Claire left the office at noon, did not pick up lunch on her way to the bus, didn’t even think of eating as she opened the door to her apartment. Her eyes scanned her living room, found the remote, which she raced for like a hawk swooping down on its prey. She sat on the sofa while turning on her television, pressed the remote’s Guide button, selecting a category on the screen she’d never chosen before. FOREIGN.
The long shadows of afternoon were fading into twilight’s dusk when Claire’s hunger finally overcame her curiosity.
Every test of her new miraculous talent had passed flawlessly. Several hours of switching through programs — Italian opera, Kenyan news, Indian comedy . . . anime from Japan, soccer from Holland, a talent show from Egypt . . . a talk show in Russian, a murder mystery in Cantonese, a soap opera in Catalan . . . a young woman reciting poetry in Farsi, a disembodied French voice describing the effects of a devastating drought, a Mexican announcer interviewing a histrionic wrestler . . . make prepartions for the start of monsoon season in Thailand, Belgium was not prepared for the Nazi invasion, I don’t care who your father is I will always love you —
The clincher came while watching the documentary on South Africa, one of the few English language channels she had not skipped past. An aboriginal man man was being interviewed, his responses translated at the bottom of the screen. “That’s not right!” She’d nearly thrown the remote at the television. “He didn’t say his family was dead, he said they were lost!”
Claire opened her freezer, grabbed a TV dinner and threw it into her microwave, her concessions to the annoying necessity of dinner. She’d had all the proof she needed, having understod every word in every language she’d heard that afternoon. She didn’t know how she’d gained this ability, but its origin didn’t matter. As her microwave chimed its finish, all Claire could think about was how she could use her new talent for her benefit.