Holiday reading (2)

“A cough alerted Ayse to the fact that Polyxeni’s ancient great-grandfather, Socrates, was propped in the darkness of the corner, as ever, completely indestructible, but capable of only one train of thought. ‘Watch out’, warned Polyxeni, sotto voce, ‘the old dog’s about to do his speech again’.

‘I’m ninety-four, you know’, he said, his voice cracked and wavering, his agued fingers working at his prayer beads.

Ayse approached him and kissed his cold and papery hand respectfully. ‘Ah, Grandfather! Ninety-four years old! It’s remarkable!’

‘I’ve got twelve grandchildren.’

‘Oh, Grandfather Socrates, it’s remarkable!’

‘And I’ve got sixty grandchildren.’

‘You don’t say! It’s remarkable!’

‘And I’ve got one hundred and twenty great-grandchildren.’

“Oh, Grandfather!’

‘And I’ve even got twenty great-great-grandchildren.’

Polyxeni nudged Ayse, smiling, and whispering, ‘Here it comes’, and the ancient man leaned forward, saying, ‘And you know what?’

‘No, Grandfather’, replied Ayse dutifully.

The old gentleman smiled seraphically, waggled his shoulders and said, ‘They’re all shit.’

Birds Without Wings“, Louis de Bernières


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