst. Walter tried to lighten the mood by recounting stories from his past which sprang to mind as he recognised that all of Sean's questions had once been his questions too. Some of the incidents Walter recalled, he had all but forgotten himself, and as they came out, he found himself laughing out loud as though hearing a funny tale about someone else.
"Did ya know, Walt," Saoirse said as she recognised that Sean's outpouring was coming to an end. "Young Sean here has a little secret. Not many folk know about it. Oi've been fortunate enough to visit Sean's place from toime to toime. Oi t'ink we ought to go dere now. Dere's somet'ing Oi t'ink you'd loike to see." Sean looked up abruptly, the peace that had begun to appear on his face fading to fear.
"What?" he said. "Nooooo. No. You can't. It's not ready. Nothing's finished. Oi only let moy best friends see what Oi've done."
"Come now, Sean," said Saoirse, taking hold of his hand. "Nothing is ever finished. Nothing ever will be." Sean looked at her quizzically, cocking his head slightly like a dog that heard itself fart. "And as for friends, Sean O'Gill, ye can consider yaself fortunate dat aldough ya've been troyin' ya best ta droive all of dem away, dere are some of us dat just will not be driven."
"But Oi hardly know dis goy. No offence an' all." Sean nodded in Walter's direction.
"Ya hardly know yaself, Sean, but ya let yaself in every noight. Well, not every noight. But most noights in da winter, anyhow."
"But Oi'm just not ready. The house is such a mess. Oi wasn't expectin' guests."
"Ha ha!" laughed Saoirse. "As if ya've ever toidied up when you were!" Saoirse stood up and, still grasping Sean's hand, she pulled him up onto his feet. Sean made a half-hearted attempt to stay put, but soon found himself walking slightly behind her, his hand still in hers, in the direction of his neighbourhood.
"Come on, Walt!" Saoirse beckoned Walter to follow them. They soon arrived at a small row of two-storey dwellings that had been carved out of the cavern rock. Ascending a stone staircase, they came to Sean's door. As was the custom with the leprechauns, rather than a number, the door had a small plaque on it bearing the name O'Gill. At least Walter assumed that was what it had once said. Sean's plaque was warn and faded so that the apostrophe and the G were now missing. Underneath it, a comic genius of a graffiti artist had scrawled 'take the high road and ye'll take the low road and Oi'll be in Scotland before ye'.
"Scuse the mess," said Sean as he opened his door and led the others inside. Chez Sean consisted of two rooms. When he wasn't using the ones in the pubs, he shared a toilet with three of his neighbours and showering was done at the Leprechaun Municipal Swimming Facility on Thursdays if he either remembered what day of the week it was, or accidentally smelled his own armpits. There was certainly plenty of mess to excuse in the first room that they entered, and Walter and Saoirse spent a little time excusing it. Once the mess had been sufficiently excused, Saoirse turned to Sean with slightly raised eyebrows.
"Well?" she said.
"Well what?" asked Sean.
"Come on, Sean. Ya know whoy Oi've brought Walter here. Now stop wastin' moy toime wid ya well whats and ya how d'ya means."
"But ....." Sean began.
"A - a!" said Saoirse, raising her hand as if commanding a dog to stay.
"Ah, all roight den. But Oi'm tellin' ya. He won't loike any of it. It's not finished and dese English have funny oideas about stuff. It's not ready yet."
Saoirse just raised her eyebrows slightly more and then moved her hand to indicate the direction of the door to the next room. Sean reluctantly opened the door and reached around the corner for the light switch. As the light came on, Walter was immediately startled by the colour which appeared in stark contrast to the grey-brown themed mess chamber. As he began to walk inside, he stopped in his tracks in the doorway. His breathing stopped and his mouth hung open.
The walls of the room were covered from floor to ceiling in paintings. Several were also strewn about the floor and some were stacked on a chair which Walter assumed rarely got used for sitting. On a small table in the centre of the room were paints and brushes, palettes made out of old ice cream containers, cloth rags and jars of dirty water.
Every painting was of a leprechaun woman. Walter quickly noticed that several of them were of Saoirse, but there were many other women too. As he gazed around the room, Walter looked into each woman's eyes and at the emotion in their faces and a small tear began to run down his cheek. He looked at their clothes which Sean had somehow managed to paint so that they seemed to be moving. Each woman was painted wearing a brightly coloured long, flowing gown and it seemed to Walter as though each was slowly dancing or swaying to some soothing music. The paintings were arranged on the walls so that the different coloured dresses formed a natural spectrum from red to violet and back again.
"Who are these women?" asked Walter when he finally began to breathe again.
"Dey're just women. Some women Oi see around."
"Some women you see around?" asked Walter, glancing over to Saoirse as he did so. "You mean you don't know any of them? Did they not pose for the paintings?"
"Well, Oi know Saoirse. You probably can't tell, but some of dem are of her. De other .... no .... not really. Oi just remember dere faces. Oi just remember de way dey moved. Oi just ..... dat's probably whoy dey're not very good."
"Are you kidding? He is kidding me, right?" Walter said, looking over to Saoirse for clarification. "Tell me he is not serious. He painted all these from memory? Do you know who any of these other women are?"
"Oh, yes!" answered Saoirse. "Oi know exactly who all of dem are. You know, Walt. Sean may not have your way wid da ladies, but as you can see, in his own way he is an astonishing lover." They both turned and looked into Sean's eyes. Sean could not hold their gaze and looked down at the floor.
"They're not finished," he said in a low, quiet mumble. "They're not ready yet."
Although each tale stands on it own, Elf Tales is a series of stories best read from the beginning so that you get to know the colourful characters. To read more in the series, click here.
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