President Fionn (pronounced Foon) is a novel with two parts, the first taking place in Ireland starting in 1930 when the title character, Fionn Connolly, is a young man in the care of his grandfather while Fionn's own father has gone to America. The second part of the novel takes place in 1963 when Fionn is in his early 40s and President Kennedy--whom Fionn idolizes--is on a tour of Europe, including a visit to Ireland.
The follow excerpt comes from the beginning of the second half of the book.
Chapter One – Part Two – President Fionn
Fionn checked the table for the fifth time, one knife, one fork, one spoon, a glass of water approximately one inch to the right of the tip of the fork. In front of this neat little arrangement was a small white plate with one slice of white bread and butter on it which had been cut into four. Fionn smiled with a mixture of pride and relief as he went over to the pot on the stove which was bubbling cheerily and sniffed the lamb stew inside. Satisfied that it had been cooked just the way he liked it, he scooped out a bowlful and sat down at the table, the scraping sound of his spoon denting the quiet air until he had finished. Fionn leaned back contentedly and sipped his water. He was calm. The meal had turned out well, it had gone perfectly to schedule, there had been no mistakes, no delays. He had left just enough gravy to satisfy the piece of bread too, that was a bonus and couldn’t be guaranteed, and Fionn had no idea why, this was a continuing mystery, but it wasn’t something to dwell on now, not when things had gone so well.
Fionn washed up and surveyed the scene, all done, what was next on the agenda? The birds, they had to be fed. From the press, he took out a small bag of bird seed, which he carried out to the back garden. Fionn scattered the seed on to an old tea tray and placed it on the kitchen table that rested against the back wall and used to belong to his grandfather, but now served the birds.
Fionn waited patiently, it wouldn’t take long, he’d watch from the doorway, the little birds would come down soon, have a look, fly off, come back, take another look and then tuck in. It was fantastic watching them with their little feet dancing about in the seed as if they were in a musical, their little beaks bobbing up and down, keeping time. When they had finished Fionn would see them hesitate, deciding what to do next, then they were off, this way and that, anywhere they fancied, it was exhilarating to witness. They had choices, and they made them without a thought or worry, with no one to stop them, that’s what Fionn liked and even if he were to watch the birds a million times, it would never grow old or stale.
Fionn went back inside, he checked his watch, five fifteen, two hours till he had to head off to his evening job at the Tivoli Picture House. His suit was on a hanger hooked over the door that led into the hall; he would check on it ten or twenty times over the course of the next couple of hours as if the suit was prone to going off to work without him.
Fionn put the kettle on and while he waited for it to boil he listened to the radio. He let his mind drift while the smooth cultured tones of the newsreader filled him in on the events that had unfolded so far that day in Dublin. Fionn listened to intermittent words, Joseph O’Keefe, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Roches Stores, Henry Street, escalators, first in Dublin, declared them open, first to ride up them, basement, ground floor, first floor. He poked the peat in the fireplace; he intended to let it die down now, experience telling him that it would last till he left for work.
Fionn wondered what President Kennedy was doing now, right that minute; would he have had his tea? No, time was different over there, maybe he’d had his dinner. Fionn wondered what you had for your dinner when you were the President of the United States. Fionn decided he would ask him when he wrote to him next; just casual like, not straight out, Fionn didn’t want him to think he was a nosey get. He’d be crafty, say something like, ‘I had a nice piece of ham for me dinner the other day,’ then he’d probably say something back like, ‘did you now? I had a pork chop meself’ and right there Fionn would have the information he wanted.
It had been his father that had given him the address of the President; he had told him that his private letters went to the same address he used for his own letters, c/o Mrs Riley in a flat above a tailor’s shop in Brooklyn. His father had told him a lot of influential people had their mail sent there, for security reasons, which Fionn could see was sensible enough. It had all started when Fionn had found a letter in the drawer from Brendan Connolly. It had been brief, ‘Sorry, I need to go my own way, you’re better off without me, look after yourself and the children.’ which was just as well as the ink was watery so that the words were elongated, as if they had been crying, and it was difficult to read. When Fionn had written to the address, his own words had been equally brief, ‘Could you tell me the exact address of President John F. Kennedy as I want to talk to him.’ Brendan Connolly had promptly replied and signed off with, ‘Your loving father.’ Fionn had looked at these words about the same way you would examine a bus ticket as he had chosen, or been forced to, for sanity's sake, to annul the past.