John Cabot’s Lost Letter

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John Cabot’s Lost letter

(Giovanni Caboto’s Recently Discovered Letter to His Mother in Venice)

Vinto cinquo Juno, 1497

Momma Mia:

Itsa been so longa that I been gone,

Ima thinking ima losin my melodious Italian tongue.

Truth be told Momma I just slipped in that opening operatic verse to make you feel good. I don’t talk that way at all any more.

I’m here in Cape Breton on holiday, resting up before we do the trans-Atlantic cruise back. Tell the family (and friends you can trust) that our ships are loaded with all kinds of neat stuff we’re bringing back to the Known World. We’ll make a killing. Don’t say anything to the King.

On the way here we had an interesting stay in what’s known as Terra Nuovo – officially – but everyone calls it Noofie. We visited whole bunches of Portugese and Vikings who live there. Their big town is called St. John’s, and I liked the name so much I changed my name to “John.” Oh, and I dropped the “o” off the end of Caboto because the Vikings said I had too many vowels. They’re nice folks but they drink a lot and their helmet horns are silly. Tell ya the truth we couldn’t wait to get off on our way to India.

So we set out after getting directions from the Vikings. They said sail north till you see ice bergs and make sure you sail real close to them because they are beautiful. Ha! I was there long enough to see they couldn’t tell codfish from cat tails so I did the smart thing. I sailed out of St. John’s and followed what the Noofies call a “ferry.” Next thing you know, we’re sailing into a terrific harbour that’s called “Sydney” after that nice place in Australia.

Anyway I’m here living in a caravan (what they call a “trailer”). I put a sign over the door. It says “Cabot Trailer” – and for some reason the locals think this is funny. And then this morning one of them points at my sign and asks me when they’ll get to see the movie. Then he walked away laughing his butt off. This place is even weirder than Nookie.

So Momma, I got a reason for writing besides reminding you that you are sainted and destined for a stellar place among the Angels in Heaven.

It’s about my sponsor King Henry. He gave me a pile of kopeks for this trip and it looks like I’m going to have to tell him to “Go fish.” The official line is there’s more treasure in your bosom holder than there is here. Unofficially we stocked up on cigars, rum and root beer. We also got a recipe for what they call “pizza” here and I think it will go over well in Naples.

But bringing bad news to the King is not my biggest problem. It’s what they call “personal.” You see when I was staying at the castle, well, I was lonely and I am sure you can understand why I couldn’t resist spending a little time with Catherine – they weren’t married after all – just living in sin. So I thought I would save her with a little Saint Peter.

And so what does he do? He tells me he’s going to get a divorce and keep marrying until he gets a proper wife, even if it means he has to become an Anglican, whatever that is. I told him he couldn’t get a divorce because he wasn’t married, but you can’t tell Henry anything, as you have probably heard.

You’ll remember that he gave me 227 pounds, 65 shillings and 6 pence (about 10,000 Euros) to find India and get some bags of gold and spice. Now I’m afraid that when I get back he’ll send me to the Tower. It’s not really Catherine that he’s bugged about – it’s the money. But that’ll be his excuse – I know him.

So what I need you to do is write your uncle the Pope a letter and ask him to threaten Henry with excommunication if he throws me in the klink when I get to London. What do you say Momma – will you do that for your little scoreggia? (I love it when you call me that).

Well, that’s all for now Momma – except I just remembered. Now that you are living in Venice I am sure things are going well, but as Uncle Luigi always said, “So, they can’t get better?” I was talking to a guy last week and he said that fountains and pools are the wave of the future, and that anyone with brains should get in now while the market is down.

There’s probably all kinds of people around you who would love to have a pond of some sort in their back yard to splash away in during the hot summers. Please take the money I hid behind the chimney and buy as many pool liners as you can find. Selling them will give me something to do when I get home.

So, for now, hosta la vista Momma. See you in a year. If the winds are blowing right.

Giovanni (John) (your son)


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