Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Lady and the "E"

Here's another story by Giovanni Guareschi -- this one dedicated to our oldest daughter Eleanor, who too struggles with "E".

The Lady and the "E".

The Pasionaria is struggling with "e," and the struggle is titanic. For one thing, her notebook paper is poor stuff and keeps wrinkling up like the face of a laughing octogenarian. For another, her pen has a nasty point that keeps sticking through the paper. And her ink, in addition, has only to glimpse a patch of white to begin to spread like a black cloud.

Then too, besides the fact that "e" is a cowardly opponent and capricious as well, it must be borne in mind that the Pasionaria began school unencumbered by cultural paraphernalia. Last summer someone put a pencil in her hand and a notebook in front of her and tried to persuade her to copy some lines-but she did not lose her head. She laid the pencil down on the desk and closed the notebook.

"I can already read the lines," she said. "And when I go to school, I'll learn how to write them."

And now she's struggling with "e," and the struggle is titanic.

When she reached the fifth "e," she paused to recover her breath. Margherita was stretched out on the sofa, asleep. The Pasionaria gazed at her for a moment and sighed.

"While I work," she said, "she sleeps."

"But she," I said, "already knows how to write `e."'

"You do too," replied the Pasionaria, "but you're not sleeping."

"A question of temperament."

"And you help me sometimes," the Pasionaria went on. "You fix my toys when they break, and all that. But what does she do for me? . . . Sometimes," she sighed, "I could just die."

I felt anxious.

"How many times?" I asked.

She raised three ink-stained fingers.

"Oh." And I handed her a couple of caramels, which she began to chew.

She returned to her task with a will, took up her pen, dipped it in ink, and bent over her notebook. But the pen got stuck in the paper, then skimmed over to bury itself in the wood of the desk.

"Stay there," she cried, "lord and master!" And she turned to me.

"What good is it?" she demanded furiously.

"What good is what?" `E.

"It's essential. We'd be lost without `e.' Could you say `sheep,' for instance, without `e'?"

"I know how to say it. It's the writing that's hard. They could make it less complicated at least. I like `I'!"

I told her "e" was the basis of everything. And she took up her pen again, but before returning to the struggle, experienced one more bout of rebelliousness.

"And meanwhile she," the Pasionaria cried, "she goes right on sleeping!"

"We could exchange her," I said, "perhaps get one that's younger and nicer."

The Pasionaria had resumed her life-and-death struggle with the hostile "e." With a shrug of her shoulders, she murmured: "For the time being let's hold on to her. But one of these days, you'll see, something awful's going to happen!"

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