It was St. Patrick’s Day, and Dennis Skylar was meeting his dad at their usual watering hole in Hell’s Kitchen. Neither ever got used to calling it Chelsea after the city fixed it up, and Rory’s was still the same. In their opinion Rory’s was the best Irish bar in New York City, or at least Manhattan.
Rory’s had that certain feel to it, with its oak and walnut finished bar, furniture, floor, and walls featuring shiny brass fixtures, taps displaying the array of the best Irish beers available. Pictures hung proudly upon the walls were of the local celebrities that frequented Rory’s from time to time, mostly cops and firemen. The food offerings weren’t just Irish though, included in the menu were also Scottish and English meals, so if you chose to have haggis instead of fish and chips or corned beef and cabbage, you had the option.
The atmosphere at Rory’s was typical neighborhood bar, although the place used to be a fire station in the 1930s. Situated on 11th Ave. and E 44th St across the street from Fragile Contents, a shop featuring fine China and another Irish import, Waterford Crystal. The clientele at Rory’s is special, cops, firemen, Irish mobsters, Italian mobsters, Wall Street traders, models, actors, and other types all in one spot, sharing drinks and stories.
Stories were the unofficial product of the place, as everyone had one, and you couldn’t find a better audience than the crowd at Rory’s. The occasional Open Mic Night allowed for singers or poets to share their creations, but it was mainly the life stories of a person shared over a whiskey or beer. Rory, not the original Rory, more like the fourteenth in his family line, would tell you that Rory’s has always been about the stories, no matter if it was the original Rory’s in Ireland, the one in Carson City, Nevada, or the one right there in New York City. He says that the place itself thrives on the stories, keeping it healthy and prosperous through Prohibition, the Great Depression, and the aftermath of 9/11.
Dennis and his dad weren’t Irish, but liked Rory’s as a place to spend time together. Dennis was a cab driver, and his dad who lived right around the corner from Rory’s was a retired Korean War veteran. Usually his dad would avoid telling war stories; unless he was talking to someone he trusted enough to share with.
Dennis parked his cab and went in. As soon as he got through the door, he ran into one of the regulars, a Vietnamese/ Thai girl by way of California named A Hah. She was constantly teased about her name or asked about it at the very least, but she always ignored it. Dennis and A had dated once, and although there just wasn’t a spark there, remained friends and close enough that some assumed they were still together. He didn’t get the chance to say hi before she planted a kiss on his lips, something she still liked to do to keep him guessing.
“Hi Denny, I’ve got to go, I have an early morning. Your dad is at the bar.” A told him before heading out into the world.
“Same old A, exciting the Hell out of me, and walking away.” he muttered to himself.
Turning back around he couldn’t help but notice Katherine Swift getting to know a new face to Rory’s. The man was clearly a Wall Street guy, but didn’t know that Katherine was the resident gold digger. It wasn’t that she was a bad person, but she just felt that her survival depended on being with a man with money. She at least considered marrying the men she pursued instead of just using them. Her biggest regret was that Donald Trump had chosen Melania over her. Katherine waved to Dennis, and he returned it on his way to his dad.
His dad was sitting at the bar talking to Rory, and already had a beer in front of him. As he approached his dad, Rory motioned to him inquiring if he wanted a beer, Dennis gave him a thumbs up to the beer, and Rory got him a pint of Guinness.
“Thanks Rory. How have you been?” Dennis asked.
“Just fine Denny. Your dad has been keeping me entertained.” Rory said, with hardly a hint of his Irish accent.
“Hey dad.” Dennis said.
“Dennis. How was work?” his dad asked.
“Fine dad. We can’t all be retired.” he replied.
His father, a Korean War veteran and former FDNY Chief looked up at him with eyes that still held that combat alertness to them, and a smile that showed a man contented with how his life turned out. His hair was fully white these days, betraying not a hint of the black hair he had in his youth. He was rounder in the middle than he used to be, but he didn’t mind if his wife didn’t. There on his work scarred left hand, amid the age spots, was the wedding ring, his most prized possession. John Skylar was happy with his life.
He sat down and listened as his dad finished telling Rory the story of what happened when he was a cadet at West Point, before the war. It was 1950 and Richard Colvin Cox, aged twenty, a second-year military cadet, disappeared from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Cox was from Mansfield, Ohio, and had already been serving in the Sixth Constabulary Regiment of the Army in Coburg, Germany in the S-2 Section. There was also a mysterious Army official named George there when Cox had received his commission to West Point in 1947. On 7 Jan 1950 at 1645 hours, on a Saturday the Charge of Quarters for Cadet Company B-2 Peter Harris took an incoming call for Cox.
