Mickey is Irish although he lives in the United States. His name is Michael O’Connor but his friends call him Mickey. He can trace his heritage back to Paddie O’Connor who married Emily MacMullen on a steamer bringing starving Irish, sold into indentured servitude, slavery, during the potato blight of 1847. According to Paddie, taken directly from his journal written in broken Gaelic, he missed the connection with their patrons at the New York dock. The current citizens didn’t care for the immigrants and gathered to beat at the new arrivals with knives and clubs. Paddie and Emily escaped into town only to be accosted by another gang, also armed with clubs, contracted to shanghai conscripts for the Mexican-American war. Together they continued inland for two days without food. In the countryside they happened upon a wagon train headed to Indiana to partake in homestead opportunities. Trading labor for room (two blankets) and board they traveled to Indiana.
Once there, the government issued them a deed to twenty wooded acres and gifted them an ax, a shovel, and a snare. Jack had heard the story often, during family gatherings, and always marveled at the optimism expressed in the journal. Lucky! A small creek crossed the northwest corner of the property and they were able to kill enough rabbits and muskrats and squirrels to avoid starvation. Mickey had once tried to ax down a tree but gave up in exhaustion. Paddie was required to chop enough logs to build winter shelter and then firewood. Then he had to remove the stumps for planting. Although there was a majority of Irish in the cooperative mix of neighbors they learned English, the official language of the government and the all faith neighborhood church.
Although Paddie was Christian he had brought his superstitions with him. He wrote of patrolling his property for signs of Elfland entry; there were no caves or rock mounds or raths made by fairies and he examined any mounds and burrows to make sure they were animal made. He was on constant alert, he wrote, for signs of ‘The People of Peace’ or ‘The Seely Court’, as he called the magic people. He was especially concerned with solitary Faries because, like leprechauns, they were especially tricky and malevolent. Micky thought his parents were modern, over it, but every morning his dad dips his thumb in fresh milk and makes the sign of the cross to ward off ‘Others’.
Since Paddies’ time the O’Connor men have sought out and married Irish women resulting in an Irish lineage. Continental records are irregular and one of the family women could easily have been knocked up by a lord. Enslaved throughout the middle ages the British did as they would with the Irish women, according to stories he had heard. The price of an Irish slave was lower than that of an African resulting in larger shipments of Irish to the developing world under worse conditions. At school, the history books ignored Irish slavery in favor of a statement portraying the Irish as unruly and, therefore, needing to be enslaved.
Before that, the heritage was polluted by the Vikings. If a clinkered Knarr anchored offshore of a castle the first line of defense was to party. The castle would send a small treasure along with a hot cauldron of Irish stew, sloe wine, barrels of whiskey, and willing serving lasses who had volunteered to take one for the team. Any resulting bastards were routinely adopted into the family clan without prejudice.
Mickey wasn’t holding himself to these marriage traditions. He had worked for a well established hotel chain since high school, taking the necessary training when possible, and was now an assistant manager. Just past thirty he lived and ate on the diverse campus. He didn’t have a car but did have substantial savings. His work hours were too murderous to allow prolific dating. Those women he had shared time with varied in ethnicity and he found no favorite type; maybe Danish, maybe. This August he will take his vacation at Culdoff Beach in Donegal, Ireland.
It would be his second trip to Ireland. His parents had taken him there over twenty years ago. They had visited Grianan of Aileach, a Celtic ringfort from the sixth century in Donegal. Even as a child, Mickey was impressed. The clear waters of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly are clear from the hilltop as is a stone cairn dating from the Neolithic. It is also famous for fairy sightings. Tourists are advised to admire but not to touch as the fairies living below don’t like their claims to be messed with. Some sluff the advice off with a guffaw, others not so much.
The family had booked ten days and on the first they visited the ruins, dined at a tourist trap before retiring, pleased and early. Mickey woke up unnaturally in the middle of the night. He had an urge to go out, into the night, under the Irish stars. He was aware of his youth and that some strangers can’t be trusted; they can be very dangerous. Nevertheless, in his pajamas he slipped past his brother and two sisters to noiselessly operate the door and tumble into the quiet hall. People paid him no attention and he followed his instincts into the back parking lot then through the raggedy fence and onto an overgrown path. Only yards from the property he encountered a sculpted concrete patio table and benches inlaid with sanded rocks. The grass of the cleared circle was short, lush and healthy as if carefully tended.
“Hello,” said the girl already seated. The soft moonlight provided extra lustrous shine to her long golden hair and an enhanced impish glitter to her blue green eyes. She is tall, dressed in pajamas, of a similar age, and smiles with a heartwarming enchantment and even white teeth.
“Hi, I’m Mickey O’Connor,” Mickey said, unafraid, with a smile.
