The Little Translator claws his way back: http://www.proz.com/topic/85405
The Little Translator goes for the Big Lie: http://www.proz.com/topic/86945
The Little Translator meets the Mob: http://www.proz.com/topic/88711
The Little Translator runs into Brookesduddy: http://www.proz.com/topic/90107
The Little Translator runs into Brookesduddy (II): http://www.proz.com/topic/91508
The Little Translator turns Little Detective: http://www.proz.com/topic/91763
The Little Translator in the dying hours of 2007: http://www.proz.com/topic/92996
The Little Translator and the Basque sex kittens: http://www.proz.com/topic/93904
The Little Translator turns Little Detective (I½): http://www.proz.com/topic/94708
I was only halfway out the door, though, intent on an interview with Sergeant Garmendia at the Ertzaintza police station in Bilbao, when the phone rang. I sighed and took off my coat again.
A voice said: “Er, you’re a translator, aren’t you? Ricardo Solís here, from Galvanizados Solís. I found you in the Yellow Pages as Little Translator, and I need a translation. It’s for my company. We specialise in hot galvanised products.”
“Yes”, I said grandly. “This is Little Translator, but we do Big Translations. What exactly is the …?”
“Well, really, I would do it myself”, he said. “Or my secretary could do it. It’s for our web page. Very easy. But …”
The Little Translator’s little fingers gripped his little telephone so hard he thought his little fist was going to break the little thing into lots of little pieces. It was only a momentary slip, though, and he immediately reverted to the first person. “Just one minute”, I told him, “one second, please. One second, thank you ever so much. I have some urgent business to attend to which just cannot wait – I’ll be right back.”
I covered the mouthpiece with my left hand and punched the plastered wall in front of me with my right. Three times – it hurts like buggery, but it’s so nice when you stop.
I screamed a little strangled, silent scream, put the phone down on the desk, went out into the hall and put Mick Jagger’s “Joy” on the CD. Thence to the kitchen, where I thought I might perhaps have a little amuse-gueule, a pintxo, something to whet my appetite. So I cut two slices of my delicious brown bread and put them into the toaster, and switched on the TV where Richard Roth was reporting live from the UN on Arabs and Israelis. When the toast popped up, I took out some rather nice pâté de campagne I’d bought in Biarritz a few days previously, spread it generously on the toast, came back into the office singing Joyjoyjoy along with Mick and the boys, turned it down a little, poured myself a Martini, put my feet up luxuriously on the desk, lit a cigarette, blew a few smoke rings, and picked up the phone again.
When I’m almost 100% sure that somebody’s about to seriously waste my time, or let me know that their time is more important than mine, I like to take the initiative and waste theirs first if I possibly can.
“Where the hell have you been?” asked Mr. Solís. “This is an urgent job I’m talking about here.”
“So you would do it yourself, you say?” I asked him, naturally providing no explanation for my three-minute absence.
All this had been in Spanish, but now he switched to English.
“I have been in Eengland for seex months”, he told me. “I speak very well Eeenglish.”
“Great”, I answered. “So how are things kicking over there, then? Bucketing down like nobody’s business in the green and pleasant land as per usual, I suppose.”
“Sorrrry? Keeking? Bucketing? Business? Greenland? What you say? And I am not een Eengland now, or Greenland, I am een Madreeeed. Een Espain”.
I reverted to Spanish. "Nothing, it wasn’t important. So, why can’t you do it yourself? If it’s so easy, like”.
"Because I don’t have time. My secretary could do it OK because she’s married to an Englishman and lived there for a couple of years, but she has no time either.”
"Yes, perhaps I could help you out there", I told him.
“Good”, said he, “it’s a text on our galvanisation process here. It starts off with …”
I interrupted him. “No, I mean perhaps I could help you out with other things, since you say you can do it, and the only problem seems to be your lack of time. Maybe I could go down to Madrid and do a bit of cleaning around the office for you, babysit for your kids, mow the lawn, take care of the ironing, or even pick up some shopping at El Corte Inglés” (I sniggered slightly off the phone).
He seemed puzzled. “What? No, I want you to do a translation.”
Time to move in for the kill, I felt.
