By Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
The old Italian sits in the café reading Pablo Neruda, a volume titled Fully Empowered, a bilingual edition, Spanish/English. His Spanish is a little stronger than his English, and he doesn’t like English, a crude, mechanic’s language. His brother is a mechanic in Long Island, NY. He’s been there many years but rarely writes, which disturbed their mother to the end.
The town swarms with salvage workers. The old Italian stops reading and peers out at the wreck of the Costa Concordia, named for harmony, unity, peace. Not much of that around, he thinks as he takes a tiny sip of wine.
The ship is on its legs again, but the starboard is muddy and horribly deformed. Like life itself, reflects the old man before he goes back to his reading. He reads with intensity—it helps keep his son out of his mind. His son also lives in the United States. His wife’s a drunk and a prescription drug abuser. He knows that this is very common in the United States.
His son’s father-in-law is “born again.” His mother-in-law has never been born, so things even out.
Drugs and alcohol don’t mix. His son’s wife falls asleep in odd places at odd times. His son decides to keep a record of her plunges into unconsciousness in a black-and-white composition book he finds on a bus. His son tears out twenty pages of some kid’s assignments before he gets to a blank page. His impression of that kid is that she’s not too smart and has loopy handwriting, and is a spoiled brat.
Wife has fallen asleep everywhere except in bed, his son writes, but then loses the heart to go on.