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The Laddie who Met Misery – Norman A. Rubin
“Now I’m going to spin you one of the finest yarns, one of horror and mystery, that will stand the hairs on your head. And there’s any among you that hasn’t run down that hole in the earth and met a nasty ogre of a chap who knew Misery, you better listen carefully to my tale. Before I go into my story I must make the two-finger sign against the Evil Eye to keep the Devil and his nasty demons at bay. I had enough of those evil characters in my younger days....
Not a man stirred in the Shamrock Inn set along the wharves at Dublin town. Eleven hard-working stiffs from the docks were all set on hardback chairs round the blazing hearth or leaning on the bar where a pixie of a man was getting ready to tell a tale fit for the occasion. It was at the height of the winter storms where the nights were freezing and the pub was a warm refuge for those who had a shilling to spare. And a glass or two of bitter ale to Paddy, a small humpbacked chap was enough to loosen his tongue and enliven the evening with one his tall stories.
Paddy, a retired elder had been working the docks for nigh on forty odd years; the growing hump on his back was a cruel sign of his backbreaking toil. He’d seen a thing or two in his colorful life, some pleasant others bitter.
So now the good man was set centered near the warmth of the hearth, with a half filled glass of the refreshing ale in hand. After he made the sign to ward of the Devil, he cleared his throat, spat into the fire, and was ready to begin the yarn.
But before he was able to utter one word the barkeep called out, “Gentlemen, gentlemen, tis not be a fine place to hear tales of old, but a honest business. So up with the shillings for a few glasses of my fine bitter, and one to top the pint of Paddy!”
Shillings were slapped on the bar and foaming glasses were filled from the tap. Then when all the fine company was relaxed, Paddy once again spat in the fire, made the sign, and with rough, nasal tones began his tall tale.
“Way back in time there was lad born with a silver spoon in his bitty mouth. Yup he had a rich daddy, so rich that he oozed gold. Well, the laddie grew up tall and well built with a fine handsome face under locks of gold. From early boyhood the young man was really a spender, throwing gold and silver all about on all pleasures; he never knew of hard times of even cared.
“Yet, it had been told to him that there was Misery in the world by all, from the rich ladies and gentlemen, guests to the household, to the servants who served the family. Then on one fine day he had a flight of fancy, “Well, I’m bored with all pleasures of the coin; yes, I had enough of the turn of the cards, the flirting nymphets, the masquerade balls, and the courtly receptions. So, I will pack a tote bag with all the necessities of traveling and go out into the world and meet Misery.
“He owed up to father, and his old man said at once, ‘Yes, my son you can go and find Misery! If you stayed at home and wasted yourself on the pleasures of life you will turn into a corpulent and lazy old bugger in your latter years. You certainly will get a bit of experience of the affairs of the world, and that can’t do you any harm.
“So our Brian, that is the name of the laddie, though really it doesn’t matter what his name be – packed everything he needed, shouldered his tote bag, and started on his trek to find the trials and tribulations. So long as he had money on his travels to pay the bills due he was all right, but he couldn’t meet Misery. But when his money was all spent – that’s where all good souls feels the pinch – so he hanged his fine head with the golden locks in Misery, and his wandering lost its charm of adventure.
“Off course, his father was know in many parts in the wide world, and all the youth needed to do was to mention his father’s name and help was forthcoming. Yet the more riches of fine lodging and of coinage that was offered, the less chance for him to meet Misery. This Brian understood and with an effort forsook the kind offers from the worthy gentlemen and ladies and made his way from known countries.
“When the coming of the rising sun on one following morn Brian came to a land that was a wee bit strange to him as it was a desert with fine yellow sand and craggy hillocks. With a shrug to his shoulders he trudged through the wastes of the land, but the more he wandered he began to feel hungry and thirsty, but there was no water flowing through the land, not even an itty-bitty drop to moisten his tongue.
“Poor laddie, he was close to despair and ready to give up his quest when he saw a large opening on one the massive rocks with stairs leading to the unknown below and..”
Before the good man could continue, a gruff insolent voice issued from the group of working-stiffs. Paddy turned and faced a burly stevedore with sly grin on his florid features who remarked with a sneer, “Now Paddy, me lad, this be a wee bit of malarkey – a hole in the rocks in a desert. Now!!”
Paddy just stared hard upon him and told him with a bit of bravado to shut his mush or clear out. Silence followed for a few moments as the two men glared at each other. Then, without another blessed word he made the ritual of the spit and the sign, and continued in the spelling of his tale.
“Brian, the brave laddie, with out a bit of hesitation he popped into the large opening and made his way down the stairs. He came to a wide cellar carved out in the rock with it rough walls decorated with whiten bones.
“The lad looked about the ill-furnished room and saw a man set on a rough stool with his huge head lying on a equally rough table with freshly chewed bones scattered on the surface. The creature was an awfully big man, of the gruesome kind called ogres, and he was gulping and snoring like a rusty saw.
