Johnny picked up on the shiver. "Hey, let's go below. It's warmer down there." He helped me to stand up and climb down the companionway, steep enough that it was more like a ladder than steps, and he motioned to me to take a seat on the settee. The inside of the boat was much like the outside, generally well constructed, but in need of cleaning; the wood paneling was grimy, there was a pile of dirty dishes in the galley, and the place smelled of mildew, sweaty socks, and, over all ... was that cabbage? At least it was indeed warmer in the cabin, and Johnny turned on a small wall-mounted lamp whose yellow glow seemed to warm the place even more.
Johnny sat down beside me, once again stretching that arm across my shoulders. "So then the leprechaun says, 'Well, ye caught me, fair and square. Ye'll be wantin' me pot o' gold, now, won't ye?' And I says, 'First things first. I'm hungry.' And I served myself up that cabbage, and wouldn't you know, it's the best food I ever had in my life."
"You're telling me that you had a chance at a pot of gold, and you took a pot of cabbage instead?" This was all beginning to seem a little unreal. I wondered whether there might have been something else in the brandy ... but then, probably all the alcohol was enough to give me the sort of dream feeling. I could tell my mind was beginning to wander in a hazy way.
"Now, I didn't say that, did I?" Johnny took a sip of brandy and set the bottle down on the table in front of the settee. "You see, I still had the little guy all tied up, and I knew that I could make him give me the gold before I would untie him. So after I finish the cabbage, I says, 'Now I want that gold, and I want you to tell me how to get to my boat,' and I wave the sh-, uh, the club, over his head, and he says, 'Ye don't be needin' to threaten me. I'll give ye the gold, and yer boat is not too far away at all, at all. 'Tis just a wee bit north o' here, right where ye left it.'
"So then I go to the back room, and I get the pot of gold, and that's when I realize why it's so little ? it weighs a ton. If it were any bigger, I couldn't of lifted it. I brought the gold out to the front cave, and then the little guy -- really helpful bugger, says, 'Ye'll be wantin' yer dinghy, too, won't ye? I've a dolly underneath it, so ye can roll it to the beach.' Here I am, about to walk away with his pot of gold, and he's making everything easy for me. I couldn't figure out what he was about."
"Maybe there's something about being tied up that makes a leprechaun especially eager to please," I said, leaning a bit closer to Johnny and reaching up a finger to twirl a lock of hair that curled down over his forehead. "Or maybe he just couldn't resist your boyish charm." Now where had that comment come from? The word "flirt" isn't in my vocabulary -- or at least, it hadn't been until that night. I just don't do that sort of thing. That brandy was really hitting hard.
"I wasn't being all that charming then," Johnny said, taking my hand in his free hand. "Maybe it was something about being tied up. But I went back and found the dolly, and I got it and the dinghy out to the front cave -- it was a tight squeeze, all right -- and then I put the dinghy on the dolly and the gold in the dinghy. Just before I left, I untied the leprechaun, and he says, 'Yer motors'll be runnin' all right now. Best o' luck to ye.' And then he tips his hat, and he's gone. Just like that." Johnny dropped my hand to snap his fingers in the air.
"Just like that."
"Yeah, just like that," Johnny repeated, placing his hand on top of mine, on my knee. "So I took the dinghy and the gold and went north along the beach, and there's my boat, right where the little guy said it would be, and when I put the dinghy in the water, the motor started right up, and I got the gold to the boat, no problem. Next morning, I weighed anchor and motored out of the cove as if nothing had happened, and then I had fair winds all the rest of the journey, so I didn't even need the motor all that much."
"So if you ended up with the gold, how come you're broke now?" I asked.
"Well, that's the thing," Johnny said, scratching his head. "I'm not really broke, because I still have the gold. But it's weird. It won't let me let go of it. I took one of the coins to an antique dealer, to sell it, and he looks at it and says it's really special, Spanish or something, like, sixteenth century, I don't remember exactly what, but it's worth six thousand dollars. Just that one coin, six thousand dollars, and there's a couple hundred in the pot. So I'm, like, a millionaire if I just sell these things. So then I pick up the coin to offer it to the dealer, and it, like, got stuck to my hand. I tried to drop it, and it wouldn't fall. I put it in my pocket, and then I could let go of it, but then when I tried to take it out again, it stuck in the corner of the pocket. By this time, the dealer's looking at me really funny, and I'm getting worried he might think I stole the coin or something, and I don't want to have anything to do with the cops, so I walk out of the place. Then when I got back here, the coin was perfectly normal -- I could pick it up, put it down, no problem."
"So you need to have somebody else pick up the gold when you sell it."
"I thought about that. I have a friend who has a friend who handles special sales -- wouldn't be able to pay me full retail, but at least I'd get something."
"Well, yeah, I guess you could call him that. Anyways, I had him come over to look at the stuff, but before he could see it, he fell down the companionway and broke his leg. And then when the paramedics were working on splinting him up and hauling him out of here, one of them noticed a couple of the coins that I had out here on the table, and he started to ask me something, and then he keels over with a heart attack."
"So you had a fence with a broken leg, and also a dead paramedic in here?" I looked around the cramped cabin. "It must have been pretty crowded."
"Oh, the paramedic wasn't dead," Johnny said. "But that did mean that there were two more paramedics in here to take care of him, so it really did get crowded. One of the new guys leaned on the table, but not for long ? he put his hand on one of the coins, and it burned him, left a nasty red mark on the palm of his hand."
"So you still weren't able to sell the gold."
"As time went on, I was getting frustrated. You know, it's really aggravating when you have something that's worth so much money, and you can't get the money because you're stuck. I mean, I had bills to pay, and I really could use the money that gold was worth. It was completely driving me nuts. Then finally I decided the hell with it, I was just going to throw the gold in the ocean, get rid of it once and for all. No more gold, no more frustration."
"You were going to get rid of a million dollars' worth of gold?"
"It got to the point where I just felt like I had to." Johnny shivered, just an instant. "It was eating me and eating me and eating me up. It got so I couldn't think about anything else. Couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't fu-, uh, have fun with women. So I go out in the boat, a long ways from shore, and I take the pot, so's I can heave it overboard, let some scuba diver pick up the curse as treasure trove."
"So that's why you're broke -- you don't have the gold any more."
"No, not at all. I got the pot out to the cockpit, and then the handle broke. So then I tried to pick the pot up by getting my arm underneath it, but it's turned really heavy, so I can't budge it. So then I decided I was going to drop the coins overboard one by one, but like when I went to the dealer, the coin stuck to my hand and wouldn't let go. I tried throwing it, and I ended up dislocating my shoulder."
"I think I get the picture," I said. "That gold is cursed. Of course, that means you can't show it to me, either, right? Nice way to end the story, without any proof any of it happened."