First Draft: St Patrick's Day

I've been writing a lot, lately. And I like to share, even when I'm sharing ugly first drafts. Here's a little piece from a 'long short story' I've been working on. By all means, I'm willing to take feedback! -Dave

Colton once told me that our job is where dreams go to die. He’d point at an office door, and say “see, Pat? No kid ever wants to grow up to be an assistant secretary to the director.”

He had a point. We work in a giant government office that is mostly tied to processing the thousands of applications for security jobs in the province – because every rent-a-cop in every mall of British Columbia has to be thoroughly checked over by us before we let him earn near minimum wage hours chasing down tweaked-out shoplifters.

About a third of the staff here are former cops who some way or another mustered out, while another third are career pencil-pushers who forgot the meaning of “aspiration” about three seconds after they threw their tasselled hats into the air. The other third of us are the students who realized our fancy degrees were only useful as bargaining chips to get us into the doors for a mid-paying, high-benefit office job.

We had psych majors, anthropology majors, history majors, music majors, English majors, philosophy majors. A few people, such as myself, had double majors in equally useless fields (history and music). Basically, we got a degree, and then traded what we knew for a crash course in Excel, file maintenance, and FLEX days.

After my first six months of work, I was given my own office because the head of the department felt I needed one in which to do my own particular brand of work. On moving in, I hung a framed vinyl Japanese print of Pink Floyd’s Animals on the wall – you know, the one with the smokestacks and the flying pig in the air? – and the boss came in, took a long look at it, and said “I’m not really much of a Beatles fan.”

It is that type of place.

The office is more or less empty today, as it’s almost an hour before the main shift begins. Only a few of us – those on the lowest rung of the government ladder – start at the 7:45 shift instead of the more normal 8:30. Normally, this means Colton and I, as well as a few others who hide in the break room, have about half an hour of unscheduled “work” that usually turns into a bullshitting session, a frank sex discussion, or an extra-long coffee break. However, this morning, Sandra is there, hanging bright green tassels from the ceiling. From her step ladder perch, she can survey the entire office like a meercat on the top of its perch.

I catch Colton’s eyes from across the office. He gives a lopsided grin and shrugs, as if to say “what can you do?”

Sandra is the office enthusiast. She takes her election to the office “morale team” very seriously, and whenever there is a holiday, no matter how minor, she’s there to do her part. The fact that she was elected only because no one else ran for it is completely lost on her; in her mind, she is the only force that keeps the rest of the office from sliding down the long slope into despair and self destruction. Were it not for her office decorations and mandatory themed office lunches, we would quickly succumb to anarchy and suicide.

Last month, she even decorated the place for Martin Luther King Day. Mostly it was just leftover kwanza decorations, a dairy queen ice cream cake (black, with a picture of a basketball), and pictures of school busses (“Why school busses, Sandra?” “because he wouldn’t sit in the back of the bus” “That’s Rosa Parks” “Who?”). Being Victoria, about half a percent of the population is black. The one black guy in our office was mortified.

It was pretty funny.

“Sandra, what are you doing?” I ask, throwing my backpack into my office.

“It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, silly!” She has already swathed the office in green tinsel. It occurs to me that there must be companies that make Christmas decorations, and that they must find something to keep themselves busy the other eleven months out of the year. Sandra, and people like her, is what keep them from laying off their staff every January.

“You don’t say. You, um, bought a lot of decorations....”

“I know. Aren’t they the bees knees?”

Sandra is the only person still alive who still says “bees knees”. What’s sad is that she was born in the 1970s. She also says “gosh”, “fanny”, and “oh dear”. Oh, and if you don’t hate her already, her favourite musician is Taylor Swift and her favourite movie is Sixteen Candles.

“They’re definitely... something. Oh god. Are those green candy canes?”

“They are!” Sandra smiles widely.

Colton stands up and calls across the office. “Show Patrick the dancing leprechaun!”

“Ooh!” Sandra squeals, and bounces down from her step ladder. “Follow me.”

She leads me into the break room, which has been converted into a stock room for every St. Patrick’s Day decoration known to man: cardboard pots of gold, little golden chocolate coins, four leaf clover posters, more of those damned green candy canes, and green felt clovers. And there, in the middle of the room, is a statuette, about the size and general shape of a garden gnome. Except, this one is a leprechaun with fiery red hair and a creepy smile painted on.

His eyes bore into my soul.

“He dances.”

“He.... dances?” I say, staring into those eyes.

“Watch.” And Sandra claps her hands loudly. Suddenly, the leprechaun is doing the twist while fiddle music plays from a tinny speaker at its base.

“My god...”

“Isn’t it amazing?”

I shudder. “It should be a war crime, Sandra.”

“A... war crime?”

Colton comes up from behind us. He’s sucking on a candy cane. “Don’t listen to him, Sandy. Patrick is just grumpy because it’s his day and all.”