Harris described the caller as rough and somewhat insulting, and after being told that Cox was not in his room, left a message for Cox to meet him at the hotel, saying that his name was George and that had served in Germany together. Later Cox received the massage and signed out for dinner off-campus. He met “George” and sat in the visitor’s car drinking whiskey.
Cox returned and altered the time in the departure book from 1923 to 1823 to make it appear as though he had attended the 1830 cadet dinner formation, and then returned to his room, took a shower, and then a nap. The fraudulent time change in the book was not discovered for two years, as if it had Cox would have been charged with violating the Cadet Honor Code, and expelled.
Cox admitted the drinking to his roommates, and the next day “George” returned. During the next few days Dick Cox mentioned his visitor frequently, but never by name. He stated that his friend was a former Ranger, who liked to brag about having killed Germans during the war, even saying that he would cut off their private parts afterwards. His friend even bragged about having gotten a German girl pregnant, and killing her to keep her from having the child. At about 1800 hours on Saturday 14 Jan 1950, Cox left the grounds with “George”, and vanished without a trace.
“Wow, I wonder what finally became of him, and the mysterious “George”. Good story.” Rory said, before going to help Kelly, the barmaid, who was busty fending off the advances of a few firemen.
As they sat in the brief silence between his dad’s story and the next, Dennis overheard Charlie talking about his latest comic book A 1-2 Punch, in which his superhero The Puncher debuts by saving the city from a giant alien hamster. He also overheard Mr. Kelvin talking to Mr. Morris about the Hindenburg disaster that happened on 6 May 1937.
Dennis and John ordered dinner to go with their beer, selecting corned beef and cabbage for Dennis, and shepherd’s pie for John. Rory’s other bartender Michael finally made it in. Being late to Rory’s was excusable, only if you had a good story to go with your reason. Rory came back over with their food and stuck around for another story.
“So dad, its St. Patrick’s Day, do you have a St. Patrick’s story?” Dennis asked his father.
“Oh yeah, yeah I do.” John Skylar said, a big smile forming on his face.
John was about to tell it when there was a commotion at one of the booths, apparently a few of the detectives were being called back to work. Kelly stopped one of them on the way out, of course for the story. It seemed that some tourist had been done in by a thug. Once the bar settled back down, John finished a mouthful of his shepherd’s pie, and washed it down with his beer. Dennis and Rory waited patiently for the start of the story.
“I was a young lieutenant after West Point, and found myself in Korea in 1952. My unit found ourselves farther north than we expected while moving through a storm. Turns out we were about seven miles south of Pyongyang. When things cleared on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day, we came out of a tree line and were immediately fired upon. The entire company hit the dirt, and we soon figured out that a battalion sized element was dug in on the side of a hill.” John started.
“We returned fire and found positions of our own. I took up a position behind a mound and a fallen tree. Suddenly a rather small figure took cover besides me. As small as he was, at first I thought he was one of the North Koreans, but he was wearing our uniform.” John continued.
“The top of the morning to you.” the small soldier said in a thick Irish accent.
“Yeah, top of the morning to you too.” John had replied.
“And the rest of the day to you.” The little guy said in return.
“I’ve never seen you before. What platoon are you in?” John asked.
“First Platoon sir.” said the little guy.
“This is Third Platoon. How did you get over here?” John asked.
“Lt. Jablonski asked me to pop over and see if you had any idea where we are at? Then the shooting started.” was the answer.
Machine gun fire ripped into the mound before them. Thankfully they were too close for the enemy to lob mortars on them.
“O’Rourke sir. Patrick O’Rourke, Patty to me friends, but you can call me Private if it suits ye.” the small soldier said, announcing himself.
“When it’s safe to move you can return and tell your Lt. that Second Platoon was on point, and should know where we are at.” John told Private O’Rourke.
“Yes sir.” O’Rourke said, and stood right up.
John pulled him to the ground just as the machine gun unleashed Hell in his direction. Dirt from the mound flew everywhere, as did chunks of wood from the trees behind them.
“Private, are you trying to get yourself killed?” John yelled, still gripping the smaller man by his arm.
“Oh no sir, but they couldn’t have hit me anyway, so it was safe for me ye see. They can’t possibly kill one such as me, for I am a leprechaun. We’re notoriously hard to kill, and almost as hard to catch. But here ye are with a might fine grip upon me arm, so it appears that ye have caught me.” O’Rourke said. John released his grip.
“Soldier, right now we all need to get out of here alive. After we get back, we can see to getting you a Section 8.” John said.
