Iron & Bass

Short Interpreter Story

Joe Parker - Feb. 1, 2002

Once there was an interpreter who lived in the suburbs outside the big city. Every day he shuttled into the metro area and worked in a shoe store.

The interpreter, whose name was Frank of the Many Tongues, was skilled in the languages of Europe and Asia and in the languages of old. His accents were precise, and words flowed effortlessly from his mouth all day long to facilitate transactions in the shoe store.

"What size is this?" Frank often translated from one language to another. "May I see these in an 8 wide?"

Frank was an invaluable resource.

Some days after work Frank walked down to the waterfront to rest his throat and watch the freight ships swim in from the horizon. Frank could read the writing on the side of every foreign freighter, and this pleased him, in part because he knew no one else had that ability.

"But alas," Frank thought to himself in a sentence that began in Japanese and ended in German and that only he could understand, "I am truly alone in this weary world."

Frank considered - in Hebrew - how ironic it was that his proficiency for language had left him feeling so isolated.

"Quite ironic, indeed!" Frank told himself in Spanish. But the pleasure that comes from uncovering one of life's ironies faded quickly, for Frank of the Many Tongues was indeed a sad man, in any language.

Frank reasoned he was destined for solitude and that the best remedy for his sorrow was to pour his energies into his work. Several weeks later, Frank came to the waterfront at sundown after a particularly talkative day at the shoe store.

"At last, a moment of peace," Frank reflected in the language of his youth.

As he rested, he heard the faint but distinctive sound of Latin being sung from a short distance along the pier. The words were carried by the sweet voice of a young woman, and as they rose in the air shifted now to Russian, now to Portuguese, as smoothly as the waves turned over onto one another in the sea below.

"Great Wolf of Beauty!" Frank exclaimed to himself in an American Indian dialect, for he now gazed upon as fair a woman he'd seen during his life in the big city.

The woman walked toward him as she sang her last verse, in French, then stood before Frank and held out her hands.

"Frank of the Many Tongues," she spoke in an Ancient Greek dialect. "I have searched for you over long years, in every shoe store along the cities of the coast, hoping to find the One who could hear my song."

"And you have found me," answered Frank in Italian, grasping her hands and looking deep into her sparkling eyes.

He quickly led her away from the waterfront, for evening was getting on and hunger had set in. Frank was eager to begin his new life of love, and decided that dinner was a perfectly acceptable starting point. He knew a good pizza shop a few blocks away.