It was a gloomy morning, fifth century, and I was nursing a hangover that felt like I’d been worked over by a shillelagh with something to prove. I was just about to take a shot of holy water—hair of the God that blessed me—when he walked in.

I should have known he was trouble. The green suit, the matching hat, legs as long as a toadstool on a Sunday bender. He had a thick red beard and knew how to use it. A leprechaun. I’d seen his kind before.

“We’re closed,” I muttered.

“You Saint Patrick?” the small man said.

“That’s what the heathens call me.”

“People say you work miracles.”

“People say a lot of things,” I replied.

“Word on the street is you beseeched the Lord to provide food to hungry sailors traveling through a desolate land, when a herd of swine miraculously appeared,” the stranger said.

“Bunch of hogwash. Listen, pal, I got pagans to convert. What can I do for you?”

“The name’s O’Bready. Clover O’Bready. I got a wee job for you,” said the man, approaching my desk. “What do you know about snakes?”

“Enough to stay out of their business. I’m a live-and-let-live-again kind of guy. Trouble finds me easily enough without me going looking for it.”

The leprechaun unfolded a sheet of paper and passed it to me. There was a squiggly line in black ink.

“Ever seen this guy?”

“Sure, I might have seen this snake around,” I said, returning the paper. “What about him?”

“Been terrorizing a village yonder.”

“Yonder? How yonder?” I asked.

“Yonder a ways,” he told me.

“I know the place,” I said. “What do you want me to do about it?”

“Run him out of town,” said O’Bready. He looked at me with eyes that made me want to perform serious mischief.

“Why can’t you do it yourself?” I asked.

“Look at me,” said O’Bready. “I’m bite-sized. And the villagers are sore afraid of snakes.”

“Sore, you say?”

“Sure, sore.”

“What’s in it for me?” I asked.

“What would you say to a pot of gold?” said the compact client.

“I’d say, ‘Top o’ the mornin’ to ya’. How big a pot we talking?” I asked.

“Yay big,” he said.



I rubbed my hands together. They were raw from baptizing infidels. I could use a change of pace. Plus, a pot of gold could set me up in shamrocks for weeks.

“All right, I’ll take the job,” I said.

“You’ll really get rid of that snake?” squeaked the wee fellow, doing a little jig in his pointy shoes.

“Or my name’s not First Bishop of Armagh.”

We sealed the deal with the blood of Christ, and just like that, he was gone.

- - -

The next morning, I donned my cassock, gave my staff the once-over, and headed yonder. Yonder: I could smell the potatoes and whiskey from a mile off. But as I trod the muddy streets of the village, it was quiet. Too quiet.

There was no sign of this snake. I climbed a hill to get a better vantage, snake-wise.

Suddenly, I heard a slither. Then another. Slither after slither. Slithers hither and slithers thither. I turned. Snakes, hundreds of them, inching up the hillside. I turned back. More snakes, their emerald eyelids glittering in the gloom. It looked like all the snakes in all the land. I’d been set up!

“Faith and begorrah!” I cried. Trouble is, I was all out of begorrah. I guess it would have to be faith.

I grasped my staff firmly, set it to “banish.” I had one shot. I plunged the stick into the ground with a mighty ringing like God’s own last call.

The snakes stopped in their tracks, turned and slithered away, and kept slithering until they had slithered to the ocean and into its briny depths.

Only one snake remained, inching closer and closer toward me, its fangy mouth agape, ready to lunge at my be-sandaled toe.

“Looks like I got an asp that just won’t quit,” I muttered as I dashed its brains with my staff.

- - -

I went to find O’Bready and claim my pot of gold. “He’s over by yon rainbow,” they told me, but days and days of pilgrimage got me nowhere but frustrated.

Later, after the absence of predators had allowed the rats and vermin to take over, I heard that O’Bready was the chief investor in some kind of extermination conglomerate. I’d been played. Saint Patrick? More like Saint Patsy.

It’s a chump’s game, performing miracles. At the end of the day, there’s nothing left to do but get drunk and have a parade.