One distracted explanation and half a purple-capped vial of blood later, the nurse exclaimed, “Oh! My father was also a Russian translator!” I looked up. “Russian and Spanish. He worked for the courts down in the Valley.”
“Really? In the Valley? Spanish I get, but how the hell did he learn Russian way down there?”
Shoomp. Click. New vial.
“Oh I dunno. From some family member I guess. He had me really late, so he had this whole life before I was born that I don’t know that much about.”
“Huh. So your family is Russian? How’d y’all manage to end up in the Valley?”
“No, we’re not Russian. He was in the Air Force for awhile.”
“He was born in 1903. So where’d you learn German?”
“Huh? Oh. Russian, not German. I lived in Moscow for a few years after college. Wait, so he was born in 1903 and was career Air Force?”
“Right, yeah, Russian.” Giggle.
“So then you think maybe he could’ve learned Russian in the military?”
“Oh, yeah, I guess that’s possible. Press here, please.”
Rip. Clank. Bandage. Trash can.
“I mean, if he was born in 1903, probably in the Air Force during the peak years of the Cold War…. Your dad could have been doing some really interesting stuff.”
“Yeah, probably, right?”
“Could you imagine though? Your dad providing intelligence on the Cuban Missile Crisis or something?”
laughs “Yeah, I mean, he had this whole other life before I was born. After he left the military, he came back to the Valley and started up this ranch. He raised appaloosas.”
“Appaloosas, really! They’re wild, though.”
“Oh yeah. That’s how he became a translator, actually. He got thrown off one day into — what’re those trees called? The sharp, dry, spindly ones out in the desert?” (pause) “Mesquite! Mesquite trees. The horse threw him into one of those and scratched his cornea. He lost his sight in that eye. There were six of us kids and he couldn’t run the ranch anymore on his own. After that, people from town started coming to pick him up whenever they needed a court translator.”
“Did he ever talk about it at all? His time in the Air Force? Politics? Cracks about the Kennedys or rants about Vietnam? Anything?”
“Nope. Not with us kids, anyway. He liked the translating, though. People would just come pick him up at the ranch whenever they needed him and then drop him off again afterwards. He was always working.”