An Interpreter’s Travels: 2
Jackson…or as his few friends liked to call him ‘Jax’ stood on the dock looking straight out into the massive ocean head of him. The breeze was beginning to pick up and his fluff light brown hair lost that styled look. The look of an interpreter. Now he just looked like a child who was wearing a Brobdingnagan uniform. He straightened himself up and tried to smooth the wrinkles in his jacket while watching the pockets around his chest. He wasn’t sure, but there was always a chance that an American human would be sitting in one later. The thought simply unnerved him.
“Are you sure they’re going to be alright?” he whispered to the guy standing next to him. “Aren’t Americans supposed to be really small?”
“They’re all supposed to be really small,” the guy grunted back in response. “Seriously, Jax, keep it together. They’re entering our world. Our territory. If we don’t seem comfortable here than why the hell would they let us anywhere near their country?”
Jax bit his lower lip and tried not to think about it. As a new interpreter this was also his first up close view with the American’s. He had heard they were tiny and he had seen the pictures but he wanted nothing more than to see for himself. However, he wanted nothing to do with the Lilliputians and was relieved to find out that none of the American’s would be playing a host to them. Dealing with creatures so small already was hard enough…to deal with creatures several times smaller than them? No.
“Backs straight,” a man barked at the new, young interpreters. The whole idea of having a group of people introducing the Americans was still new to them. Never had the Brobdingnagans had any reason for an army or any sort. And though this group wasn’t meant for fighting of any kind, they did look pretty intimidating in their crisp, navy blue uniforms. “We’ve just received word that the boat is in sight. The Americans will be arriving at our shores in less than an hour. Am I clear, gentlemen?”
“Ahem,” a voice squeaked up from behind Jax.
The man at the front of the group rolled his eyes. “Am I clear, gentleman and lady?”
“Yes, sir,” the same feminine voice piped up again.
Jax couldn’t help himself and turned around to look at the source of the voice. She looked young, a full head shorter than Jax and most of the other interpreters. But she was cute. Her hair was golden and her eyes were stark blue. She looked entirely too young to be here at the docks but she straightened her shoulders as Jax looked at her openly and curiously.
“First time at the docks?” she asked with a smile.
Jax reddened. “Uh…yes. I have to admit that I’m a bit nervous.”
“Don’t be. The Americans…they’re actually quite kind. A bit skittish, but I’m sure you can see why that would be.” The blonde brandished at her own tiny body and giggled. “But overall…once you get over that whole ‘they’re going to look at you no matter what’ thing, than they’re okay. Name’s Iris Weathers. And you are?”
“Jackson,” Jax said. “Uh…you can call me Jax. Jax Sterling.”
“A pleasure to meet you Jax Sterling,” she said, beaming widely. “And for the record, it’s really obvious that it’s your first time. Don’t be so nervous. The boss knows who’s safe to pair up with who for this week. We’re all new here and we…”
“But you’re not new,” Jax couldn’t help saying. “You just said—”
“I didn’t say anything. I said you don’t need to be nervous. This is my first time at the docks as an official interpreter but I have been here before with my father. He was a senior interpreter until just a few months ago. Merris Weathers.”
Jax’s eyebrows shot up. He knew that name. He had paid enough attention in his classes to be familiar with it. “Wow,” he said in awe. “So you’ve seen them? You’ve seen an American…up close?”
She nodded. “American. French. German. African. Mexican. You name it. If they’ve been at the docks over the past few years then I’ve seen them. I actually speak most of the languages pretty well. I’m happy that we’re working with the Americans. I don’t know what it is, but they’re very good with attempting our language. They come here the most so I’ve had the most practice. What about you? Are you skilled?”
“I’m more comfortable with Spanish,” Jax admitted sheepishly. “I was told with the Americans that it was important to learn both.”
“And it is! Don’t be surprised if they can speak both fluently. The practice is that while they’re on our lands that they are to speak our language. But once you’re at your room, I say the hell with the rules. Speak what you’re most comfortable with. I’ll see this as an opportunity to work on my English. It’s always good to be fluent…especially if we want to be trusted enough to go to the human lands.” She smiled. “I would love to visit Europe.”
“But it’s so far away,” Jax said, thinking over the map. “We’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And isn’t Europe crowded?”
Iris laughed. “All countries are crowded when it comes to housing us. America has some places where we can stay but it’s not a palace, that’s for sure. Sometimes I wish I were a Lilliputian. I want to know what it feels like to have everything feel too big for you instead of too small.”
Jax shuddered. This was not a sentiment he shared. Though he was interested in meeting a human first hand. The housing program stated that he would ‘host’ a human for a week at his personal bunker. The place had already been set up, created by humans themselves, but he was still nervous. Everything just looked so tiny! Surely they had gotten the sizes wrong?
“Do you know who you’re housing?” Iris spoke up suddenly. “I’ve got Susan…something.” She shook her head. “I can’t remember. They tried to pair up girls with girls and guys with guys…but our country doesn’t allow many woman in the lines. Apparently this is more of a man’s job.” She rose her voice up to sound snooty. “Women should be in the palace, not attending to the little ones.” She blew a raspberry. “What a crock. I’m happy to be here, though. It’s better than lounging around in that stupid palace.”
“You used to live in the palace?”
She nodded. “My mother is one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting,” she said. She made it sound like it was no big deal but Jax’s brown eyes widened.
“Wow. So what are you doing here? I took this job because I’m good at memorizing and I didn’t want to work at the market. At least this is something different. A palace girl. Huh…that’s pretty impressive.”
“It’s not as great as you think,” Iris said, frowning for once. “Any way, the American’s are known for sending a lot of women. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the guys here ended up paired with a girl. There’s only four other women here, but I heard the American bring at least seven or eight girls with them. Check your tag. I bet you have one.”
“I don’t have my tag,” Jax said. “The boss said he’d give it to me closer to the time.”
“The boat is going to dock in the next half hour! How much closer can it be?”
“They’re waiting to see who’s the most skirmish,” the guy from before finally spoke up again. “Jax is one of the softer spoken so if one of them American girls is spooked out, she’ll be partnered with him.” He laughed. “I gotta a guy, thank hell,” he chuckled, looking down at his paper. “Guys are more fun anyway.”
“Fun?” Jax asked with a frown.
“They got issues with being so much smaller than us,” he continued. “Can be a lot of fun.”
“You shouldn’t mess with them,” Iris said. “What they’re doing…takes a great deal of courage. They’re trusting us…and…and it isn’t right.”
“I’m not gonna hurt the little guy,” he continued. “Just relax, Weathers. I wouldn’t want you to report me to the boss.”
“That’s enough!” the boss yelled over them. “Eyes to the ocean. You can see the boat, can’t you?”
Jax turned back around and looked where the boss instructed. That…that couldn’t be the boat, could it? It looked like a speck heading their way! And there were people on the boat? More than one? He closed his eyes and remembered the private bunker set up in his own to house the American. A week. Seven days with a person who was just taller than the size of his hand. He looked at his own palm and tried to envision a tiny man sitting in it. Oh God. What was he going to do?
“Serling!” the boss cried out again. “Jackson Sterling?”
“Yes, sir?” Jax shouted out. “I’m here, sir.”
“Just got your assignment for the week,” he said, holding a large piece of paper in his hands. “Apparently one of the interpreters fainted on the deck. This one is going to be your responsibility.”
Jax swallowed and took the paper as several of the Brobdingnagans chuckled amongst themselves.
“A fainter? We’re getting a fainter? What the hell happened?” one jeered.
“She must have seen us.”
“Who said it was a girl?” Iris said defensively.
“It was a girl, Weathers,” the boss said. “Sorry to burst your bubble. This is why women belong in the palace.”
“They don’t have a palace,” Iris continued. “They don’t have a queen.”
“Whatever,” the boss said, waving her off. He turned his attention back to Jackson. “Your teacher said to give you the one they’re most worried about having a hard time with this. Apparently the runt must be frightened.”
“Or sea sick,” Iris said. “Who said she fainted because of us?”
“They just said she fainted,” the boss said. “Whether she fainted from seasickness, fear, or women’s problems, I don’t care. They said give the weak one to Jackson and Jackson…” he stopped and punched Jackson in the chest, “…she’s all yours.”
“R-Right, sir. Of course, sir,” Jackson said, holding the paper in front of him after he caught his breath. He gave a sheepish smile in Iris’ direction. “I suppose this is what I get for vomiting during that class video.”
“Ahh,” Iris said softly. “That explains it. Things not to do with the humans. That made me pretty sick as well. I know they were only using dummies but the whole thing felt too real. As if a human would want to sleep in the same bed as us! If they’re so worried about us rolling over them while we’re asleep and suffocating them, then they should sleep in the provided beds.” She shifted. “Susan’s not going anywhere near me when I’m sleeping. I’m not risking an accident.”
“Me…me neither,” Jax agreed. He couldn’t imagine it. A girl. They were giving him a human girl. And a fainter at that. Things couldn’t have gotten much worse. He looked up at the sea again, knowing the boat was close.
“Arms behind your backs!” the boss barked. “Pleasant, friendly smiles. Do not look intimidating. Do not let your size define you.”
“How the hell are we supposed to do that?” the guy next to Jax whispered. “Is it our fault that they’re runts?”
“They’re not runts,” Iris hissed back. “They’re humans.”
Jackson felt like he was going to break into a sweat and pass out when the boat drew closer. Oh God. He could see the tiny movements on board. There were people on the boat. He could see the individual people. Several stood on the deck with frightened faces. Some looked excited. Some looked like they wanted to get the hell out of there.
“Oh…I need to practice my English,” Jackson whispered. “My English isn’t good enough.”
“They’re not supposed to speak English,” the same guy whispered. “They’re on our land. They speak our language.”
Maybe. But Jackson couldn’t help but wonder if some smooth English spoken words might put his girl at ease. He wanted to be a good host. Quietly, he mouthed some comforting words in her language but they all sounded so robotic and stiff. He couldn’t do this!
“Boat docking,” the boss called, lowering his voice.
Jackson watched as he stooped over at the waist and grabbed the line and anchor of the massive boat like he was going fishing at a lake. He felt sick. That same feeling from the video bubbled up inside of him as he watched the boss fall to one knee.
“Welcome, Americans,” he said in a grand voice, brandishing to the interpreters standing behind them. “Welcome to Brobdingnag.”