On their way back to the widow’s house, Nathan walked next to Zim. “The professor says you’re an excellent student.”
“It’s true, Mr. Nathan. I study every lesson. All the way through and back again until I get it, really get it.”
“So, how’d you become such a scholar, anyway?”
“I’m only eight years old, Mr. Nathan. No scholar here. Not yet. But when I was maybe three years old, one day I put a bunch of marks on a piece of parchment.1 I lined them up in rows, and when the rows filled the whole piece, I handed it to Mother. ‘I wrote you a letter, Mommy.’”
“Sounds like a bunch of chicken scratchings.”
“Know what she did with my scratchings?” Zim walked tall, head up, with a smile as loud as the dawn.2 “She put down the dish she was washing and dried her hands. She took that parchment over and sat down. Then she read my ‘letter’ out loud: She put in cousins coming and going, the extra rain last week, and new cabbage in the garden. So before I knew Aleph from Beth she gave me a feel for reading and writing.”
“That’s my mother.”3
1 They must have been very wealthy if Zim was allowed pieces of parchment to play with. Although it is possible to reuse parchment, it was still expensive, I understand.
2 While I like this bit of poetry, it feels out of place here.
3 Pam: I am inclined to agree that Zim might be too young to appreciate what his mom did for him. He seems young because of his slips of the tongue. You could make it happen when he’s a teen or adult, or you could switch it so that Elijah or the professor hears the story and tells Zim to treasure his mother.