Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The (mostly) true story of Saint Patrick

I'm gonna take a break from the McClawenstein thing we got goin on here for just today. Now, y'all know I can't let you get past St. Patrick's Day with a name like Patrick O'Neil without tellin ya my family story. We got an old tradition in the O'Neil family that the real story of St. Patrick gets passed down, father to son, generation after generation. But, bein the group of storytellers we are, each new generation adds a little somethin new to it, but we'll all swear that it's the complete truth learned at our pappy's knee when we was waist high to a centipede. So now, sit back, relax, maybe open a dark beer or a bottle of somethin brown, and read the real story of St. Patrick.

Back in the early 400s, civilization was much different than we imagine it to be. They was all flyin cars and nuclear power to run everything. You may be askin why we don't have any evidence of this. Well, that's because you're just a picky story listener and can't enjoy a story for what it is. I'm sorry, I get carried away sometimes. I don't mean to accuse you for doin somethin I think you're thinkin, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt this time, but in the future, you better watch yerself, buster. It turns out that science in the 300s was so advanced that everything was made out of biodegradable materials, so they didn't leave any flying car waste behind. At the time, there were also machines that people put on their heads that would tell you everything you need to know, which is why there's no written record of the time, either.

One Wednesday afternoon, at about 2:30, the O'Donaghy clan was meeting together in their flying sky castle, attempting to convert the earth's magnetic field into energy. They were very involved in magnetism in those days, and they had made a lot of progress turning magnetic fields into other stuff; teddy bears, mercury, little pink cupcakes with names written on them; but they had yet to make the energy breakthrough. They were distracted in their work and had the flying castle on autopilot, so no one was at the helm when they crashed into the mountain they now call K2. They hit that mountain with such force that it was shoved all the way out of Ireland and into China, which was just off the coast of Ireland at the time because it hadn't yet been moved by the Cabal of Black Magic in punishment for revealing their secrets, so it wasn't really that far away, but it was pretty far. I tell ya, you'd expect people to be upset with mountains gliding all over the landscape and knockin stuff over, but you'd be wrong because everyone at the time owned flying castles, flying villas and various other kinds of airborne dwellings. No, what they noticed most was that, when the O'Donaghy clan crashed, they discovered the missing ingredient in their quest to turn magnetic fields into energy was screams of sheer terror. They must have hit just the right resonance because that castle released so much energy that it shorted out the engines of all the other flying castles, which came crashing to the ground and there they've stayed ever since. If you go to Ireland, you can sometimes go under the castles and, if you dig in just the right spot and the tour guide doesn't come by to ask you what you're doing with a shovel in the basement of this old castle and you explain this story to him so he makes you go upstairs and lie down, then you can peel away some of the brick and see where the engines are. I tried it myself once, but I had this run in with a tour guide, so I haven't confirmed it with my own eyes, but my pappy says he learned it from my grandpappy when he was just a wee lad, so it must be true.

While having a few dozen flying castles crash to the ground made for a bad day, the people realized the situatuion was dire when they found out the massive release of energy changed the genetic structure of the most populous animal in Ireland, the snake, turning them into giant, mutated, poisonous, irritated, flying space snakes! Each of these space snakes was capable of flying to distant planets, which a few of them did. The ones who were left behind stayed because they were lazy. They saw the fun the other snakes were having on those other planets, but they didn't feel like making the six minute trip, so they just stayed in Ireland and drank. The more they drank, the smaller their wings became until they were no longer able to leave the planet. They still saw their former friends and family rollicking on other planets and this made them surly. They tried to drink the surly away and it became a cycle. After a hundred years of this, their surliness reached new heights and they decided, being big, strong space snakes, they would rule Ireland with an iron fist.

They cowed the population, forcing them to move their attention away from science and to making peat bogs, which is where space snakes go to relax. The entire population of Ireland was set to work digging holes and filling them with moss so that the snakes could have their jacuzzi. If anyone resisted, complained or stopped talking about how great the snakes were, the new kings of the land would curl around that person and crush them to death. It was a bleak time for Ireland. They began to behave as their masters and become drunk and surly themselves. When they were not working, they drank. The drink made them angrier at the snakes, but they were powerless to do anything against their masters, so they released their anger on each other. Things became ever more strained among the population of Ireland until it looked like the country was set to break into a clan war. Then, a nine year old girl named Brandi O'Neil got on her knees and prayed at the church for salvation.

