Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ask an Expert

This is part two (of five) of The Interpreter Lightning Series. Part One.


The interpreter could hear his phone ringing, but could not find it. One reason this was maddening was that his apartment was tiny. Another was the ring tone itself, a loop of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer. When or why he had chosen it he could not remember. He had been having trouble remembering things since the lightning strike.

“Most likely Stacey,” he said. He meant that most likely it had been Stacey who changed his ring tone. He was ten years too old to have Stacey’s instinctual understanding of cell phones and all their features. She was always fiddling with phones and insisting he borrow her mother’s umbrella and so on. “It’s probably her phoning too, just to annoy me,” he said. His thoughts were not clear, and had not been since he woke up. “How did I get home yesterday?” he asked his reflection in the microwave. The phone had stopped ringing and he was no closer to pinning down its whereabouts.

He remembered sitting in the Emergency Ward waiting room but did not remember being examined. He had a vague recollection of suddenly getting up and walking out, and Stacey chasing him through the parking lot. Or had that been a dream? The only sign of the lightning was a peculiar spider web of red lines that spread from his right shoulder down to his elbow. It itched.

The phone rang again and he ran into the bathroom and shut the door. From doing this he learned that the phone was not in there, leaving only the bedroom and the main room. He was in the dark and turned on the light to open the door, then had to reach back into the room to turn it off. He went into his bedroom, closed its door and sat expectantly on the edge of his mattress, and said, softly, “Time to ring again.” He lay down.

He woke not from the phone, but from someone pounding on the door of his apartment. Perhaps there was a fire. He felt a hundred years old and his lightning arm was burning. He opened the door without peeking out the peephole.

It was Stacey. She was angry, but he saw only how sparkly she was. Why had he not noticed this before?

“Wow,” he said.

“What's with you?” she asked. “Have you been unconscious? I’ve been phoning you for two hours. Why aren’t you ready?”

“My phone is hiding,” said the interpreter. He swept his arm around.

“Do you recall that you’re supposed to be on TV in, like about 25 minutes? The producer is having a fit!”


Once a month the interpreter was featured on a ten-minute “Ask an Expert” segment during the morning newscast of a local television station. He was advertized as a bird expert, and viewers were invited to call in or email with questions about birds. Other experts on alternate weeks responded to questions about real estate or disobedient dogs or non-conventional medical treatments. At the end of his segments-- which usually featured a series of callers providing elaborate, inaccurate descriptions of mystery birds seen in back yards that inevitably turned out to be Northern Flickers or Cedar Waxwings or hallucinations-- the interpreter was expected to promote upcoming nature programs presented by the District.

“You have really nice hair,” said the interpreter.

“TELEVISION! GET YOUR UNIFORM ON, NOW!”

“Okay,” said the interpreter. He went into his bedroom, found his blue pants and put on the uniform shirt that seemed least rumpled. He heard his phone ringing outside the door.

It stopped in mid-tune. He came out. Stacey was in the main room, the kitchen-dining-living area, holding both of their phones. “Why was your phone in the microwave?” she asked. Her hair was really, really pretty, like a golden scarf with tiny diamonds in it.

On the way to the television station, the interpreter said to Stacey, who was driving, “You know what I love more than anything about being an interpreter? I love that we have these shirts with the little sewn part on the breast pocket where we can stick our sunglasses.” Then he passed out, and his head clunked loudly against the window.

Stacey ran two red lights to get him back to Emergency.


6 comments:

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Since you are writting this, I assume we are going to have a happy ending?

PSYL said...

Oye...so much trouble for our interpreter. I like the latest series.

Any chance of a follow-up story?

swamp4me said...

oh please, please, please let there be another installment in this electrifying tale. You've got us in stitches here.

Hugh said...

Deb, We will see. (I always prefer happy endings.) (And thanks for the pick!)

PSYL, the interpreter keeps on going.

Swampy, more to come.

Cher b said...

Er, is this happening to you? In real time? As in recently?

Dave said...

Getting impatient for Installment 3 here...