Weekly Shorts

Story of the Week

The title of this week’s story is …

The Luck of the Irish

By Brenda Short

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


Aoife was putting the final touches to the project that had taken her the best part of the week to complete.  The deadline was today and she really wanted to hand it in to her boss, and leave early, because she had a date with a mysterious leprechaun and a glass of green beer.

The leprechaun was the tall and handsome next-door neighbour, and he had collared Aoife the day before at the row of garbage cans of all places, asking her if she would like to accompany him, and his group of friends, to a local bar for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  So, after she had picked her chin up off the ground, she stammered her acceptance, agreeing to meet him back at the garbage cans (his joke) this evening.  She had to find something appropriate to wear and catch up on her grooming rituals…pluck eyebrows…shave legs, etc. 

Should she wear her hair up or down?  She played with different styles, but either way, she wasn’t happy with the results.  She finally settled for a compromise.  She braided the top half of her hair and wound it around her head, leaving tiny, wispy curls at her temples, and the rest cascading down onto her shoulders.  This would work she decided, and so now all she had to figure out, was what dress would impress him, without appearing needy, or slutty.  After all, first impressions set the tone of the evening. 

She liked him, more than liked him.  But what was not to like; at first glance, he was the perfect man, but looks could be deceiving, and she didn’t want to give him an unintended invitation.

So, she finally chose a slinky, shiny blouse that flowed from her shoulders and ended just under her bottom, and paired this with a gold chain, hip belt, black leggings and stilettos.  The blouse settled on her curves in all the right places but floated around her seductively as she moved.  Minimal makeup and lip gloss perfected the look she was aiming for…that of innocent seductress. 

She was ready on time and at the appointed hour, was waiting by the garbage cans, but he didn’t appear.  He better not be playing a joke on her, she thought, already planning different forms of revenge, that included the use of garbage. 

Just as she was beginning to regret this whole evening before it began, he drove up in a vintage roadster and got out to open the door for her.  He handed her into the car, stopping for a moment to kiss her knuckles, sending shivers up her spine.  He drove fast, handling the car like an expert, arriving at the bar minutes later.  The bar was only a two-minute walk away, but he had driven several blocks and back again, before parking the car.  Aoife wondered why he had done this. 

“Was this meant to impress me?  Or are you not quite…maybe a little…in other words, should I be worried?  I don’t even know your name yet,” she blurted out.

“Sorry, my name is Rory.  I should have explained.  I’m thinking of buying the car from one of my friends.  He’ll be here tonight, so you’ll meet him, and we’ll probably be walking home, but it’s only a short walk after all,” he explained, his eyes twinkling.

His story sounded plausible in his Irish accent, and Aoife began to wonder if he really was an oversized leprechaun.  A lively Irish jig assailed their ears as they walked into the bar.  There was a happy crowd over in the corner, occupying two tables, and they called out to Rory as he guided Aoife towards them.  There were three couples at the tables, and the men in the group looked Aoife over admiringly, as one of them stood up and went off to order more drinks. 

“What’s your name darlin’,” said one of the group.

“Aoife,” she said as the other women made room for her.

“A real Irish Rose,” said another, and everyone laughed.

The beer flowed and the band played on as the crowd joined in, with all of the usual jigs and ballads.  Sometimes the odd couple would get up and dance, if the mood took them, although there was very little room for jigging.  At one point in the evening, the speaker system began to spark.  The band stopped playing and they fiddled with the equipment for a minute or two, then started up again. 

Suddenly, without warning, there was an explosion, and the speaker at the front of the stage burst into flames.  In mere moments, the flames were reaching the ceiling and igniting the decorations that were hanging there.  Women were screaming and everyone was trying to reach the front door, but there were tables and chairs in the way.  The bar filled with black smoke and at this point, people were choking on the acrid fumes and falling over each other.

Rory was trying to make his way to the fire escape.  He had a firm hold of Aoife’s wrist and was dragging her with him.  There were chairs upturned and glasses smashed on the floor, making it difficult to navigate, but the flames were illuminating the room, even through the thick smoke.  Aoife stumbled twice, then went over on her ankle.

“Damned shoes!  I can’t make it.  You go on,” she said bravely, knowing that she couldn’t walk at this point.

“Never!  Leave you?  Are you crazy?” Rory called out, swinging her over his shoulder and carrying her to the fire escape.

In a moment, they were outside.  He sat her on the sidewalk, kissed the top of her head, then turned around, and went back inside.  Aoife could hear the sirens of the fire trucks and knew they were almost there, but where was Rory. 

“Please, dear God, don’t let him be trapped in there,” she cried, just as he reappeared with another woman over his shoulder and a man, hanging onto his belt. 

He sat them down beside Aoife and went in again, but this time, he didn’t come back out.  Minutes passed and the fire department seemed to be gaining control of the inferno, but still no Rory.  She was put in an ambulance, along with the other couple, all fitted with oxygen masks, and taken to the emergency department at the local hospital. 

Aoife was devastated.  What had happened to Rory?  She asked everyone…doctors, nurses, orderlies, and other patients too.  She would have to wait, they told her.  They would have information for her soon.  Just when she had come to realize how much he meant to her in the short time that they had been together, and that he might not have made it out alive, someone spoke to her.

“There she is!  My little Irish rose” said a familiar voice.

“Rory!” she said, laughing and crying all at once.  “You’re alive!”

“I am,” he confirmed, “but I think we’ll have to walk home.  I’ve drunk too much beer to drive that beast of a car.”

Rory was a fireman, and his instincts taught him to be aware at all times of where the escape routes were in a building.  Because of this, once he had made sure that Aoife was safe, he made his way back inside and rescued a total of five people. He had second-degree burns to his arms and hands, but he put that down to the risks of the job.

Unfortunately, one of the revellers perished from smoke inhalation.  He was trying to escape through the kitchen and became trapped there by the thick smoke.  He wasn’t found until it was too late.  The fire was attributed to faulty wiring in the speaker system and of course, there were too many people in the bar at the time. There could have been many more deaths, but it was St. Patrick’s Day, so was this the luck of the Irish? 

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Engaging story with vivid cinematic descriptions!
And an ambivalent ending – not everyone is lucky…Robert O

Oh my goodness Brenda!  Wasn’t expecting that turn of events. Well done!  Loved your clear description and your crisp, unpretentious word usage…something I have always thought you do well! Connie M.

Love the story. It was nice to reread it over and over again…Dian B