Give me a clue                                                        

It’s good to see grandad up and about again, sitting in the sun by the window in his scarlet waiscoat with the tartan rug over his knees. He is staring down at the quickie crossword on the back page of The Herald.

Give me a clue then Pops, I ask.

He used to rattle through crosswords, any crossword, in no more than the time it took him to have breakfast, the paper propped against the marmalade jar, the radio in the corner behind him giving out the day’s news and weather/traffic reports. He used to give me a clue,  just to make me feel included, and then help me to arrive at the answer,  just to make me feel pleased with myself.

Come on,  Pops. Give me a clue.

He taps the pen between his teeth, frowning.

P something  Z  something something something  something  something something  S,  he says. Nine letters.  Someone’s  illness.

I count out the letters on my fingers. Parkinson’s, I tell him. Parkinson’s disease.

He looks out of the window. Next-door’s cat is stalking something along the garden wall between the wheelbarrow and the garden shed.

Gran comes in and puts his tray on the table beside him. Don’t let it get cold now, she says.

I won’t, he says and leans forward over the tray then looks up and smiles. Mmmmm, he says.  Smells good, looks good and it’s going to taste good. Thanks Dot.

When Gran has gone, he looks at me and the smile goes. Zed,  he says.  P something Zed. Not P something R.  And nine letters,  not  ten.

I lean over his shoulder and together we stare at the half-filled- in grid and then at the unsolved clues.

‘Pleased’  is wrong, I finally tell him and point at his answer for 6 across. ‘Pleased’ is wrong, Pops.  It should be ‘amiable’. So it’s  A something  Z,  not P.

What’s with all this Pops malarky? he asks,  making no movement to correct his error, not even looking up at me. You’ve  been watching  too many American cartoons.

I’ve always called him ‘Pops’.

‘ Pa   za   lo   va’s ‘,   he says with an air of finality,  filling  in the answer,  drawing out each syllable to match the slowness of his writing.  Yes,  Pazalova’s  Disease,  he says and with a flourish puts the pen away in his breast pocket . That’s it. Finished.

The cat pounces but on what we can’t see because it’s behind the wheelbarrow.


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