O’Malley’s was, predictably, an authentic Irish bar deep in the Grind. What set it apart from other Irish bars in Belport were the stones set in the east wall. None of the stones was very large, rarely bigger than a fist, but most were small stones fit for skipping over water. Every single stone came from Ireland, carried by Irish immigrants or travelers.
John O’Malley, the bar’s founder, had started the idea back in the forties after he had migrated from Ireland after the war. He promised a free pint to anyone who “brought a stone from the Emerald Isle.” Many tried to pass off local stones over the years, but the O’Malley’s had become experts in knowing true Irish stones.
I knew nothing about stones and geography, but I knew how to feel a place out, and the stone wall of O’Malley’s made the place feel like it belonged somewhere else, like the spirit of Ireland had actually found its way to the Pacific Northwest.
I sat at the bar with an untouched pint of Murphy’s Stout in front of me and another in front of the seat next to me. I watched a game of soccer as I waited. It would help if I knew he was going to show. The bartender gave me a sideways glance every time he walked by, wondering why I didn’t drink, but beer had never been my thing.
After twenty minutes, a very short man showed up. He had ditched the traditional garb for more modern clothes, a Notre Dame T-shirt and blue jeans. He gave me a sideways grin and walked my way, then hopped up on the stool.
“A pint of true Irish stout, Matthew. ‘Tis a kindness, but might I be askin’ why?”
“Just a nice thing to do, Michaleen. I don’t attach strings to gifts, unlike some people. If it makes you feel better, I’m feeling that Irish heritage you always talk about.”
“Ah, that’s grand. Here’s to you.” He lifted the pint.
I clinked glasses with the leprechaun and drank.