“Here I am a wee bit offended sir. I am many a thing, but crazy isn’t one of them. I am a leprechaun, ye have caught me fair and square, so custom dictates that either I give ye me pot of gold, or offer ye three wishes instead. Which will it be for ye sir?” O’Rourke asked him.
“And where in your issued equipment are you supposedly carrying a pot of gold, Private?” John laughed.
“Right here.” O’Rourke said, tapping his helmet.
“Your “steel pot” is your pot of gold?” John asked, thinking O’Rourke was really delusional.
With that, O’Rourke undid his chin strap, and removed his helmet, revealing the fieriest red hair John had ever seen, and there inside the helmet, almost overflowing, were small ingots of the purest gold John had ever seen.
“When you get checked for your Section 8, I think I’ll get checked too.” John muttered.
“There isn’t a thing wrong with ye sir. Now, do you want me gold, or the wishes?” O’Rourke said.
“What good is carrying gold around a battlefield going to do me?” John asked.
“Then ye choose the wishes, which not only makes me happy, but is a damned fine choice at that. What’ll ye have for ye first wish?” O’Rourke asked, shouting as more dirt and wood chips flew about.
“I wish they’d stop shooting at us so I could think.” John yelled, not realizing he had used the word wish.
“Another good choice, sir.” said O’Rourke, who immediately stood straight up and yelled. “Hey, ye gooks are getting on the lieutenant’s nerves over here! Why don’t ye do us a favor, and shoot at each other!” And not a single bullet hit him as he did this. He sat back down again.
“Give it a minute sir.” O’Rourke said.
At that moment an American grenade landed next to the Korean machine gun, jamming the trigger, and flipping the weapon into the air, causing it to land with its barrel pointed along the Korean defensive line. Fifteen of the enemy suddenly gunned down by their own weapon.
Thinking the Americans had control of the weapon, they returned fire, causing the men on the other side of the machine gun to fire back at them, and leaving both ends of the line open to fire from the Americans. Within the hour, the last of the North Korean line were dead.
Somewhere during the commotion, O’Rourke disappeared. When John checked later on, no one in First Platoon, not even Lt. Jablonski, had ever heard of Private O’Rourke. John thought the whole thing was his imagination, but matching it with accounts given by others, he came to the conclusion that it actually happened.
John wasn’t usually prone to uttering the words I wish all that often, so he wouldn’t be likely to waste his two remaining wishes on carelessly spoken statements like “I wish I had seen the end of the game.” or “I wish you would just shut up.” As a matter of fact, he didn’t say anything even close to it for many years.
It wasn’t until August of 1978 that he used his next wish. It was a terrible fire that engulfed an entire tenement building. Most of his ladder had already been called out of the building, calling it too far gone to risk any other lives inside. John was at the top of the ladder as he had been trying to get in on the seventh floor.
Smoke and flames came very close to his face, and through it he could just make out the image of the baby boy surrounded by flames and crying for his mother. He could hear the mother on the street screaming for him to rescue the child, but the ladder was too far away. He looked down at the ladder operator, muttering to himself “I wish I could get in there.” As the words quietly escaped his lips, he saw the name on the ladder operator’s coat was O’Rourke, and as if he needed any more verification, O’Rourke himself leaned forward and smiled. He hadn’t aged a bit.
With that the ladder pitched forward violently, flinging John straight through the window and into the room. John rolled out of the landing and simultaneously smothered any hitchhiking flames. He stood and looked for the boy, and found him on the coffee table. He picked up the boy and made his way back towards the window.
Glancing into the kitchen he saw a massive ball of flame as the gas line to the stove exploded. No time to lose, so he ran for the window he came in and jumped. The blast of the explosion gave him extra momentum and launched him to the ladder. He would still have missed, except the ladder dipped just a bit allowing him to catch it with his left hand.
John couldn’t hold the ladder like that for long, and noticed the ladder was still moving away from the building. John looked, and there at the controls O’Rourke sat with a big smile on his face. The ladder swung over the crowd and dipped, and just before John lost his grip, stopped above a tarp awning across the street from the blaze.
John and the boy landed on the awning safely and were then helped down by fire fighters and people from the crowd. Once at street level he returned the boy to his mother, received the usual thank you, and went looking for O’Rourke. There was no one at the ladder controls, and he already knew that his ladder didn’t have anyone named O’Rourke. The crazy little leprechaun had done it to him again.
After the men returned to the station, and put away their gear, prepped for the next fire, and showered, those that weren’t staying there went home. John lived a few blocks away, and was walking home when a small figure moved towards him from an alley.
“Were ye looking for me boyo?” O’Rourke said, stepping out into the light.
“O’Rourke. I thought that was you. Why are you here?” John asked.
