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From ... "Legacy"

Finn stood surveying the shining oak surfaces of the bar and tables as the summer breeze wafted through the pub.  His bright, blue eyes were accustomed to seeing every inch of his domain, always knowing when something was out of place.  The door to Finn’s Pub stood wide open, the trees in full bloom forming a canopy around the perimeter like sentinels standing guard, waiting for the return of the students.  The wooden ceiling fans turned slowly, the sound almost imperceptible except for an occasional squeak.  Glints of sunshine formed bursts of light on the pressed tin ceilings, then just as quickly disappeared as the trees blew back in place.  It was quiet now, just after graduation, and the campus was almost deserted except for those tasked with the job of keeping things going until everything geared up again for the autumn.

     But that seemed months away now, Finn thought.  Jim, his assistant manager, clambered up from the basement carrying some heavy boxes, groaning and using a few choice words.  He dropped the load heavily on the bar and said, “I swear that these boxes are heavier than they used to be.  Or maybe I’m just out of shape.”  He patted his belly.  “Too much good Irish brew over the years, I guess.”

   Finn put down his towel and said, “We’re none of us getting any younger, Jim.”  Feeling something was different in Finn’s tone, Jim asked, “What’s up?  Did you forget to renew the liquor license or something?”

     “No, just thinking about the next year already,” Finn said, grabbing one of the boxes off the bar and easily lifting it from underneath.  Despite the shining bald dome and tufts of unruly gray-white hair surrounding his face, Finn seemed years younger than Jim.

      “Well, it will be the same-old, same –old,” Jim said, his dark hair looking as if it hadn’t been washed or combed in a few days.  “More kids coming in, more kids getting drunk, more kids washing out of college.”  He grunted as he picked up a box and put it next to the one Finn had lifted.

      “So that’s what you think, is it, Jim, my boy?” Finn said, looking at Jim as he hadn’t in a long time.  How long had Jim been working here now?  Ten, fifteen years?  Still doing the same thing he did when Finn hired him as a college student to tend bar and serve food. 

      “Isn’t that pretty much the truth?” Jim grimaced as a lone faculty member, looking appropriately academic in a tweed jacket despite the warm day, popped his head in and asked, “Are you open?”  They both nodded, Finn smiling in welcome and Jim giving him an unmistakable look of disinterest.  “The rule of thumb seems to be that the more time you spend at Finn’s, the less likely you are to graduate.”  Jim walked over to take the customer’s order as Finn watched him, considering his words.

     That’s not the way I see it, Finn thought, glancing around at the place where he had spent a good part of his adult life.  If I were a writer, I’d write a book about all the stories and people that passed through here over the years; the dramas, tragedies, and love stories; dreams achieved, and dreams dashed.  But it’s mostly about the people.  Shakespeare couldn’t create better stories than what Finn knew.  He remembered every one of them, every tale, and every encounter.  It’s as if when he took over Finn’s from “ole” Patrick Finn, (as the original owner was affectionately called by long ago patrons), he had acquired some capacity to remember everyone and everything in great detail.

     “See, even he’s a pretty sad character,” Jim said, coming behind the bar and pulling a long, dark draft of Guinness.  “I mean, what’s he doing here on a day like this, drinking alone?  He’s retired now, an emirate or something, and he is still hanging out around here.”

     “Emeritus,” Finn said absently, looking up at the pictures that hung around the pub.  “It means he’s retired but he still has his on-campus privileges.  He may even teach occasionally.” The pub walls were covered with pictures of the campus over the past 70 years pictures of Ireland, pictures of students at formal and informal occasions, portraits of faculty, some lovingly decorated with personal messages from students.  And in the center, a portrait of ole Patrick, the Irish immigrant who founded the pub, although no one was sure exactly what year that had been.  When Finn had taken over the pub years ago from ole Patrick, he had been part of the college landscape as far back as anyone could remember.

      Finn stopped over at the table to talk to the emeritus professor for a few minutes, joking about getting older and what a luxury it would be not to have to get up and get to work every day.  Although the old professor agreed that he was looking forward to it and was glad he wouldn’t have to learn another computer program just to submit final grades, Finn could see that he would miss the world he had inhabited for so many years.  Not one to dwell on the inevitable, Finn lightly touched him on his back, using the skills to bring a smile to someone that ole Patrick had passed on to him when he worked for him all those years ago – skills, that somehow Jim never learned, or wanted to learn.

   Finn’s eyes caught one of the pictures as he turned back to the bar.  The picture hung near the fireplace, the focal point of the great pub that was always burning with a cheery fire day and night during the cold weather days.  Now it was empty, dark and pristine, waiting for the first leaves to fall and the first nip in the air to bring it to life again, fueling itself on the people who gathered near to begin their journeys. 

     The picture was of a group of friends who had been particularly unique, and as Finn looked at the smiling faces in the days before “selfies,” he smiled to himself to see how well the picture had turned out.  In his memory he felt that the picture had been taken only yesterday, although it had to have been about fifteen years earlier.  When the phone rang his eyes turned immediately to this picture, showing the group all seated in “the snug”, next to the fireplace, the flames from the fire reflecting in their eyes, glowing with life and joy and belief in the future. ​

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