During dinner Nonna entertains the children with fascinating facts about their father’s boyhood. How initially, he only spoke Italian. How, permanently, he was a bad and lazy student. How, for some unknown reason, he loathed reading. How, despite all odds she succeeded in her mission to make him graduate. Her message captivates the children's attention. They gaze at their father as they try to join the dots.
Later, I clean up in the kitchen in the evening when all the children are asleep. Nonna and her useless son sit opposite each other at the dining room table. He stares at his computer screen. She examines her crossword puzzle.
“Wot about dis one den? Third president of the United States of America?”
“Er…..not Lincoln, not Washington…..it’s…..on the tip of my tongue….”
“Thomas Jefferson,” he mutters.
“Eh? Wot he say?”
“He said Thomas Jefferson,” I yell from 20 paces distance.
“Let me see……yes…….dat fits.”
Silence falls again, apart from the clatter of tidy and keystrokes on the computer. I nip into the dining room and squeeze his shoulder, “I thought you were going to play scrabble with your mother?”
“Hmm……in a minute.” I glance at the graphs on the screen. Fat chance. Nonna’s pencil begins to tap, a pre-cusor to speech.
“Wot about dis one den? Classless or classic?”
“Thinkpad!” he spurts without a pause.
“Don’t ask me, I’m none the wiser.” We both look towards him, non responsive. Nonna throws up her arms in a gesture of despair, I shrug in return.
“Wot about dis one den? A novel without a hero?”
“Er……Makepeace Thackeray………what is it again?”
“Vanity fair,” speaks the man with eyes elsewhere.
“He’s right you know,” I nod.
“I know he’s right,” she nods back. We both stare at him, the illiterate one. The heat of our collective stare force him to look up, “what?” A nervous sneaky rabbit expression. I dash to catch a glimpse of the google search screen, “you cheat!”
“He’s cheating! He’s finding the answers on the computer.” She leans back in her chair and clasps the arms with a grin. She pats both arm rests as the words percolate, “I knew dat…..I just wondered ow long it would take you to catch on too?”
4 hours ago