My Wife Keeps Cussing
My wife, Kate, came across a few notes that I had scribbled.
Here is what she read — “It’s amazing how tiny decisions change our lives.”
“You take your dog for a walk and he shakes his lead and you end up running into an old friend.”
“You look at a painting and you realize how lovely Auckland is in spring.”
“You decide to murder your wife.”
I patiently explained that I was simply jotting a few notes for the beginning of a novel.
She returned to reading her English-Portuguese lesson manual. Kate repeated again and again: “Você fala English?” She made it sound a bit Spanish (since she was raised in Chile where she learned how to speak their language).
“Kate, why in the world do you insist on trying to learn Portuguese?”
“Because we are going to Brazil and that is what they speak.”
“Why don’t they speak Brazilian?” I asked.
“Because they speak Portuguese. Você fala English is how you ask in Portuguese if the person you are talking to understands English.”
“And if he does?” I asked, “then what?”
“Then we can communicate with him,” said Kate. “Because, the last time I checked, we speak English.”
“You are going about this wrongheadedly. When we arrive in Brazil you simply ask the first person you come across if he speaks English. You ask him in English.”
“If I use Portuguese then the person will understand that I am, at least, making an effort to learn his language and his culture.”
“But you won’t be able to determine if he speaks English unless you ask him in English if he can speak English,” I said. “Don’t give strangers a chance to lie to you.”
“Strangers don’t necessary lie,” she said.
“I believe strangers, especially foreigners lie. You will probably find some Brazilian conman who will nod his head affirmatively. The next thing you know he will take us down a dark alley and murder us.”
“I think you have murder on your mind,” she said. “You talk and write about it incessantly.”
“Nonsense,” I said. “And quit changing the subject. We are talking about the futility, indeed the downright folly, of learning enough Portuguese to find a Brazilian who speaks English. I say talk to them in English immediately upon sighting them and be done with semantic games.”
“You are so damn bigoted,” said Kate.
“Why do you say that?”
“Your inane statement about not trusting people who do not speak English.”
“When was the last time a group of people, who had English as their first language, attacked our country or tried to blow up something America owns? That is why we can trust the Canadians. Except for the ones who speak French.”
“What has that got to do with anything?”
“It has plenty to do with everything that is American and we hold dear, Dear. The true American speaks English as his first language. Anyone who does not have English as their first language should be deported — immediately for the well-being of the republic.”
“What about Americans who scribble notes concerning murdering their wives?”
“The time to worry about such a note would be if it were written in French or German or some other vile language.”
“You are beyond belief. You are so bigoted,” she said.
“No I am not. Furthermore, I would deport any American who speaks English and insists on splitting infinitives.”
Kate began to curse me in Spanish with a determination almost bordering on character.
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