Speaking in Tongues 3

Claire mostly smiled and nodded as the young German student spoke with her in excited tones. She did not remember much of their conversation, other than saying she had been to Germany “occasionally,” and that she only knew the language from school.

“You must have been an excellent student!”

Her reply was the only thing she remembered clearly saying to him later. “I just have a — weird talent for language.”

Politely declining the student’s offer to exchange contact information, Claire waved to him as he exited the bus and, with what she was now certain would be perfect German, wished him a pleasant journey. Two stops later, she stepped onto the sidewalk outside her office building.

She glanced at her phone. 8:42. Three minutes to her desk, five if she was delayed at the elevators. That left her ten minutes to further test her weird talent. There was a food court in the building across the street, she’d been there at least twice a week since starting her job at this office three years ago. Would there be a place — she nodded, and strode with determination to the cross-walk.

Glancing at the clock above the entrance to the food court (8:44), Claire decided against going to the express café, not that she didn’t like the coffee (very satisfying, if overpriced) but rather because she could not recall ever hearing a foreign language spoken there, by staff or customers. The fast-food shop, however, was a different story. Claire scanned the workers at the registers, identified one who had spoken in exasperated Spanish to one of the food preparers a couple weeks earlier; her line was the longest, Claire waving away several offers from suddenly lonely cashiers.

By the time she had gotten to the front of the line, she had prepared her questions in her mind. But before she could speak a word, she heard a terse cry from the food preparation area.

“That guy ever comes back here again, we should cut his nuts off, dip in the fryer, and serve it to him.”


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