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Speaking in Tongues

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I never did learn much Spanish. Come to think of it, I was never much good at any language wasn't English at all. I did check out a book from the library once, before Andy. It said you could learn to speak French in thirty minutes a day. I had that book out for a whole year and all I learned was how to say 'where's the bathroom,' and I don't suppose I said that very well. I guess there are worse things to know.

Now, down on the beach, Andy took to the Spanish like a fish to water. I don't know what that man did as a child to learn that language, maybe he took it in school, I suppose. But by the time I was six weeks there he was speaking like a native. Well, a native with a pretty thick accent.

It helped that he'd found a pretty young thing to practice with. She spoke English, too, which was very helpful to me, and the three of us would sit and drink a cerveza or two in the local bar. She taught me a couple phrases that did come in handy.

"You really don't need to know all that much," she told me. "Una cerveza, por favor."

"One beer, please," Andy provided.

"I think I know that one."

She laughed. Andy always said she had a pretty laugh, pretty smile. "Um. ¿Donde esta el baño? is always a good one. No tengo las drogas..."

"Now, what does that mean?" I was particularly curious because when she said it, Andy took a laughing fit so hard he choked on his beer. She did keep a good poker face when she told me.

"I don't have the drugs."

I couldn't help laughing. By what Andy said she was an inner city girl, born and raised, and we two were escaped convicts. Maybe we hadn't been in gangs or doing hard time, but it was one of those questions that just sort of tickled me the right way.

"How do you say, would you like to come sailing with me?"

I kept my peace while she told him. Andy knew simple things like that as well as she did, and I had the feeling she knew it, too. But it was his way of asking her out on a date, and after just shy of twenty years of only ever talking to prison folk, I guess he wasn't up to much in the way of fancy courting.

I did get my chance to ask her where she was from when he went back out to the store before we headed home. Told him I'd finish my beer and wait for him. Then I asked her where she'd learned the language. Sure, she looked like she belonged here with the señoritas, but she when she spoke English she talked like she was from one of those New England girls schools. Only thing she didn't have was the accent.

"Where'd you learn your Spanish, Miss..."

"Rosaura," she shook my hand all neat and pretty. "My father's Mexicano, I was raised to speak both languages."

And damned if she didn't do it with style and grace. "Well, that's a remarkable talent you have there, Miss Rosaura. I tried to learn me a new language once. Never got too far in it. Andy was helping with my Spanish some."

Wasn't hard to spot a look of interest, there, right before she lowered her eyes. "His accent is noticeable," she smiled, "But he does have quite the grasp of the language."

I couldn't quite help a chuckle or two as we walked back to our home. He wanted to work on the boat some, had gotten supplies for sealing the hull and everything. I took up mending our fishing nets while he did that, staying in the shade so I didn't burn. Told him he might want to do the same.

"Why's that?" he asked me. Wasn't sure I believed him.

"The girl? Back at the bar and taqueria," though I couldn't say it as pretty as they could. "The one you wanted to go sailing with?"

He dropped his gaze back to the patch he was sealing so I couldn't see the look on his face. "Oh, her."

"Yeah, her. You're not interested?"

Andy took his time answering, like he always did. I'd never met a man who considered his words more carefully than Andy Dufrense, even if he didn't always take a good deal of time about it. Still, every word came out sounding like he'd chosen that one for a purpose, that it was the best word he could find.

"I was in that place for a long time, Red. Long enough that... I don't know if I know how to talk to anyone else. Might be better just to leave it alone."

And just like that, he went back to sealing his boat. Damndest thing I saw him do since he busted out of prison.

We kept on our work for a while after that, till he spoke up out of the clear blue. The question of the girl must have been percolating in his brain the whole time. "Truth is..."

"Yes?"

He put down that can of sealer and his brush on top of it, and I knew it was important by the way he got that little wrinkle in his forehead. "The truth is... I don't know if I want anyone else in my life. Not like that, I mean."

I frowned. "Don't quite get what you mean."

"Red, I spent longer in that prison with you guys than I did being married to my wife. Hell," he laughed, "I know you better than I know my wife. And right now, I'm all right with that. I'm not looking for any of this to change."

"Well, I'm not looking for any of this to change, either, but that's one fine-looking woman you're letting slip through your fingers."

Andy only chuckled, turned back to his sealing the boat with that smile he had, and I knew there was going to be no more discussion on the subject. He was my friend, and I'd come down to Mexico for him. I'd known him twenty years, and there were some times when I wondered if we were even speaking the same language. Andy had a way all his own, and he seemed to like it that way.

Guess I could learn to speak that language, too.