Lost in Translation


They spoke in their own languages, Matt’s English, Consuela’s Spanish, as they wound down the Pacific coast.

“I’m not going on some crazy-ass …”

“No estoy loco.”

“I didn’t say you were crazy. I said this… whatever we’re doing… it’s got to be nuts.”

“No loco.”

“Then why won’t you tell me what it is?”  He wished he spoke better Spanish or she better English. Throughout her son’s trial, they had communicated with a translator, a woman who whispered, “It’s not your fault. You did your best,” over Consuela’s sobs at the end.

But when, a week later, Consuela appeared at his office begging, “Vienes. Vienes, ahora, por favor!” Matt couldn’t fail to understand her. Though it meant cancelling a dozen appointments, he went. He only regretted his decision as she began to navigate the twisting narrows of highway 101. “Why won’t you tell me?” he repeated.

“Porque no le va a gustar.”

Matt had heard Consuela mutter, “No me gusta.” often enough during the trial.

“What won’t I like?”

Consuela pulled into a scenic overlook, currently deserted. She got out and hopped over the guard rail.

“Come back here!”

“No, tu. Vienes ver.” She flicked two fingers from her eyes over the cliff, indicating she wanted him to see something. “Confia en mi.” Trust me. How often he had said this to her in court? And how wrong had he been?

“OK,” he said. “I trust you,” though he did not. And he followed.

She lay on her stomach and scooted to the edge of the cliff. “Ya está. ¿Ven?

He finally lay down beside her and inched forward, waiting every second, for the shove that would catapult him into the rocks. At the lip, he squinted down.

“Ya está,” she repeated.

“There’s a metal box,” he said.


“What do you want…?”

In halting English, she said, “My Ramón is no murderer. That box proves it. You make the police get it, OK? Then, maybe he won’t get the needle.”


About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Lost in Translation — 20 Comments

  1. Lo qué a madre hace para su hijo, no? Love how your reader gets taken on this journey, and how the characterisation is built over their language barrier, that they know each other better than they might care to admit. Thanks for linking up Jessie!
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  2. You never, ever cease to impress me. This was so good, I read it three times and just enjoyed the ride you took us on. I could see both of these people, halting and stalling and yet STILL trying to understand each other. That is really what it’s about, that you WANT to understand, you try.

    wow, Jessie, you blew me away again. 🙂
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  3. What a terrific story, Jessie! Love how you keep them involved but at arm’s length. His fear of being pushed over the cliff was great!
    I may be the only one to notice, but I’d love to fine-tune the Spanish if you’d like (kymm59@gmail.com).
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    • Yes, please, do! My Spanish is rudimentary and heavy on the book learning. I feel like she should be using less formal phrases and more idiomatic ones.

    • Yay! I’m glad that didn’t come across too trite. I wanted the context clues to reveal her meaning without making her words redundant.

  4. Love the language barrier. Love the ending. Love the tension and the sense of not knowing due to the language barrier. You are so good. Every single time.
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  5. Wow! I’m impressed. I can barely write in English. Great story, and you have such command of dialogue. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Good stuff here! The Spanish can use a little cleaning up, but I like what you did, fusing two languages. I think your dialogue and descriptions are more clear than you think, so you don’t need certain bits of narration (e.g. indicating she wanted him to see something).
    Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  7. I could feel frustration from both characters, trying and failing to communicate fully. I wouldn’t worry about any repetition. I think in a case like this, they would have to repeat themselves a lot, like speaking louder, hoping to be understood better.
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  8. I can hear the whole halted conversation, and I wish I weren’t just contextually translating it (though I suppose it makes me more sympathetic with him).I love his misgivings, especially the moment he believes she’s going to push him over the edge.
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