June 16

Bloomsday

 

Finn taped handwritten signs to streetposts, beside the  shattered windows of closed and looted shops.

In previous years, in this U.S. city far from Dublin, the event had been sparsely attended.  Those few who showed up, however, demonstrated considerable enthusiasm and stamina as they took turns reading their favorite passages from James Joyce’s Ulysses.  Some, like Finn, were literary scholars; others were actors with particular skill in dramatic reading; a few were writers who’d been influenced by Joyce’s novels and stories.  The event would last for hours.

Finn believed the tradition should continue, even in changed times.  His handwritten signs dubbed the revived event as “Bloomsday after Doomsday,” listed the date and time, identified the location as a nearby Irish Pub — now an open-air amphitheater, by default, since the roof had caved in.

Oh well.  At least Finn didn’t have to ask the owner’s permission to use the venue.

On the afternoon of June 16, Finn strolled through emptied streets, past ruined buildings, his well-worn copy of Ulysses held proudly aloft to flag the attention of potential participants.

He made it to the pub, stepped over a broken door, and entered.  He pushed broken glass and shattered wood aside, found the most intact table and set it up as an impromptu lectern.  He put his book down, and waited for the crowd to arrive.

And waited.

The wind blew outside.  No approaching footsteps.  No vehicles passing along the road.

Finn surveyed the inside of the bar, the sky through the shattered roof overhead, his worn book balanced on a three-legged table, and then he began to recite from memory:  “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather…