Lia arrived at the courthouse bright and early on Monday morning, feeling much better with Antonio in tow as moral support, whom she promptly sat down on the bench behind the defendant’s family. She and Antonio had had a good time reminiscing and she had confided in him regarding what was happening at her first Santeria trial, which had not started off on the right foot. Being Cuban, he had suggested she read up on the subject and she had picked up El Monte, in a botanica on 8th street. He had told her it was the definitive book by Lydia Cabrera, a Cuban anthropologist, on Santeria rituals and folklore, and she had used it to create a glossary which significantly bolstered her confidence.
Sure enough, her weekend reading on the topic, plus what little she had been able to pull up from her work computer on the case, did the trick. Much to Harry’s chagrin, Lia sailed through the interpretation of the morning testimony without a hitch. She blithely interpreted terms he would have been hard up to come up with despite his experience.
The fireworks began in the afternoon, when the defendant’s brother, a self-styled intuitive, whose proclaimed mission was to find the true murderer of whose crimes his brother was being accused, started wheeling around regularly to face Antonio and stare him down, muttering ominously under his breath. It reached a point that Tony became incensed, informed the bailiff, and the man was reprimanded. He vehemently screamed for justice saying that the court should interrogate Tony because he could see blood on his hands, insinuating he was involved in the case, after which disruption, the judge called a recess. During the recess, Lia spoke to the bailiff off the record, explaining that she knew Antonio, who was an ex-federal agent, and had brought him to the court. She also disclosed to him that on a more disturbing note, someone had put a bloodied rubber chicken on her desk the day the trial began, which she had initially taken as a joke but was now unsure about. When court was reconvened, the judge dismissed the accusations and informed counsel for the defendant at a sidebar, that if there were any further outbursts, the “clairvoyant” would be held in contempt of court, fined and ordered to leave the premises. As to the chicken, he said an investigation would be conducted by the U.S. Marshals office.
Harry, trying to appear nonchalant, was hanging on every word, not too pleased to hear that his prank was going to be looked into. Nonetheless, he was confident they would not get to the bottom of the matter. Little did he know that during a routine inspection of court surveillance videos, he would be identified, putting the offensive fowl through the x-ray machine upon entering the courthouse, laughing with the Marshal on duty about it. Unfortunately for him, that same Marshal was part of the investigation that was ordered and would remember the incident, that would ultimately result in an official reprimand that would become a negative element of Harry’s personnel file.
Around the same time as the disruptions in the Miami court, we had left Kirsten waiting for Eric, unaware of the plans Antonio had put in motion with his underworld connections, to get rid of Eric in his absence.
On the night in question, Eric came home, and had a convivial if superficial supper with Kirsten, during which he slipped a qualude in her wine. Once she passed out, he carried her to bed, officiously propped pillows around her so she would feel protected, and quickly snuck out through the service door, to a titillating rendezvous with Ana at Calle del Espiritu Santo, a funky street that takes on an edgier feel after midnight. He figured he could be back in the early morning hours before she ever woke up from the sedative.
He did not figure that there were contract killers out to get him, who had followed him home from the bank, but had not seen his surreptitious exit. These same operatives easily jimmied the front door lock shortly after he left, stealthily came into the bedroom, and coupling a silencer to a semi-automatic, systematically and callously sprayed the figures on the bed with impunity.
On his way back to his grandmother’s, Bo came to the decision that he had embarked on a trajectory, which although not to his liking, was the only means he could envision of overcoming his problems. That is, unfairly beating out the competition in order to make the money he so desperately needed. He was aware that he was running the risk of being found out but he thought he could reasonably get away with it and the results would far outweigh that probability. In spite of his body’s answer to this response in the form of a blazing migraine and his Nai nai’s advice that he could not achieve homeostasis with this self-imposed conflict in his life, he was dead-set on his course.. He could only see what his mind and physical senses were telling him. She, on the other hand, was stressing the concepts of the Tao Te Ching. That it is not about doing what we individually think is best for us, but about making the best of our universal nature and expressing it every chance we get. “We cannot impose our wishes on Nature or the Universe, but if you work with Nature, the Tao will work for you”, she said.
He did not foresee the fact that the interpreter candidates that were being interviewed had taken matter into their own hands by informing government representatives of their suspicions. Not that these officials really cared whether Chinese interpreters were losing out on a job, but they were very interested in being able to pin any kind of irregularities on the Americans because of the sensitive nature of the accusations regarding China that they were making before the World Trade Organization, which would be significantly undermined if these allegations were proven.
Consequently, the government scheduled one of their own, privy to the situation, and who was also an interpreter, to be interviewed for the position, to evaluate how to proceed.
This is the potentially explosive scenario that Bo walked into the next day, unbeknownst to him.
As the morning developed and the questioning got under way, despite his intellectual reasoning, Bo noticed a change of consciousness automatically occurring within him, which governed the way he did his job and innocently saved him from a major misstep on both macro and micro levels.
Verse 33 of the Tao as recited by his grandmother, swirled through his head and he felt more at peace:
He who knows others is clever.
He who knows himself is wise.
He who masters others is strong.