“I know. My name is Aine,” she replied.
“How do you know my name?”
“I’m a fairy. I know lots of things.”
“Want to see where I live?” she asked.
He nodded yes and followed her out of the circle underneath a flowered bower where she disappeared under a rock pile into a hole that was too small for him. Her hand popped back out to beckon him and he tried entering the hole and walking down into the burrow without difficulty. It is cool and a bit gloomy, like twilight lit from an unknown source.
In short order side tunnels opened onto boisterous towns. The occupants varied in description. Trees were filled with little people, handsome or ugly, winged or fat. Some gathered about fires singing or eating. A large group was weaving. Children raced about, some clinging to their parents, some of whom were clothed and others were not.
“You’re a brownie?” Mickey asked, thinking of the stories he had heard of these helpful little people doing household chores as long as the humans showed respect by leaving out some milk and cream.
“I’m no common bwbachod! I’m a sexy nymph!” she laughed.
“Is that good or bad?” he asked.
“I like human men! I like you. I’ll be good, don’t worry.”
“I’m not a man,” he worried.
“Oh, but you will be! A strong, handsome and loving one,” she said, again with a laugh. “Let’s have some fun and not be so good. Are you hungry?”
Mickey realized he was and soon found himself on an upward slope to emerge from under another rock pile onto a clearly marked path that he could see but didn’t understand how. The pair hauled ass and soon were at a funeral home filled with people in black. Now in winter, they trekked across snow and frozen ice and into the entry. Mickey noticed his comfort; he wasn’t cold and his feet, in their booties, weren’t wet nor were Aines’. They got no notice as they walked among the mourners in their gaily colored pjs.
“Have some corned beef,” Aine offered at the buffet.
He did. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. He wolfed down several plates of carefully prepared delights before he realized Aine wasn’t eating.
“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked her.
“I am hungry!” she enthused with an impish grin. “Are you done?”
He nodded that he was done and he sat watching her down a diverse selection in a short time, eating even faster than he had done.
“What’s wrong with these scalloped potatoes?” groused a robust man nearby.
“Has the sour cream gone sour?” asked a lean and tall elderly woman using a walker.
“This baked corn casserole sucks!” exclaimed a very old and wobbly man, irreverently.
The sudden turn of mood from sullen to irritable disturbed Mickey but he recovered when he saw the naughty grin on Aines’ lips. Her eyes seemed to sparkle just for him.
“Fairy struck!” exclaimed a wrinkled elder with disheveled red hair. She drew up an iron amulet from her neck chain and began a chant while rubbing it.
“Well, I’ve had my fill. Shall we go?” she asked.
Still unnoticed, she led him out through the back and into an adjoining graveyard to slip into a burrow under a stone Celtic cairn.
“Let’s visit some elves?” she asked then took off at a trot. After a time their progress was blocked by a pretty man with large black eyes and pointed ears.
“Aragorn in person! To what do we owe this honor?” Aine greeted him.
“I haven’t seen you in ages, Aine, goddess of love, wealth, summer and fertility! Sovereign of the Fairy kingdom! Just wanted to say hello,” he formalized, setting his large staff aside while the two embraced.
“Who’s your friend? A human husband?” he asked while smiling a welcome for Mickey.
“Soon enough!” she replied. Aragon granted them formal entry. The elfish beings used their magic in sparse amounts as they went about their daily lives. They had no need for electronics, didn’t sicken but did die, eventually, and went about their business building homes, raising the young, creating art, all in cheerful spirits. Some families opened their homes and they stayed for some time, making friends.
Next they stayed a while with the mine fairies, clan coblynau. After that it was the gwyllion, the mountain fairy clan, and finally with the fairies of lakes and streams, the gwragedd annwn. Mickey and Aine played hide and seek, frisbee, parachute and tag with all shapes of good natured magical people of similar age.
One day, time was a bit of a jumble for Mickey, Aine told him, her eyes wet with tears, that it was time for him to return home. Mickey confessed that he did miss his family. It was the last thing he remembered in the dream and he awoke with his siblings as his father was in their room rousing them for breakfast.
Mickey wasn’t hungry but told everyone details of his lucid dream for a while, until they lost interest. The family was to spend the day sightseeing but Mickey didn’t feel well and the family tucked him in and left him while they went out. When they returned in the evening Mickey was very sick. There were no symptoms; no upheavals from anywhere, no headache, no heart palpitations, not even a fever.
They took the boy to an emergency care unit and after a few tests a wizened doctor honed in for the final evaluation. After a peek and a prod he drew back quickly and made to leave after crossing himself.
“Will he be Okay?” his worried mother demanded.
“I don’t know,” said the doctor, paused at the door.
“Will he die?” Mickeys' father asked incredulously.
“He might,” the doctor advised.
