Preview: “Faux Latino”

The following opens a novella called “Faux Latino”

After the summer his mother died, Joey Castellani, 15, decided to drop Honors French. He was Madame Jourée’s star pupil, and she met his decision with forced delight and embittered goodwill. Joey couldn’t guess her age, but he understood her to be what most adults conceptualized as “young.” Her wavy chestnut hair draped beyond her derrière; her hip-hugging jeans and chiffon blouses – the colors of lilies, firetrucks, or the open sea – coalesced in fantasies around the school, surfacing in flash surprises through the minds of adolescents and adults. She assembled these good lucks and considerable charm now to persuade Joey to remain in Honors French. For two heavy minutes, she recalled his love of Carla Bruni and Edith Piaf, Amadou & Mariam, Stromae and Jacques Brel; she proposed a spring field trip along Les Champs-Elysées; she tried guilt — he had a responsibility to his community, and his recitation of Apollinaire, which won first runner-up in the Alaskan French Poetry Slam, could, with just a bit more work this year, carry the whole team to nationals.

            But all this was to no avail.

            Joey just wanted her to sign the drop-form.

            “I’m sorry,” he repeated sheepishly. “I just want to be closer to my grandmother, and I think studying Spanish would help.”

She replied in French, as if the language itself would lure him back: “Je vois, je vois. Mais faut-il qu’il laisser tomber le français pour l’espagnol? Tu le fais si brillamment!”

Joey replied in English: “I just think it’s better, culturally, if I, you know, study Spanish this year.”

Her head moved back in new contemplation. “I know Spanish is having a moment now. Cardi B is everywhere. But may I ask, are you Latino?”

The familiar embarrassment gripped Joey. “Kind of. I don’t know.”

“Through your grandmother? You mentioned her as an impetus to study Spanish.”

            “Yep. Ah, I haven’t asked her about it, but she’s from Arizona and Spanish was her first language. She stills says every prayer in Spanish, English first then Spanish.”

Madame Jourée grinned. She eased into the live-and-let-live teacher mode he had found rare and reassuring, behaving as though the two of them were co-conspirators. “So,” she said with a latent smile, “You want to know who you really are.”

It unnerved Joey to hear his murky need stated so nakedly. Yes he wanted to know who he was. Of course he did, before others could leave him and it was too late.

Joey shrugged. “I guess so.”

             She beamed. Nodded her head once. Then took up his drop-form from the desk and signed with the grand flourish of a Founding Father. “Now that, Monsieur Castellani. That is very, very French.”

For educational purposes only 😉

“Faux Latino Show Pony” was a one-man act at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 🙂

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