was at my brother-in-law’s house the other day innocently reading Tolstoy on Kindle in the living room when Jason, his son, gave me an intellectual mugging.
It started with the classic seven-year-old kid question, which most parents can identify as an ambush in waiting, but I, kid-less, took as, well, you know, a question.
“How come you read so much?”
I put down the Kindle, looked Jason in the eye, and told him I enjoyed it.
“Like you like your videogames.”
Bad tactical decision.
“They’re different, and real. You’re just reading someone’s words. That’s dumb.”
“Well, Jason…” And I launched into an explanation of how Tolstoy was a Russian and a really great story-teller and…
“Does the book have a vid?”
Well, Jason, the book was written before vids so I…
“Is, like, the writer… dead?”
Yes, Jason he’s been dead for more than a 100 years. He was…
“How come you read dead people?”
“Did he write this stuff before he was dead?” (Snicker).
Well, Jason, gramps still sends you text messages and he’s old, so…
“But he’s not dead.”
“And he’s not Russian.”
In came Frank, my brother-in-law and Jason’s father.
“Dad, Joel says gramps is a dead Russian.”
Frank is many things but quick is not among them.
“Gramps isn’t Russian,” said Dad-Frank.
“So he’s dead?”
The time had come, I thought, to make things worse.
“What your father means is that gramps is fine and…”
“So you were lying about the Russian you killed.”
Frank: “Who killed a Russian? What did Joel tell you, Jason?”
Me: “I didn’t…”
Frank: “Let Jason speak. It’s important that he speak for himself.”
Jason: “Joel said he was reading a book by a dead Russian who, like, knew gramps and sends him text messages about something…”
Frank: “Jason, you misunderstood Joel. Gramps is fine, and he’s not Russian.”
Me: “The Russian is in the Kindle, and…”
Jason: “Can I see him?”
Frank: “Joel, can I talk to you for a minute…”
So, off we went to the study, leaving Jason alone with my Kindle.
Frank: “Can you not talk about death with Jason? I mean…”
Me: “I was just reading, and…”
Frank: “Kids pick up stuff, so just think things through before you…”
Then came Jason’s voice from the other room: “Dad, Dad, there’s a lady kissing on the Kindle…”
That would be Anna and Vronsky, but hey, I’ll leave it to dead gramps to explain.