I have an amazing announcement to make, Prozians. Little Translator has overcome the time-space dimension. I have boldly gone where no translator has gone before. I have, you know. I have finally cyber-info-metamorphosed into a human social dimension. It was a bit like in Dr. Who, when he loses track of the coordinates in the Tardis because of concentrating too much on Sarah Jane’s tight white jeans, and ends up on the wrong planet with Daleks roving around exterminating everyone. I had no Sarah Jane, but I evidently hit the wrong button somewhere, and suddenly I had info-materialised to the wonderful, revamped, must-see, 21st century city of Bilbao. Obviously because of my relation with Mr. Bossyboots, who lives here, and so his parameters must have got stuck in the giga-hyper-transporter feature. More about Bilbao next time – from what I’ve seen, I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s the place to be.
But (assuming somebody out there’s still reading this slightly implausible patter) I haven’t had much time to see it, since I’ve had loads to do. I rented myself a little office near Plaza Nueva, in the heart of the old town, and made customers straightaway. In particular, I had been working directly a lot with an engineering company in a place near here called Txantxategi. It’s run by two brothers, and they had kept me going pretty much non-stop with work. Usually quite demanding, the brothers, pretty urgent, although they were extremely correct about things, kind of gruffly polite. They seem to have a few other ongoing concerns apart from the engineering, and so I got a lot of business contracts to translate too, all talking about large amounts in dollars, funnily enough.
Then yesterday they rang, just the right side of gruff, as usual. It was Ander, the brother I usually deal with. Said they were "in town", and would like to drop in "for a chat", “put a face to a name”. Drop in for a chat? A chat? Maybe I haven't been in the business too long, but I have the feeling that since you all went global as I was learning the trade with Brookesduddy, everybody has a virtual office, and nobody “drops in for a chat” any more. The more upmarket among you may have a real, nice, homely office with wall-to-wall designer chairs and the like, but I have a feeling that many many freelancers out there, however professional, have an office at home consisting of ten square metres of space between cardboard boxes full of stuff.
Talking of Brookesduddy, I did say last time more about him, but I was lying. Truth to tell, overwhelmed as I am by the enormity of beaming myself up to the real world, do you know, I simply couldn’t be bothered to tell you about the old fraud this time. Next time, maybe. I’ve got some scandal on him, too.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, well, about an hour later the buzzer went, and up they came. I was quite expectant, although I wasn’t expecting such a procession. There were four of them. The two brothers Ander and Unai introduced themselves, both dressed in Armani suits with large Windsor knots in the ties, the odd ring and medallions and so on. The most surprising feature was that they had obviously decided to bring what appeared to be their granny along, an old woman in a wheelchair, dressed all in black, pushed along by a third man.
One of the largest men I’ve ever seen, too. So large he seemed to be in two or three places at once, and he actually blocked the light out as he entered the room. He had an Armani suit too, but not quite as nice. Dark glasses, and it certainly wasn’t sunny outside. Didn’t say anything. He had a little trouble manoeuvring Granny, who must have been in her nineties at least, into my office. Then he started arranging the blanket over her knees and stuff. He wasn’t introduced and neither was she, but he remained standing when the others had sat down (I had to go and get chairs from another room). I did get to know his name, though, because although all the initial stuff had been in Spanish, Ander suddenly said to him quietly, “Koldo – atea”. I don’t know much Basque yet, but “atea” is “door”. Koldo sidled over to the door, looked out into the corridor left and right, closed it, and stood in front of it with his thumbs in his belt. Curiouser and curiouser, I thought.
As I was wondering what all this was about, Ander started to talk. Granny seemed to have drifted off to sleep beside him. They liked my work, he said, probably a lot more coming up, a lot more, in fact, and they would definitely like to give me more, a lot more in fact, yes, oh yes, and he would like both parties to “help each other out”, develop the relationship a little more, a favour here, a favour there, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, etc.
“The thing is, Little Translator”, he said, “every so often we’d like to do, well, a few bills with you, just every so often, I mean, not so regular, every so often, see.”
“But I sent you a bill just the other day”, I said, a little surprised. “For about 250 euros. It was a …”
“Yes, yes, but apart from that, perhaps every so often we could have a little, er, arrangement for you to send in a few bills for larger amounts, say five or six thousand euros. A million of the old pesetas. Just to kind of justify certain little items we may have from time to time. You know what I mean. Just every so often, of course, not all the time.”
At last I got it. Unfortunately I started to giggle. Ever been in a room laughing with four people you’ve only just met, and suddenly found that all of them – even Granny had stirred – are staring at you, very definitely not laughing?
I stopped laughing.
“Look”, I said, “I can’t do that sort of thing, really. What you’re asking me to do is illegal, it’s …” (I saw “it’s what the mafia does” coming up from my vocal cords, and just managed to avoid it) “… just something I can’t do. I’ve only recently entered the profession, and I can’t start cheating the authorities”.
Well, Ander and Unai both tried to persuade me a little more, but I just kept saying no, no, I couldn’t, it wouldn’t be right.
And then suddenly Granny spoke up from her wheelchair:
“Well, if he won’t do it, that’s all there is to it, we just find someone else”, she rasped. “Door. Let’s go”, she said, clicking her fingers. I sat there amazed as they all sprang to attention. The brothers’ chairs scraped back as Koldo strode across from the door and turned the wheelchair around. “Who’s next on the list?” she was asking Koldo on the way out.
“Hell’s teeth”, I thought. “The Mamma. Mamma Corleone”.
“I’m sorry about all this, but you must realise I really can’t do this sort of …. ”, I said to Ander as he was leaving. He stood in front of me and smiled a little as he brushed a few specks of dust from the lapel of my jacket. “Don’t worry about it”, he told me, “business is business, and family is family. See you around.”
And I haven’t heard from them since. I don’t know whether to be relieved or worried.
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