Paul Greenberg

"Bankruptcy," replied Mr. Riley. "Whattya take me fir, th' average American taxpayer? 'Tis aisy enough for you to come up with such grand opportunyties fir me, havin' no hard cash iv your own, but me, the onny way I can eke out what congressmen call an honorarium, meanin' there's little enough honor in it, is to dilute me merchandyze, an' now you'd divest me of what little stock I've left by parchasin' it with me own money. Have ye no shame?"

"No, I'm a Dimmycrat," replied Mr. Hennessey proudly. "Shame is fir Raypublicans. But I'd think even your hard cold heart would relent just one day a year to offer one iv yer oldhest friends and constant debtors a bit of bottled cheer on Saint Paddy's Day. Ye have heard tell of Saint Patrick, haven't ye? Or did word of 'im nivir get to Cork?

"If I was from County Mayo, I wouldn't be puttin' on airs," said Mr. Riley. "Of course I've heard of Saint Patrick! He's th' Frenchman who left Ireland so poor that not even a snake could live there."

"Joke about annythin' you like," said Hennessey, looking less than amused and eyeing the ornamental Shillelagh mounted on the wall. "But not about Saint Patrick. Or else...."

"Or else what? Ye'll take yer bad debts elsewhere? I've been sarvin' free dhrinks to th' likes of you fir nigh onto twanty years now, and I've nawthin' to show fir it but the bad company. The closest I've ivir come to seein' any green is on the free lunch."

"Well," said Hennessey, "thank th' Lord fir the color of it annyway, as Mrs. Muldoon said when she heard her sister-in-law had the gangrene."

"The problem with Saint Patrick's Day," said Mr. Riley, "is payple like you, Hinnissey, who feel a solemn oblygation t'be happy. But ye can't ordher somewan else t'be happy. Happiness isn't a command but a condytion. It usually arrives whin ye're caught up in sawmthin' else, like a poker game or a fistfight. 'Tis better t' stick with tragedy. It delivers what it promises. 'Tis a great cawmfort, tragedy. It takes your mind off yer troubles. 'Tis an art, tragedy is. Happiness is only a craft, like makin' sweaters or writin' fir the noospapers. Takes no real talent a-tall."

"Very well," said Hennessey. "Be sad then. Show the worrld what ye think of yer hurtage. Be as gloomy as a Protystant Sunday. Save yer sillybratin' fir th' Queen's Birthday fir all I care."

"Wait a blessed minute," said Mr. Riley, pouring out two shots of the house's best. "Don't be tellin' an Irishman whin t'be happy or sad. Not on his own premises. Not on th' day when th' whole wurrld is Irish -- or wishes it was. Yer credhit's no good here. Ye'll have to dhrink op free of charge. Erin go Bragh!"

"And E Pluribus Unum to you," toasted Hennessey in return. "Which I think means: From many to Irish!"


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.