“You have kept me waiting a very long time. Most people give their three wishes the same day, but not you. No useless wishes for you, no sir.” O’Rourke laughed.
“What wish?” John asked.
“Do ye not remember having whispered that you wish you could get in to rescue the wee lad?” was the reply.
“Oh yeah. But why me, why do I have these wishes? I know I caught you, as you say. But you set me up to catch you, so what gives? I’m not even Irish.” John asked.
“Oh, you found me out did you? Well that’s OK. Yes, I chose you Johnny boy, and as for you not being Irish, well let’s see.” O’Rourke said, pulling an old scroll from inside his jacket. He opened the scroll and started reading.
“Leprechaun rules, now just give me a second. Can marry elven girls, but not faeries, no. must maintain a pot of gold at or near the end of a rainbow, two if a double rainbow, but which end is left up to the individual, no. Ah, here we are. A leprechaun may choose any person of his choice to bestow wishes upon, regardless of Irish nationality, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, because on St. Pat’s everyone is Irish.” O’Rourke said, and put away the scroll.
“Seriously?” John asked.
“Seriously. I’ll be waiting patiently for you to wish that last wish. Until then laddie, I’ll leave you with this. I’ll drink to your health in a tavern, I’ll drink to your health in my home, I’ll drink to your health so many times, I’ll almost ruin my own.” he said, turned around, jumped and clicked his heels together, and disappeared back into the shadow of the alley.
John stepped forward into the alley’s shadows, but O’Rourke was gone. John thought about how strange it all was, as he turned back towards home. No matter how O’Rourke explained things, it still was very strange, but had O’Rourke been an angel instead of a leprechaun, would he have this hard a time understanding why this was all happening. A blessing is a blessing regardless of how it comes to you. And with a smile on his face, he went home to his blessings, his wife and son.
“And that was the last time that I saw him.” John told Dennis and Rory, and the other bar patrons that had gathered around.
“So then you still have one more wish, dad.” Dennis said.
“Yes I do.” John answered.
“What are you saving it for?” Dennis asked.
“Nothing in particular, I just haven’t felt the need to use it.” John answered.
“Well, no pressure dad. Save it for when you need it.” Dennis said.
“Actually son, I think I need it now. I haven’t told your mom or you, but I have cancer, and it’s terminal.” John said, staring at his beer.
“What!? Dad, why would you keep that a secret?” Dennis asked, more than a bit shaken.
“I didn’t want to worry you or your mom.” John said.
“The wish dad, use the wish.” Dennis said.
“Do you know what I really wish son? I wish I had grandchildren. That’s what I wish.” John said.
“And still not a selfish wish, not a thing for himself. A wish to save to his men, a wish to save a child, and now a wish to see his son have a family.” came an Irishman’s voice from within the crowd.
People turned, and others moved from out of the way. A small man with fiery red hair stepped out and walked over to John. He still hadn’t aged. With speed that was hard to follow, he sprang up, and rested his butt upon the bar next to John.
“Hello old friend.” O’Rourke said, looking at John.
“Hello to you too, old friend.” John replied.
“Instead of saving your own life, you wished for grandchildren? You continually amaze me, my friend. The wee folk back home don’t believe me when I tell them my tales of you. They think I made you up.” O’Rourke laughed, and placed his hand on John’s shoulder. John felt an astounding amount of warmth coming from the leprechaun’s hand.
“It’s what I want. It’s my last wish.” John said, defiantly defending his decision.
“So it is, and I must honor your wish. But I wish that you were going to be healthy enough to see them. So I’m going to grant your wish, you stubborn old fart, but I’m going to grant mine too. You are going to go to your doctor tomorrow, and discover that you are free of cancer, and then you will live to be a wonderful grandfather. Dennis, you should answer your phone about now.” O’Rourke said.
On cue his phone rang. Dennis answered it, not even looking at the caller ID to see who was calling him. He hesitated slightly, not sure what to make of it.
“Hello.” Dennis said.
“Denny, I was wondering, could we go out sometime this week. I’m thinking we should try again.” said A on the other end of the call.
Yeah sure, I’d like that.” he answered.
Dennis walked away from the crowd for a bit of privacy, and it was then that John noticed that O’Rourke was still there. He hadn’t done his usual disappearing trick this time.
“O’Rourke, you’re still here.” John said.
“Of course I am, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. I celebrate it too, and if you don’t start calling me Patrick….well let’s just say you’re in for some real shenanigans. Ladies and gentlemen, my friend John here is now cancer free. Would ye please join us in a pint? I’m buying!” O’Rourke announced.And that was St. Patrick’s Day at Rory’s.