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A short story in small instalments: PART XXI

Olivero Russo thought about what Caspertina Passala had said. Amongst so many griefs, he lamented the thought that he would probably never recover the heady days of wonder that had so enchanted him just a short time ago when everything was a miracle. But doing nothing but mourning was exhausting. Surely, he could still do some good in life? The idea of a course in philosophy for his grandchildren—one so cleverly constructed that they would never know they were being led towards wisdom—caught his imagination. A whispering doubt (it was in his father’s voice) said: Ludicrous! You’ve never even found your own wisdom! but Olivero Russo quelled it. Maybe he could learn along with the children. It would be a start, anyway.

And so, he began.

He read. He re-friended all his yellowed tomes of ethics and epistemology and metaphysics and once again lost himself in the joy of pure, difficult thought. He found that thinking hard made him sometimes forget his pain. He made notes on ideas for translating concepts into something a child could understand and in doing so, remembered how he had questioned so many things as a boy. He hugged his children and grandchildren—differently, now. Now he held them tenderly. He watched the children play, observing everything they did, trying to understand the way into their world.

He wasn’t happy, but at least he was beginning to feel more useful. Maybe he could be a conduit for something good. And pure relief: the diabolical beasts came less frequently now. And now, the children were squealing outside and, he was sure, getting very dirty. He brought a large bowl of popcorn to the porch for the ravenous tribe.

“Papa,” said Daphne, “your plant has bloomed!”

“What plant?”

“This one you hung on the porch. What is it? Come and see.”

There were only two flowers, tiny, but perfectly shaped, with ten petals each, opening wide, like a welcoming embrace. They were white, with slender purple lines, like the veins of a dragonfly’s wings.

“I don’t know what it is,” said Olivero Russo. “I just dug some plant out of the garden, before I put in the rocks.”

“Did you ever see this flower before?”

“No, never.” Then: “Oh, no! This is one of Caspertina Passala’s pots! I forgot all about this one when she came for the others.”

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