“Do something!” his mother screamed.
“There is nothing I can do. Nothing anyone can do. He may recover, he may not,” the doctor said in finality and slid out of the door.
No one entered to continue the care and, after a time, the O’Connors decided to leave. At the checkout a worried clerk declared there was no charge. Both mother and father sat with Mickey through the night as he slept fitfully. The next morning he declared that he felt a bit better. He was able to stomach some chicken broth for breakfast. He improved gradually through the week and they were all able to catch their scheduled flight home, but the vacation was a ruin.
In August, the adult Mickey rode with hotel checkouts to the airport in the company shuttle. Once on the plane a gentle euphoria settled over him the likes of which he had never experienced. He daydreamed that if he could find a promotion in Ireland he may apply for a transfer. He took a public shuttle van to his rustic stone cottage and was pleased that his smile was returned each time he offered it. In the evening, he walked the sylvan road to the family run market on the corner and bought crap for a supper of snacks.
In the morning, dressed in blue trunks, a Cranberries Tshirt and sandals he walked to McGrorys for a fine breakfast. He carried his waterproof wallet, a towel, and a bottle of suntan lotion onto the Coastal Express bus and walked onto the beach before the lifeguards took their perches. He chose the big beach and found it populated with surfers.
“Wait!” cried a girl on a blanket. He almost stumbled onto her. He hadn’t seen her there, off the trail, and felt a momentary shame that he had allowed his lack of concentration to create such an awkward moment, although he didn’t know when he had wandered from the trail?
“I’m so sorry!” he gushed while she swished away sand with the back of her hand.
“Let me help!” he said and rushed forward only to trip over himself, landing on his knees on her blanket, spraying more sand. This time he was at a loss for words.
“The only way to get this damn sand off is with a shower. You too. I’ll show you,” she offers patiently.
The young woman rises with fluid grace to move her basket and shake the sand from her towel. Mickey watched, taking the chance to look her over. She is five four with green eyes, freckled button nose, thin red lips over even white teeth. She is completely shaded between the wide brimmed straw hat with a flowered ribbon and an ankle length dress of light material. The flower print on the dress matches the ribbon. Her delicate shoulders are freckled. She looks nice, he decides.
She leads on the thin trail, beckoning him to follow with a dainty hand. Involuntarily, he notices a womanly shape under the dress. The trim hips carry her with an easy femininity. When the trail widens he hurries alongside her.
“American on vacation?” she asks.
“How did you know?”
She asks him questions. He is pleased she is showing an interest and he is proud to answer her. She listens with what seems to be growing interest. She backs out of taking a shower while encouraging him to jump in. He strips off his shirt rinsing the sand from his hair, his chest, his legs, with vigor. He is still carrying his sunscreen and she suggests he use it. Mickey slathers his legs, his face and his torso but can’t reach his back. She offers and coats his back and shoulders, being neighborly. The touch of her softly articulate fingers soothes him.
Walking further up the beach she continues to draw him out. As he talks he is drawn to the lifeguard station. The handsome strapping young man, an hour into his shift, watches the surfers from his raised seat with bored attention. Suddenly he stands, strips off his bikini bottom and throws it in front of him onto the sand. With his groin thrust forward he beats his chest and makes sounds like a monkey. Then, recovering his senses, he reddens with embarrassment while retrieving his clothing.
“Is this a nude beach?” Mickey asks the girl. She is watching, transfixed and giggling.
In answer, she turns him physically toward an Irish pub on the far side of the sand. She wraps her arm with his and guides him forward with the pressure of her breasts. He glances at her and is distracted; he can see right through her dress and there is nothing under it but skin. He takes a second look but the visage is gone.
They belly up to the bar, Killians’ is on tap. He treats her to bar food for dinner; deep fried breaded mushrooms, pickled eggs, greasy wings, potato chips. The heat mixes with the liquor and he doesn’t remember the trip back to the cottage. He remembers the love clearly, or the sensation of it. Never had anyone before come near to the warmth, pleasure, and well being elicited from him by this woman. Her voice is pure music, her hands could be held for hours, her body expressed super human femininity! The night was magical but he drifted off as dawns’ light entered the room. When he awoke she was gone.
Of course he looked for her. When he returned, alone, he was unreasonably distraught so threw himself into his work. Five years later he manages a highrise on pristine Clearwater Beach, Florida. He didn’t return to Ireland.
On a midweek summer night there is a knock at the door. Unusual in that the staff tries hard to respect his privacy. He opens the door to the cutest five year old girl he has ever seen, in pajamas, holding a teddy under one arm. He recognizes the pjs immediately.
“Hello daddy. My name is Melia.”
Her voice is pure music, his old dreams morph to memories.
“Do you like room service?” he asks, guiding her inside.