How it all worked out was almost as if by design. It turned out the Finn was an ardent student of how humanity interacted with food. At the talk that first evening, Dad was so impressed by the young man’s curiosity that he asked if he would be willing to take over the entire breakfast operation – subject to Dad’s oversight naturally. At a loss for next steps in his life, Finn hesitantly agreed but then approached the challenge with relish. He looked over at his grandmother seeking her approval. All Mrs. Dawson did was smile before offering to come in during the morning meal time to help out until he gained some confidence.
Confidence was hardly something Finn lacked. He was in the next morning, enjoying the training Dad offered, patiently following the advice offered by his grandmother, and filling in wherever a bit of youthful energy was required. I was in class while all this was going on, but Mom filled me in, saying just how quick in thought Finn was and how capable he seemed to be working the tables and joking with the two cooks.
“You know what else, hon,” Mom added, “I think Dad has really taken to him. He seemed more energized and he told me this afternoon that he was looking forward to getting back to our relaxing morning routine in a few weeks. I think he worried if he would have the strength to continue on at this pace for the next few years, but with Finn’s energy and presence, Dad seems to have relaxed somewhat.”
When Dad came upstairs to the family quarters following an evening shift I could see what she meant. Despite a long day, he appeared more relaxed, even choosing to have a scotch and plant himself in front of the television. Only a few days on the job and Finn had altered things already, bringing a delicate shift to the ambiance of the Third Place. Along with my sister and me, he brought a more youthful vigor to the operation, but Finn’s was more intuitive, more insightful as to the potential of the restaurant and its effect in the larger community.
That proved even more so as one week moved into another. In only a matter of days Mrs. Dawson and her grandson had the breakfast sessions running like a machine. I came down one Saturday morning to see Finn seated at a table with a number of retired auto workers debating the merits of a living wage over a minimum wage. He held his own no problem. I listened in fascination as he took them on.
Between shuffling back and forth from the dining room to the kitchen, I caught glimpses of Finn continuing the dialogue with the auto workers. He was animated but open to other points of view in a way that was refreshing. Instead of putting on an air of condescension, he squarely took them on, pressing his points with a kind of rustic eloquence and in a fashion that pulled the others forward into the discussion. It was a fascinating thing to observe.
And then he did something totally unexpected. I was helping him clean up the tables on a Saturday morning when I told him about the university paper’s review of the restaurant.
“Can I see it?” he asked.
I fished it out of my desk upstairs and brought it back down to read. I watched as his gaze flashed some brilliant bits of anger and waited as he went back over it a second time.
“Did this guy actually come here personally?” asked Finn. “I mean, this doesn’t bear any resemblance to what goes on here.”
“He was sitting right there with Dad,” I answered, “and it seemed to go well enough. I don’t think anyone thought much about it at the time – at least until that article came out,” I added, pointing to the paper Finn held.
“And this was online?”
“Yes, but it also made it into the university’s paper edition as well. I think Dad felt bad about it all because he couldn’t understand what the problem was.”
“Do you . . . understand it I mean?”
The question was delivered so directly that it threw me for a minute. Finn just stood there, a determined look on his face, as he waited for my reply.
“I’m not fully sure I do,” I said, a bit at a loss. “I just chalked it up to some editor trying to make a name for himself by dissing something more traditional. Maybe that’s not right.”
“That’s exactly what it is,” he replied. But instead of anger in his eyes I detected more of a look of determination.
Following that he said nothing for the rest of the morning. And when the time came to end the breakfast shift he simply grabbed his coat and was out the front door. He was impossible to read at that moment and something about that intrigued me.
Next chapter – Rebuttal