A Conversation With My Father by Grace Paley
Glossary: potassium — калій; despise — зневажати; junkie —наркоман.
My father is eighty-six years old and in bed. His heart, that blood motor, is equally old and will not do certain jobs any more. It still floods his head with brainy light. But it won’t let his legs carry the weight of his body around the house. Despite my metaphors, this muscle failure is not due to his old heart, he says, but to a potassium shortage. Sitting on one pillow, leaning on three, he offers last-minute advice and makes a request.
“I would like you to write a simple story just once more”, he says, “the kind de Maupassant wrote, or Chekhov, the kind you used to write. Just recognizable people and then write down what happened to them next”.
I say, “Yes, why not? That’s possible”. I want to please him, though I don’t remember writing that way. 1 would like to try to tell such story, if he means the kind that begins: “There was a woman..”.followed by plot, absolute line between two points which I’ve always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.
Finally I thought of a story that had been happening for a couple of years right across the street. I wrote it down, then read it aloud. “Pa”, I said, “how about this? Do you mean something like this?”
Once in my time there was a woman and she had a son. They lived nicely in a small apartment in Manhattan. This boy at about fifteen became a junkie, which is not unusual in our neighborhood.
In order to maintain her close friendship with him, she became a junkie too. She said it was part of the youth culture, with which she felt very much at home. After a while, for a number of reasons, the boy gave it all up and left the city and his mother in disgust. Hopeless and alone, she grieved. We all visit her.
Section 1. True or False Statements (+/-). Listen to the story and decide which of these statements are true and which of them are false. Mark your answers on the Answer Sheet.
- My father is an energetic 68-year-old man.
- He has a weak heart and a potassium shortage.
- He wants his daughter to write a complex epic novel.
- He likes complex characters and mysterious plots.
- I will write him a simple story.
- I prefer to write stories that leave room for hope.
- I wrote of a recent event.
Section 2. Multiple choice. Listen to the story and decide which of these statements are true and which of them are false. Mark your answers on the Answer Sheet.
- My father spends his time in:
- a) bed; b) church;
- c) cafes; d) pain and suffering.
- His heart is weak but has not reduced the flow of blood:
- a) to his legs; b) to his strong arms and shoulders;
- c) to his head; d) to his liver.
- His heart is weakened due to:
- a) lack of exercise; b) excessive smoking;
- c) failure to rest; d) a potassium shortage.
- He thinks I write simple stories like:
- a) Shultz and Dilbert; b) Bulgakov and Shevchenko;
- c) Chekov or de Maupassant; d) Chekov and Marquis de Sade.
- I don’t write simple stories because:
- a) they take away all hope; b) are boring;
- c) dislike easy work; d) they are too hard to compose.
- I … simple stories.
- a) always write; b) cherish.