God heard little Erin's prayer and turned to His chosen savior of Ireland; Patrick. As a youth, Patrick had taken his religious orders, but was unsatisfied with the monastic life, which he saw as too easy and soft. He became a wandering monk for a period of years, trying new and more severe forms of religious dedication. He walked everywhere with broken glass in his shoe for 3 months and, when that wasn't enough, he carved lemons into shoes and filled those with broken glass. As he travelled, he began to hear stories of the most severe group of monks, but he could never find them. He searched far and wide. He asked about the Nameless Order at every monastery he went to, but no one would tell him a thing. Finally, he wrote to the Roman Emperor Constantine, who was the first Christian Emperor and had cemented his place as a holy man by calling together the Council of Nicea, to ask for help. Constantine wrote back to tell Patrick that he, as emperor, could not reveal the location of the Nameless Order, but, if Patrick wished to have his plea heard, he must go to the shore and pray long and hard, perhaps God would hear him.

Patrick set out at once to the sea shore. He prayed nine days and nights in front of the waves, moving not for food, water or any other reason. At sunset of the ninth day, Patrick finally ended his plea to God and crossed himself. As he finished, he saw a figure, a man clad in seaweed and carrying a cross made out of coral, rise from the sea to speak with him.

"Patrick," said the man, "God has heard your prayer and seen your dedication and has told me to admit you."

Then and there, the man revealed the secrets of the Nameless Order. The Order only ever consisted of two people; one the master and one the apprentice. They lived under the water, coming up for breath only once a year. The rest of the time they spent in silent prayer while riding the under-ocean currents around the world. It was their job to wait for a signal from God, when they would be called in under the worst circumstances to set things right.

Following young Brandi's plea for help, God called Patrick from his undersea prayer to defend Ireland from the snakes. He awoke instantly from his prayer, hearing the voice of God tell him what he must do. So he swam to Ireland and climbed up on the shore. He yelled out in a voice that echoed through all of Europe, "I am Patrick, chosen by God to drive the snakes out of Ireland!"

The snakes, hearing this challenge, just laughed at him. They gathered near the sea shore to watch this pitiful human. They were confident that their weakest member, Schlogtoff, could devour Patrick whole, so they sent him to the future Saint first. As the snake crawled it way onto the beach, Patrick addressed it. "I am Patrick," he said again, like they didn't hear him the first time, "and I have come to challenge you in open combat. State your name and tell me if you will accept my challenge."

The snake growled, "I am Schlogtoff, devour of mortals, destroyer of hope, enjoyer of peat bogs, and I will gladly accept your challenge, tiny human."

"Then we will fight," Patrick stated quietly.

Schlogtoff laughed and reared up, his front half towering 300 feet in the sky. Patrick made no move as if he were fighting. He only looked the snake in the eye. Then Schlogtoff whipped his upper body to the ground, trying to crush the holy man. Patrick stood until Schlogtoff was within arm's reach, then he struck. His punch flew faster than a bowling ball of a slip and slide covered with bacon grease. Before the snake knew it, he had been punched so hard that his body turned inwards on itself, his face touching the inside of his tail. As he lay there struggling, Patrick picked him up and threw him into the sun.

The snakes were in shock. They stood, watching their friend devoured by the sun, until one of them snapped out of it and yelled, "Get him, guys!"

After that, it was all arms and scales and feet and teeth. The snakes tried every trick they could think of, but Patrick was always ahead of them. He used them as whips to drive other snakes back. He would tie them in knots and throw them at distant stars. One group of eight, he actually weaved into a hot pad that is still being used by a giant space emu in the alpha centauri region. In the end, Patrick stood alone on the beach, not harmed in any way or even breathing hard.

The people of Ireland cheered for him and offered him kingship over their country. They even offered Brandi as his wife, since she was seen as holier than others. Patrick looked into the little girl's eyes and told her, "Brandi, you're a fine girl, what a good wife you would be. But my life, my love, and my lady, is the sea."

Then, he turned and strode into the waves to pray in the ocean. He, or another member of the Nameless Order, still waits out there to defend our world should he be called by God.

That's the story of St. Patrick just as I heard it from my father and his father before him. Just ask, they'll swear it's all true. Happy St. Patrick's day.