Trick by Domenico Starnone (Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri):
That evening it finally clicked that the conference in Cagliari was, above all, a prime opportunity for Betta and Saverio to evade the eyes and ears of their child and fight hard. If, in the course of the afternoon, they only rarely spoke to each other, with perfunctory sentences, at dinner they didn’t even bother with those. Instead they talked to Mario and to me, so that the boy would know all my exploits and I’d know his. They both carried on in childish voices and almost always started the conversation with you know that Grandpa or show Grandpa how you. As a result, Mario had to learn that I’d won many prizes, that I was more famous than Picasso, that important people displayed my work in their homes; and I had to learn that Mario knew how to answer the phone politely, write his name, use the remote control, cut his meat with a real knife, and eat what was on his plate without throwing a tantrum.
It was an interminable evening. The whole while the child never took his eyes off me, as if fearing I would disappear, he wanted to memorize me. When I showed him some dumb old tricks that I’d used to entertain Betta when she was little—like pretending that my thumb, clenched between two fingers, was a piece of his nose that I’d snatched away—he hinted at half indulgent little smiles, half amused, striking the air with his hand as if to punish me for such foolishness. When it was time to go to bed, he tried to say: I’ll go when Grandpa goes. But both parents stepped in, almost in unison, both suddenly strict. His mother exclaimed: You go to bed with Mommy tells you to go to bed, and his father said: It’s time to sleep, indicating the clock on the wall as if his son already knew how to tell time. Mario put up a little resistance then, but all he managed was to make sure I watched how he got undressed without help, and how, still without help, he put on his pajamas, and how he squeezed the toothpaste neatly onto his toothbrush, and how he knew how to brush his teeth, ceaselessly.