Iarlaith and the Apricot Brandy | Eckhard Gerdes

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Iarlaith was sitting in the bar when he noticed the woman next to him was ordering apricot brandy.

“What’ll you have, Iarlaith?” asked the bartender after serving the woman.

“Iarlaith?” said the woman. “That’s an unusual name. How do you spell it?”

“A pint of Guinness, please,” said Iarlaith to the bartender. Then he turned to the woman. “I-a-r-l-a-i-t-h,” he obliged.

“I thought so, but why do you pronounce it that way? I have seen the name before, but I thought it was pronounced, ‘EAR-lah.’”

“No, that’s the way my father and mother pronounced it in their Gaelic brogue. My classmates couldn’t say it right. Having a weird name was hard enough, but expecting the idiots I went to school with to pronounce it the old way would have been silly.”

“So how do you pronounce it again?”

“‘YAR-layth.’ The way it looks.”

“You shouldn’t run scared of the right pronunciation,” said the woman.

“You shouldn’t drink apricot brandy,” said Iarlaith, and he took his pint and moved to a seat at the window rail.

Apricot brandy! Blecch! He remembered apricot brandy.

When he’d been a young man, only married a handful of years, he’d gone on a camping trip with his wife, Barb (she whose tongue was as sharp as her name), and their son, Marco, just a toddler at the time. That was back in the days of the belief in freedom, and Iarlaith had worn his hair long and had a large beard at the time.

They needed some supplies from the local town, a rural community built on a North Woods lake. It was a small place, only a couple of thousand residents, and they had a general store for sundries. Iarlaith, Barb, and Marco entered the store under the announcement of a shopkeeper’s bell. They were going to pick up a few items, but what Iarlaith really needed was aspirin. Iarlaith had an enormous headache from hearing Barb yell at him all morning for one thing or another. Barb had also insisted that they get some lens cleaner paper because her glasses kept getting smeary. He also thought he’d get a little toy car or something for Marco, who’d been behaving very nicely on the trip.

The shopkeeper, a 300-year-old woman, stopped Iarlaith in his tracks. She stepped right in front of him, gave him the once-over, and said, “I guess you’re looking for apricot brandy. We don’t sell that.”

That was much too abrupt a non-sequitur for Iarlaith to take in all at once. What was she implying? Did she think he looked like an alcoholic because he had long hair? That didn’t even make sense.

“Actually, all I need is aspirin and lens cleaner paper,” he said, a bit defensively. He didn’t want to mention the toy because he didn’t want to disappoint Marco if the store didn’t sell toys.

The shopkeeper made a pffft sound of disapproval. As soon as Barb sensed the scorn of the shopkeeper, she grabbed Marco’s hand and told Iarlaith, “We’re going to wait outside. Hurry up.”

“We don’t sell lens cleaning supplies,” said the old woman. “You’d have to go to Dieckman Optical for that. And we don’t have aspirin pills, either. We only sell Goody’s Powders.”

“Never mind,” he said. “But I hope you have plenty of adult diapers to match the way you express yourself,” he said, and he left the store.

From the sidewalk, he saw Barb driving off with Marco in the car. The windows were rolled down, and he heard Marco yelling, “But Daddy loves us!”

That’s why Iarlaith hated apricot brandy.

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