“What do you say to a lawyer when you want to hire his services?” I asked, dangerously. “Do you say, I’d like you to defend me in a court case. I'd do it myself, but I don’t have time? And also because I’d have to cross-examine myself from the centre of the court and then run over to sit in the dock and answer my own questions. And … I don't have much idea about law.”
“Do you ring up a surgeon”, I went on, "and tell him you'd like him to remove a cyst from your right arm, and you'd do it yourself but you don't have time, you’re right-handed, you’d be groggy from the local anaesthetic anyway, and also, er, you don’t know how to use a scalpel?"
I was warming to it now. “Do you go into a house of ill repute and say: “Fancy a rough half hour, lover? I would do it myself because it’s much cheaper and you never need to say you’re sorry, only I can’t stand the loneliness.”
It will come as no surprise to regular readers that the phone went “click”.
I found Garmendia at his desk. A wiry man with a moustache. Very wiry. Like just about all Basques. Must be all that stone-lifting, log chopping and sawing they do out in the hinterland of Euskadi. He was tersely polite, and listened to the Macbeth guff, although I could tell he was a little lost on the bit about the squirrels.
“You see”, he said, “there’s nothing I can do. It's not our jurisdiction around there, for one thing. Our unit was only called in at the beginning because we happened to be at a conference in Vitoria that morning. What did you have in mind, anyway?”
“Go down there", I urged him. “With me. Now. We’ll nail him between the two of us.”
Garmendia looked at me sadly, shrugged his shoulders and placed his hands on the desk. “I can’t come”, he said. “I really can’t come. There’s nothing I can do. I just can’t.”
I was more than a little surprised at this deviation, but continued undaunted.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Sergeant, but it’s nothing to worry about it. It’s a common enough problem. Really, you’d be surprised how many men suffer from exactly the same thing. Course, being male we always deny that we have a problem – I must say I’m impressed at how open you are about it to a relative stranger like myself, though, Sergeant. Sometimes it helps if the person you’re talking to is unknown, doesn’t it? Once you actually admit to the problem, though, you’re more than halfway to finding a solution, so congratulations. It’s hardly my sector, however, although I do know a great psychologist you should talk to. After only a few sessions you’ll be as right as rain. I have a Sylvie Saint video you can borrow, too. A real blockbuster with a couple of Austrian lads. “Sylvie’s Hot-Sauce Double Wiener”, it’s called. It’s just a minor guilt blockage after a certain age, you know, Sergeant. Parental influence, most likely. You can’t get rid of them no matter how hard you try.”
Suddenly an idea struck me. “At the critical point, all you have to do is think of your own name”, I told him. “GARMENDIA. GAR is fire, MENDIA is mountain, and GARMENDIA is “fire-mountain”, volcano [all true, by the way – Basque is such a wonderful language]. What you have to do at the moment of truth, Sergeant, is say to yourself, “I’m a volcano, that’s what I am, I’m an erupting volcano about to eject a great whoosh of lava”, and Bob’s your uncle”.
Garmendia was mystified. “What ARE you on about, Señor?”
“Your inability to reach a climax, of course. But it’s only temporary, really. You’ll see. All you have to do …”
“No you fool, I meant I can’t come with you to Asmatutakoizena.”
Again, I know what you’re thinking out there, don’t think I don’t. You’re lolling back in your swivel chair with a notebook and a big red pen to catch me out in some faux pas or other (like the “one-way mirror” mistake last time, instead of “two-way mirror”, and the mistake I made between a comma and a full stop - sorry about that!). Yes, I can just see you frowning and thinking, “Surely he can’t have said that, since the conversation would have been in Spanish or Basque”.
Hey. It’s my story and I’ll tell it anyway I like.
Then Sergeant Garmendia lowered his eyes and gave a little cough. “It's not just the jurisdiction. I can’t, er, I can’t risk getting back late this evening. Or any other evening, for that matter. Got to be back in good time for dinner with the wife.”
“Oh come on Sergeant”, I countered, “your wife will wait for you if it’s important.”
“No, it’s not my wife.” He was speaking a little haltingly now. “It’s dinner at my mother-in-law’s. Every night at 8 sharp. I know it’s a little early, and we don’t actually eat until 10, but it’s, well, I can’t be late. My wife works too, so it’s kind of repayment for babysitting our two little kids, company for her since she lives alone. Her husband died of utter desperation, I reckon, for she's a dreadful, loud, dominant woman, my mother-in-law, but we can't say no.”
