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Ivory Tower: The Godfather gets an offer he cannot refuse

“New breed of Mafia released from jail as they ‘aren’t killing people these days’.”
the Daily Star, 22 November 2023

Little Italy, New York

Don Vito sits in his study in the half dark, lit only by a single lamp, stroking a cat on his lap. There is a knock on the door.

Vito: Mum min

[A beat. The door is knocked again.]

Vito [louder]: Mum min!

[The door opens.]

Michael: Did you say, “come in?”

Vito: Mes

Michael: You are mumbling again Dad.

Vito: Mait ma minute… sorry, I’ll take this cotton wool out. I was at the dentist this morning.

Michael: Is it organic?

Vito: 100 per cent. What can I do for you, my favourite son?

Michael: I have come to seek your blessing, Godfather.

Vito: First, we will have a drink.

Michael: Do you have a kombucha?

Vito: That is not Italian.

Michael: An oat milk cappuccino then.

[The Godfather shakes his head and gestures to Michael to sit.]

Vito: What can I do for you?

Michael: Godfather, you know I have never asked before.

Vito: You are a good boy, Michael. Tell me, what is it?

Michael: I want to go to university.

[Silence. Vito looks pained.]

Michael: I’ve had offers I cannot refuse.

Vito: Why, Michael, why?

Michael: You know that I do not want to join the family business.

Vito: You are my youngest. I have always wanted another future for you.

Michael: I want to do a degree, Godfather.

Vito: In what?

Michael: Major in creative writing, minor in modern European drama.

[Silence. Vito looks more pained.]

Michael: Godfather, may I have your blessing?

Vito: You have never asked for anything. I know you did not want to be in my debt.

Michael: No, Godfather.

Vito: Now you want to be in debt to the Student Loans Company.

Michael: You don’t start repaying until you earn an average salary.

Vito: At interest—for your entire working life.

Michael: I’m not thinking about that right now.

Vito: It sounds like a racket to me.

Michael: It’s not as if they are the mafia.

Vito: No, you can eventually pay off your debt to the mafia.

Michael: Godfather, I want to study the arts.

Vito: What about your adopted brother Tom? He trained to be a lawyer.

Michael: Didn’t he do an apprenticeship?

Vito: Five years on the docks, three years with the teamsters, two years on horses, he served his apprenticeship, sure.

Michael: He also went to law school.

Vito: I remember graduation. They gave him a third, so we put a horse’s head in the external examiner’s bed.

Michael: Times have changed, Godfather. Nearly 90 per cent of students get a first or 2.1 these days.

Vito: And you don’t have to pay for it?

Michael: You always have to pay, Godfather.

Vito: What sort of job are you going to get with creative writing?

Michael: Actually, it is a rigorous creative and humanities training, which prepares you for several possible careers in communications, arts management, or academia.

Vito: You don’t want to work with your family, but you will work with vice-chancellors?

Michael: A different kind of crime family.

Vito: What about science? People will always need engineers.

Michael: I want to write poetry, Godfather.

Vito: I knew I should have made you do maths until you were 18.

Michael: Who would be so cruel as to think that?

Vito: You show me no respect. Why do you not respect your father?

Michael: Actually Dad, my generation thinks all people are due respect. People of all nations, colour, gender and sexuality are due respect.

Vito: Even the Corsicans?

Michael: Even the Corsicans, Dad.

Vito: I don’t understand. These are not the traditions we hold too.

Michael: Godfather, everyone is due respect… except Terfs, obviously.

Vito: Are they a rival family?

Michael: No. My mind is made up, Godfather, I want to go to university.

Vito: Could you at least go to Columbia? NYU? Rome?

Michael: I want to study in the UK.

[Silence. Vito looks dyspeptic with pain.]

Michael: I have offers, Godfather.

Vito: Of all the places…

Michael: I want to go to the University of Central Lancashire.

[Silence. The Godfather strokes the cat and looks puzzled.]

Michael: It is top of the Guardian subject league table for creative writing.

Vito: Michael, Michael, what have I ever done for you to treat me so disrespectfully?

Michael: 94 per cent of students are satisfied with teaching.

Vito: Had you come to me and asked for anything else…

Michael: I want to go to Preston and write poetry, Godfather.

Vito: Your next job could be in cyber. You just don’t know it.

Michael: You’ve been reading too many columnists in Sunday newspapers, Dad.

Vito: Is it one of those vegan campuses? Can you even get good Italian food?

Michael: Spinach and dairy-free ricotta with wholemeal pasta.

Vito: And what about your mother? How is she to see you in this Central Lancashire?

Michael: We Snapchat. And I’ll come home for the holidays, but we should be mindful of carbon offsets.

Vito: I need to speak to my consigliere. Where is Tom?

Tom: I’m here. Godfather. I always sit here in the corner, it’s what I do.

Vito: So much for that fancy law degree.

Tom: I got a first, by the way.

Vito: In the end. Listen, do you think Michael should do this schmuck arts degree?

Tom: Michael is as entitled as anyone to have the life he wants and should not listen to those who tell him that certain subjects are not for the likes of him.

Vito: You too? Where is the respect? Who paid for you to go to law school?

Tom: I wanted to go to art school.

Vito: Mamma mia!

Michael: That’s musical theatre, Dad. There is a good course on that at the University of East London.

Vito: Porca miseria!

Tom: It is at the Italia Conti school, Godfather.

Vito: Now you are taking. What are the drawbacks of Michael going there?

Tom: They are not taking international students at the moment, and the Home Office says they don’t want foreigners coming from abroad to study there anyway.

Vito: Why do they show no respect? No one talks to Don Corleone like that.

Tom: Want me to have a word with this Cleverly guy?

Vito: Wise guy?

Tom: No, he’s certainly not that. James Cleverly, he’s the interior minister.

Vito: Does he owe us a favour?

Tom: I understand he has some “shit” he would like to go away. I could take care of it and badda-bing get Mikey home status.

Vito: Who does he work for?

Tom: The Conservative Party, Godfather.

Vito: They are like the mafia, right?

Tom: I’ll make a phone call.

Vito: Go with my blessing, Michael.

Michael: Thank you, Godfather.

Vito: And many years from now, I will dance at your graduation in the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre, Preston, and I will ask you to do some service for me.

Michael: Like what, Godfather?

Vito: Could you bring me some of what the English call tripe?

Michael: In a hotpot?

Vito: No, tripe—like revenge—is a dish best served cold.

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun on a Friday, it should be shared with colleagues like blame at a pandemic public inquiry. Want to ask the Godfather for an inflation-tracking maintenance allowance? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com