“You son of a...” I begin, but Sandra cuts me off.

“Your day? Oh, right! You’re Saint Patrick!”

“I am not...”

“But you have red hair. And you’re Irish.”

“My mom was born in Ireland. That doesn’t make me...”

“And your name is Patrick!”

“Yes, but I’m not Saint Patrick.”

“Well, no one’s calling you a saint.” Sandra says, and then giggles. I’ve heard this joke about five hundred times in my life. If you ever see me up on top of a tall building with a high powered sniper rifle, doing a little bit of “spring cleaning”, you now know why.


I hated the day growing up. Every year, my mother would get depressed because everyone would good naturedly make her the star of the show. And my mother hated attention, which made it worse.

Of course, I got a good chunk of it, too. Even in elementary school, teachers would point it out to the class. There’s a picture, somewhere in a family photo album, of me in the second grade. I’m dressed up as a leprechaun, with a fake red beard and an Abe Lincoln top hat that’s been painted green, standing on top of a chair. In the picture, I’m doing my best to hold a smile, but I remember about two seconds after the photo was taken, I burst into tears and then threw my hat Becky Williams.

I wish I could say that Saint Patrick’s Day got better at some point after the second grade, but that would be a lie. Even with the invention of alcohol (I should say “personal discovery of alcohol”, but it didn’t feel that way when I was sixteen), the day didn’t get any better. Usually, I’d just drink until I passed out, or threw a fist at the biggest asshole in the room, daring him to swing back. This didn’t help dispel the claims of my innate Irishness; I was known as “Fighting Irish” until I was twenty.

Yes, I know, it’s just a day. And really, why should I be upset over a bit of attention? Carrie once asked me this, and I couldn’t think of a good answer as to why I so hated a day that mostly just centred around drinking and good cheer. I mean, the lame jokes at my expense were annoying, but that’s it.

Eventually, I decided that I hated the day because it was so hypocritical. Every other day of the year, people would either ignore me, or make lame jokes at my expense. Being short and ginger-haired does not usually make someone popular, and it definitely didn’t for me, either. I grew up with people kicking me on “National Kick a Ginger Day”, telling me “Gingers have no soul”, and generally making jokes about my hair that always kept me at arms length. Hell, when I was nineteen, I went on a blind date where the woman took one look at me and said “I don’t date redheads” and walked out.

So that was the natural state of things. Fine. I could live with that.

But then, once a year, having red hair made me worthwhile, and people would try to make me the star of the show. And I just hated the sudden flip, because I knew that, come March 18th, it would be back to business as usual.


Colton volunteers my services to help hang up decorations, because “Pat’s got nothing better to do.”

Naturally, I volunteer Colton because “his judge said he needs to do some community service, and this counts”.

Sandra rolls her eyes and let us hang crap over the office. It’s not what people stereotypically think of as “the office” – there are no rows of self-contained cubicles. Instead, it almost harkens back to the 1950s, with rows of open desks and miniature offices that line the edges of an open workspace. Every desk is painstakingly individualized with personality-defining photographs of family, comic calendars, and vacation mementoes. It says something that despite this, each desk looks no different than the rest.

Colton and I make fun of each other for a bit, but then Colton starts on with the “St. Patrick” crap, and I get grumpy.

“You know, Patrick, you should be happy. You have your own day!” Sandra says, trying to cheer me up for God-Knows-Why. Even I’m not too happy with myself right now, and if I think I’m being a bit of a twat, who knows what everyone else must be thinking?

“Trust me. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

“You seem to be a glass half empty sort of guy.”

“Thanks, Sandra. I’ll keep that in mind.”

“The glass is half full, Patrick. Half full. Life’s great.” She smiles at me, holding a shamrock with silver glitter text exhorting ‘Have a Safe Saint Patrick’s Day!’

“Sandra, it all depends on context.”


“The glass. It’s all about context. That ‘half empty, half full’ stuff is all about context. The glass is only half full if it went from being empty and you filled it up halfway. If you had a full glass and drank half of it, it’d be half empty. So, whether someone thinks the glass is half empty or half full has absolutely nothing to do about their world view, and all about whether or not they assumed the glass was full or empty to begin with.”

Sandra’s face falls a little bit. “I, um, guess you’re right....”

“I am. And why are you hanging up all this shit, anyway? You’re just going to take it all down tomorrow.”

I realize I’m the douchebag in this situation. Every damn year, it gets worse. Leprechauns and shamrocks in the morning, drunken assholes in the night.

And now, fucking green candy canes.

“I like the day. I don’t care what you think. I wish there was a ‘St. Sandra Day’. Could you imagine?”

Colton snickers. I laugh, and forget that Sandra is not Colton. “Yeah. We’d all exchange staplers and sing about our twelve cats. The day would end at 8:30 pm. And the theme song would be ‘Silent Night’.”

Sandra starts crying, and I feel like even more of an asshole.

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