He who masters himself is powerful.
This is my first foray, in installments, of fiction related to the interpreting field, which genre I haven’t seen before. I am very interested in learning how it was perceived by my readers and would appreciate feedback from you to judge how to proceed. At this stage in my writing, I feel it is liberating not to be constrained by facts and didactic considerations. I believe stories can help to spark ethical discussions about events that happen all the time but don’t often come to light unless there is a scandal of some sort.
Arriving at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, to Judge Rubin’s courtroom promptly at 8:15 a.m. Friday morning, Harry introduced himself to Lia, the new interpreter, originally from Madrid, more recently from Salt Lake City, with whom he would be working the weeklong Santeria trial. In a gesture of bonhomie calculated to put her off guard, he offered to go first, knowing full well that the thorny terminology would not crop up until after the voir dire and opening statement, when they started taking testimony from the Olorisha priest and his Cuban clients. Harry was basically going to throw her under the truck. He intuited she definitely had not had time to review any of the prior proceedings in the case to create a glossary. He was just going to subtly but relentlessly point out flaws, offering the least assistance he could get away with, without getting called out for it. He felt all new interpreters in his court needed to undergo their trial by fire, and it was his self-designated job to preside over that event, having been there over 30 years. The torture started on schedule when the black, exotically robed cleric started to intone in thickly accented Spanish that the defendant aleyo had been advised to undergo una rogación de cabeza and given an achó to take to the bembé where it would be performed, only a day before the homicide took place. Lia, did what she could with this, translating as above, without having the slightest clue as to whether these words actually had a translation or what they even meant. Preening like a peacock, Harry shook his head ominously and whispered in a very audible tone, “aleyo means outsider, bembé is a ceremony, etc.” Of course this only served to make her more nervous as the proper protocol was that he write these terms down for her and she could correct the record, if needed, subsequently. You could see that the judge, the members of the jury and some of the santeros sitting in the audience were beginning to be concerned that they might not be fully understanding what was being said. And so the morning dragged on. In reality things were not as bad as they seemed to Lia, but to be faced with this challenge and an adversarial colleague on her first day at work in a new city was enough to unsettle anyone. The lunch break did not make things any better, to the contrary. When she slinked into her office, she found a rubber chicken lying on top of her computer. She had no idea of the significance or provenance of the item and suspected it was a joke, until the janitor stopped by to empty her wastebasket. When he saw the chicken, his eyes widened, his gaze went from the chicken, to her and then towards the direction of the courtroom where she had been working. He quickly blessed himself and looked at her intently, unsure as to whether he should say anything or not. This was not lost on Lia who quickly asked him what was going on, and was told that in voodoo, when someone wants to do a number on you, they grace you with a dead chicken or pigeon. It was 1:45 and she had to be back in the courtroom and in her seat, ready to go at 2:00, so there was no time to ruminate about this latest incident. As she slipped into her seat, the judge came out of chambers and announced that the trial would be postponed until the following work day because he had an emergency to attend to. Keeping a straight face, Lia breathed an inner sigh of relief, while Harry was chagrined that his plan for the first day had gone awry. He had been sadistically looking forward to upping the ante in the afternoon before she had a chance to regain her composure over the weekend. Shaking inside, Lia did not say anything to anyone about the chicken episode so as not to draw attention to herself. She used the rest of the afternoon to read whatever scanty information was available on her work computer about the case, then went home to get the guest bedroom ready for her old friend that was flying in that evening, while she started tossing possibilities around in her head.
Antonio Garrido, the ex-boyfriend of Ana, the conference interpreter we met last time, is boarding a flight at Barajas, to go visit his friend Lia Quesada, who has just moved to Miami. Antonio is an ex-federal agent from the US, who moved to Madrid upon retirement and is doing odd-jobs as a detective and security guard. He has recently learned that his old girlfriend, whom he is unilaterally trying to get back with, is screwing some German dude. In order to dampen the affair, he has arranged for some of his underworld contacts to take a hand in the matter and he is getting out of town to put some distance between himself and the events that are planned to transpire. Ana on the other hand is glad she has not heard from Tony again in the last week and is hopeful that he might be giving up his obsession that they hook-up again. Kirsten has been telling her that she is concerned about the area she is living in because at times lately, she has felt she is being stalked. She is glad that although Eric is acting strange and picking arguments with her, they are still living together, so she feels “protected”. Otherwise she may have to move from Carabanchel, although the rent is cheap, but she is still not getting a stable volume of interpreting work that will allow her to move elsewhere comfortably. She has bared her heart to her friend, telling her how much in love she is and how she is doing all that she can to make the relationship flourish in spite of the handwriting on the wall. Although she feels a twinge of remorse over her hitherto unknown role to Kirsten in this “threesome”, Ana has a pragmatic philosophy that “such is life” and if love is not there any longer, you have to be strong enough to admit it and move on. She is ready to sacrifice her long-time friend for her own satisfaction, not realizing that the basis for her own relationship with Eric does not bode well for its outcome. From his perspective, Eric believes in the “survival of the fittest”, or those who successfully adapt to new environments. He finds Ana’s hot, Latin blood alluring and he loves