“Brian was bit frozen in his stance and his thoughts rumbled through his mind, “What the devil of a place have I entered, and probably this ugly creature is a man-eater.” He trembled at the thought of his words.”
Suddenly Paddy stopped in his speechification and stared at his empty glass. The goodly gentlemen about him took the hint and a collection of pennies to the amount of a shilling was placed on the bar. Then, with a filled glass in his hand, Paddy repeated the ritual and continued in the spelling of the yarn.
“Brian, poor laddie, would of like to go away from this place, but before he was able to take one step, the ogre lifted his head and sniffed the air. A grimace of delight was on its fleshy lips and mutter loudly, “Me thinks I smell the tasty flesh of mortal man. But as he lifted his huge body, Brian had pulled out his dagger from its sheath without make a sound, and stole up to the ogre. Then with one swift stroke he pierced the eyes of the evil monster.
“The ogre sprang up in the misery of pain and he cursed horribly with the worded foulness of his mouth. He grouped about and he found he was unable see through his bloody orbs. “Misery, Misery, my sight is gone!” he called out as he searched for the attacker with his hands outstretched through the wide space of the cellar.
“Brian dodged the waving limbs and when the chance arouse he mounted the stairs with two jumps and off he ran from the hole, trying to get far away from ogre. But the ogre was quite familiar with his surroundings and he bounded after the youth. “
Paddy’s hands went this and that away, spilling a few drops of the black ale, as he spelled out his story energetically. All the time his gruff voice huffed and puffed breathlessly in the tone of the action.
“When the ogre was close on the heels of Brian, Yet no matter how the ogre ran he couldn’t catch up with the brave laddie. He stopped for a moment in the pursuit and
called out, ‘Misery, misery, to think a shrimp like you can make me suffer so! Wait a minute you miserable worm! Since you beat me fair an square and managed to best me, I’ll give you a memento to remember me.’
“As he called out these word, the ogre removed a jeweled ring from his index finger and flung in front of Brian. The diamonds, sapphires and rubies inlaid in the golden ring shone brilliantly in the eyes of the laddie. Brian, without a moment of thought, picked it up and placed it tightly on his index finger, which fitted perfectly by a touch of magic.
“But as soon as the sparkling ring was on Brian’s finger, the ogre called out, ‘Ring, ring where are you?” And the ring answered the beckoning command, ‘Here, here, I am here on the lad’s index finger. Then the ogre ran after the tinkling voice. Brian felt the breath of the creature upon his neck and jumped aside, but the terrible demon called out again, ‘Ring, ring where are you?’ and the ring answered, ‘here!’”
A chuckle arose from behind the bar as the barkeep remarked on the balderdash of a ring being able to sound out to its owner. But, Paddy ignored the remarks and carried on.
“So it went hour upon hour, until Brian was fagged out by the chase of the ogre. His only thought in his fair head was, “Well, he murders me and eats me flesh to the bone, he murders me! There be no sense in this chase where the end is known.”
“The laddie tried to pull off the jeweled ring as he ran, but no matter how he tugged and pulled the ring was stuck fast to his index finger and cutting deep into the white of his flesh. The orgre was fast on his heels as he heard the Brian’s panting breath together with the continuing call of the ring..
“Well, when the laddie saw he was at the end of his ropes, he decided to make a sacrifice to his being. He simply stretched out the index finger with its ring, and the ogre grabbed it and broke it off with one firm grip. Off ran Brian glad to be rid of the ogre, but pain and blood replaced the missing index finger. As he scampered away he screamed, ‘Misery, Misery!’”
A pregnant pause ensued as Paddy caught his breath upon the last breath. The working-stiffs were curled in their toes in expectation as they awaited the finality to the yarn. But the story teller was only staring at his empty mug for a few seconds before he called out, “Misery Misery’, me glass is empty of the bitters.”
Again the working stiff dug deeper into their pockets and came up coppers, bent and straight, to the tune of a shilling and placed on the bar. Paddy’s glass was filled and he carried on his gruff words after a sip of the black ale.
“Well, my boyos the end of my yarn. Listening carefully and ye will understand!”
“Brian ran through the many lands to his home in agony and pain. All the time crying out Misery, Misery and wailing like a banshee. He hardly rested his weary bones until he saw the portals of his majestic home and his dear father and mother.
“When he entered the path to the house they greeted him and consoled him of his Misery. There soothing words quieted him to a plaintive sobbing. ‘Now my boy,’ the father asked, ‘did you meet Misery?’
“’Indeed I did!’ the young man cried out!’ ‘I know what it is now. It gave me a run for my money. It was an awful thing, and there is no fooling with it.”
“But when Brian wanted to show the bloody spot of the missing index finger, he found to his surprise, his hand was whole again...
The silence of the salon was broken by the gruff voice of the barkeep. “A fine story told Paddy me boy. D’ye want a last glass of the bitter ale – on the house....”
Norman A. Rubin