I had to laugh. “I’m a bachelor myself, Sergeant, but surely one night won’t make any difference.”
He had a definite hunted look about him now. “You don’t understand, Little Translator. She's a fiend in human form. She’s got such a temper. Unreasonable isn’t in it. And … she's got us trapped. Right where she wants us. I love my wife to death, but her mother was born somewhere near hell, I think.”
I noticed his hands. I could swear they were shaking slightly. He saw me looking at them and placed them squarely on the table. “She hates me, too. She’s always around, either there or on the phone, do this, do that, ordering us about. I have these horrible dreams every single night of her chasing me on the back of an alligator, you know. It’s awful – I’m running as fast as I can, but they're always right at my heels. I look back and see the bloodshot yellow eyes, the sharp fangs drooling stringy saliva mixed in with blood and bits of human tissue, the dry scaly skin, I hear the blood-curdling roars and the snap and crunch of the jaws opening and closing, and smell swampy, foetid breath blowing hot over my shoulder. I wake up in a cold sweat, I’m telling you. … And then there’s the alligator ..."
Now this I hadn’t envisaged. Like the possibility of Queen Elizabeth taking out a Ronson and lighting a regal fart before the nation during the Christmas Day speech, it was the last thing I would have expected to witness in a police station.
He had been staring at the table, but now he looked up at me. “So, you see, I can’t risk being late for the patatas a la riojana. Patatas a la riojana. Every bloody night patatas a la riojana. I used to like patatas a la riojana, but now I hate them. What can I do?”
I stared at him. “Sergeant”, I asked, “how old are your children?”
“Two and four. Why do you ask?”
“Because I'm thinking into the future, Sergeant Garmendia, that’s why. The future, when they’re a little older, just a little, when they understand things a bit better, when maybe one day they’ll hear about how the Asmatutakoizena Killer was caught, and they’ll look up at you with their angelic, trusting, innocent little faces and ask you: “Daddy Daddy, O Daddy, why wasn’t it you that caught him? O why, Daddy, why?”
His eyes lowered again.
“And what will you have to tell them, Garmendia? That you weren't in where the action was because grandma wouldn’t let you? That you had to stop at her place and eat up your patatas a la riojana like a good boy, otherwise the Bogey Man would come in the middle of the night and carry you off to hell in his big sack? Is that it?”
“I know, I know", he babbled in shame, “but what can I do?”
I pushed the chair away from behind me and stood up. I’m only a Little Translator, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
“Garmendia”, I said, “I’ll tell you what you can do. You’re can ring through to the boss man, and tell him you're going down to Asmatutakoizena with me right now to catch a killer on the loose. No buts. And while you’re at it you can ring the Wicked Witch of West Bizkaia too, and tell her to put the frigging patatas a la riojana in the microwave because you’ll be back late. If you’re back tonight at all, for you’re On A Case ("wow, I finally did it", I marvelled to myself, "I said it in capitals"). That's what you can do, Sergeant Garmendia. Or … perhaps I should say … INSPECTOR Garmendia?”
Friends, Garmendia did it. He hesitated for a second, then pulled out his mobile. “Boss", he said, "I'm taking an unmarked squad car with Señor Traductorcito and we're going to trap the Asmatutakoizena Killer. I could hear the &$!!?///%!?! response from the phone. ..... No, I haven't gone mad, sir. It’s murder in the first all right. ?=(!€@#* !!!!…. Yes, I know it’s not our manor, sir. But I’m owed two or three days off. … It’s a hunch, sir. Just give me 48 hours, sir. 48 hours. Like Mel Gibson in that film. If I’m wrong, you can have my badge and my piece. ?=&$”¿?((!!””””@@@@!!!!!!! Suddenly his face registered anger. “Don’t give me that, sir. I’m a big boy now. I can get patatas a la riojana anywhere I bloody well like.”
He snapped the phone shut and looked at me. “But ..." he said.
And I knew what was coming ...
“… If we should fail?” he asked me.
“We fail”, I told him firmly, “but screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail.”
God I love that line.
“Come on”, he said, “let’s get on the road. To a place called Justice. I’ll ring the old trout on the way.”
“Holy cow", I thought. “I’ve created a monster”.
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