leading the sophisticated urban life in a big city. He sees Kirsten as a traditional German girl of hardy, Bavarian peasant stock, whose goal in life is to make a little money using her bilingual talents, get married and move back to Schwangau to live on a farm or to own a bed and breakfast and raise a brood of children. It was good while it lasted because she was a compatriot in a strange land when he arrived, and she took him in and made him feel at home, but it’s time to break with the past and start a new life with someone more to his present likings. Nonetheless, he feels guilty because he knows how much in love Kirsten is with him and how she has pinned her hopes on him. He also knows she is alone, living in a bad neighborhood because of her financial circumstances and is reluctant to leave her in the lurch. He is trying to plan for a yet to be determined date on which he will try to make a more graceful exit and he knows Ana is getting testy. He has not yet made his intentions known to Kirsten or shown any signs, or at least so he thinks, that he is getting ready to leave, and Ana feels he is using her. As the Spanish so quaintly say, puede que se quede sin la soga ni la cabra. (Literally, he could “lose both the rope as well as the goat.”) He might end up without one or the other because of his indecision so he has to make his move soon and let the chips fall where they may. But as far as today is concerned, he is tired after a long day at his clerk’s job at Deutsche Bank. He is ready for the hearty bohnensuppe Kirsten promised him this morning, which she knows is his favorite, and whatever else the evening might bring. There’s no sense in depriving himself or poor Kirsten when he can’t make a move yet. Maybe when they give him a raise at DB and he can help her to move to a better area…
As Bo walked towards his grandmother’s apartment in Happy Valley, across from the horse track, he gingerly criss-crossed through the street market reflecting on the different culture from what he was accustomed to back in San Francisco. Vendors were aggressively hawking their colorful wares which varied from fresh produce, to esoteric potions, to live snakes and those bottled in brine, all leaking into the street in jumbled order. They remind him of his uncontrolled thoughts abruptly spilling into his awareness. The day had gone relatively well for him. Although a member of the legal team was always present throughout his lengthy interviews with the prospective interpreters, and the latter were obviously bilingual, he was successful in subtly planting doubts as to the loyalty and capabilities of the linguists they were interviewing. The case they are involved in hinges on proving alleged violations by China of World Trade Organization rules in a greenfield direct investment project by a large American electronics manufacturer. Bo is focusing on insinuating that they are not going to get a fair shake with these subcontractors because they would not be impartial due to their ties to the government, the chief user of language services in China. Practically all interpreters are government officials who deal with the “non-Chinese world” and perform interpreting duties as a secondary part of their work, although the freelance market is beginning to open. As a point of comparison, a day’s interpreting fee is double or more than a month’s salary for a government employee, so the interpreters being evaluated are keen on getting this assignment. Although not privy to the conversations among the Americans, the Chinese are beginning to get the impression that their suit is not faring well. Bo heard them in the restroom, unbeknownst to them, disparagingly referring to him as a “banana”, Hong Kong slang for a Chinese that has been assimilated into Western culture and is yellow on the outside but white on the inside. Bo knows that some of the candidates being considered are members of AIIC as he is, and it has crossed his mind that they might report their suspicions about his handling of this opportunity to their association representatives, not to mention the political implications this could have by undermining his own credibility and that of his client before the WTO tribunal, but it is a calculated risk he wants to take in view of the benefits. Regardless, this does not keep him from fantasizing that he could be prosecuted in China. He replays snippets in his head of the recent “show trial” of his namesake, Bo Xilai. That guy had been sent up for life, even if the transgressions were not the same. In addition, if his U.S. employers catch wind of his self-serving maneuvers, he stands to lose his best client and ruin his reputation back home. This would be disastrous as the main reason for doing this is that he is “upside-down” on his mortgage and cannot make ends meet with his normal income. His wife adamantly refuses to consider moving from “Snob Hill”, so he is between a rock and a hard place, which invariably brings on a now-chronic migraine headache. Hopefully, his grandmother will have some traditional Chinese medicine to get him through the next few days, although he suspects that knowing her, the advice will be to eliminate conflict in his physical body by acting ethically. What to do? What is best for him in the long run? He would probably never be found out, it would all be over in a few months and he would get out of the financial mess he had gotten himself into when he bought that damn apartment at the height of the real-estate boom. To be continued…Be part of the creative process by sharing your opinions as the storyline concludes:
I am an innately curious person that thrives on education and self-development. My job is perfect in this respect because when you add travel, it usually implies different philosophies and forms of artistic expression at the destination. For that reason, whenever I have had the opportunity to get some R&R before or after a job […]
For those who may not know her, Professor Holly Mikkelson at the Monterrey School of International Studies, is a state and federally certified court interpreter, and is accredited by the American Translators Association. She has been a consultant to court interpreter regulatory and training entities such as the California Judicial Council and the National Ce […]
Continued from Freudian Tales II http://wp.me/p1B1SV-hm Miami: Lia arrived at the courthouse bright and early on Monday morning, feeling much better with Antonio in tow as moral support, whom she promptly sat down on the bench behind the defendant’s family. She and Antonio had had a good time reminiscing and she had confided in […]
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