Uncle Nunzi reached in the refrigerator for some of Vito’s homemade wine. He really doesn’t like Vito because he constantly cheats at cards and brags a lot. But good wine is good wine, so he is willing to overlook his friend’s failings. Uncle used to make wine before his arthritis (Uncle calls it his “arthuritis”) forced him to quit and accept Vito’s wine. For Uncle, accepting the offering was as difficult as it must have been for Lee to hand over his sword to Grant at Appomattox.
Uncle’s main objection to Vito, besides his habit of cheating at cards, is his constant bragging. Vito owns a pair of high-top black Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers that he claims were captured from the Germans in World War II. Even if you gave Vito the benefit of the doubt, which Uncle claimed would be your first mistake, his claim that he had won an Olympic medal in track wearing those sneakers was a bridge too far. According to Uncle Nunzi, Vito is a braggart, a spaccone. Uncle prefers the Italian word “spaccone” to “braggart” because he says it expresses more clearly how he feels.
Uncle pours me a glass of Vito’s wine from a bottle still bearing a prune juice label and places the glass in front of me despite my objections. A few pieces of what had once been fresh peaches float unhappily in my glass like survivors in a zombie apocalypse facing an uncertain future. I take a tentative sip, and my face cringes as if I were on a desert island and the only recording I had was Debby Boone singing “You Light Up My Life.”
Uncle interrupts my search for other clever analogies. “Vito is like Donald Trump,” he says. I must interject a note here about Uncle’s politics. His sense of politics is a distinct distrust of both major parties. If you look up the word “anarchist” in the dictionary, I suspect that you’ll find a smiling picture of Uncle. In truth, Uncle’s main reason for his suspicion of political parties is that they are made up of human beings and there is nothing Uncle is more skeptical of than the human race. He often wonders out loud how we have managed to survive this long. It is important to note that when Uncle discusses human frailty, he seems to exclude himself, as if he is an alien who somehow got trapped here eons ago. Trump has managed to distinguish himself in Uncle’s view by trumping (the pun is intended) even Vito in his boasting. Vito may be a spaccone, but, in Uncle’s eyes, Trump is the chief of all the spaccones.
Uncle does not admit to being wild about Hillary Clinton, but I think he’s a bit fond of her. He claims he only likes her when compared to Trump, but he’s taken to calling her “Hil.” Uncle is not comfortable being considered a liberal, not even when the word is softened to “progressive” to fit 2016 standards. He trusts her more when it comes to having a finger on the nuclear button. Says Uncle, “Trump would push the button just so he could brag that he was the first one to do so until somebody reminded him that Harry Truman did it twice before him.” I comment that Trump would likely ask, “Who is Harry Truman?”
I have often wondered why Uncle votes at all because of his negative attitude toward politics. He explains it by saying that life is nothing but bad choices. By his own admission, Uncle has never missed voting in an election. He does not believe in “get out the vote” drives because a higher turnout dilutes his own vote. If he would admit it, Uncle would love it if no one but himself voted. He can’t believe that his intelligent, thoughtful vote is neutralized when that ignorant stunod Vito is allowed in the voting booth. Uncle’s opinion of democracy went down the tubes the moment he learned that his friend Vito would also have the right to vote. I don’t even attempt a counterargument, and you wouldn’t either if you ever met Vito.
Uncle believes Vito is secretly a Trump voter. In perhaps his wisest move, Vito keeps his voting preference to himself. In his working years, he was employed at a fruit stand, but his constant tardiness got him fired. Uncle says Vito’s political motto is Make America Late Again. It is Uncle’s credo that all spaccones stick together. I was curious as to how that would work since braggarts believe only in themselves. Wouldn’t spaccones incessantly argue which one of them is the greatest? “That’s the thing about spaccones,” Uncle said, “they appreciate the art of boasting” (although Uncle used the more earthy term that is not fit for a family newspaper). Uncle predicts that only another spaccone could be Trump’s Vice President and hints that Trump could actually name himself Vice President since he truly believes that he – Trump – is irreplaceable.
Uncle actually likes Ben Carson, although he thinks the physician is as crazy as a loon. He brags less than any of them, according to Uncle. I think Carson speaks so softly that his voice is out of the range of Uncle’s hearing aid.
Uncle has an idea. When Trump shouts “Crooked Hillary,” she should retort “Spaccone Trump.” ■