Monday, December 11, 2006

Excerpt from The Latin Lady

by Dawn LaFon

“Let's stop here!” His mother said happily. Dexter and his Dad groaned but his mother was driving so they stopped as they always did at the garage sale sign. “I'll just take a quick look around” They both knew that meant sit in the car for at least half an hour or get out for their own look around. Dexter and his Dad got out. Nothing, really just a lot of old clothes and a box full of old buttons.Then Dexter saw it and he had to laugh. Latin at a garage sale! Who would have ever thought it? Here was a fish plaque with the words “Carpe Diem” written underneath this hideous green fish.

“How much do you want for this?” He asked the man sitting at the card table with the moneybox. “Oh, that,” the man huffed. “What'll you give me? I really should just give it to you. Makes me mad to look at it. I bought it as a gag gift. I thought that the fish was supposed to sing. It doesn't sing and it's ugly to boot! I guess that the fish is a carp but I don't know what the diem means.”

“Well, how about a dollar?” said Dexter. Dexter had thought about explaining that Carpe Diem was Latin for “seize the day” but the man yelled, “Done” and shoved it at him before he had the chance.

“What are you going to do with that plaque?“ asked his mom.

“I'm going to give it to Gladys Louise for Christmas. Carpe diem means “seize the day” in Latin. That's what she yells at us every morning."

“She will just love it and I'm glad that you like Gladys Louise. She just thinks you are so smart and wonderful. Anytime that I see her, she tells me how lucky I am to have such a brilliant son.

He had to admit that he did like Gladys Louise. He didn't know how someone could be so cheerful all of the time, any kind of weather, even when that lady had hit her car. He had asked her one time about it and she had told him, “Honey, it's because I'm an optimist. Now “optimist” comes from the Latin word, optimus that meant “best.” If you are an optimist, you see the best in everything.”

Gladys Louise really did see the best in everything. It was close to Christmas and they had their outside lights up and most other houses on the street did too. Gladys Louise had a couple of silver bells tied to her doorknob. It made him kind of sad and he was even thinking about asking his dad if maybe they couldn't put their old lights up for her. That afternoon he went over to help her with her computer.

“Salve, magister. Come right on in! Don't let me forget. When you go home, I want you to tell your parents how much I enjoy your Christmas lights. Every time I look out my front door, I get to see your beautifully decorated house. It gives me so much pleasure! Multas gratias! And of course, she had told him along ago that multas gratias meant “thank you” in Latin.

The next day, Dexter's mom wrapped the fish in some Christmas paper and put a big red bow on top of where the fish's middle was. Dexter went over and knocked on Gladys Louise's door. She didn't come immediately so he knocked again and then jingled the bells. She opened the door and he was really startled to see that she had been crying. “Dexter, I'm sorry, I'm not really myself today and I don't feel like a computer lesson or company right now. Rex gave me an awful scare. He slipped his collar and just disappeared. I was afraid that I'd never see him again.” Dexter looked at Rex underneath the card table. Rex was looking as upset as Gladys Louise did and leaned against her. Luckily he came home on his own but I'm just too old for a scare like this. The holidays are hard enough when you're old and alone but to almost lose my dog right before Christmas . . .” She was about to shut the door.

“Wait, I got you this! Go ahead and open it, please!” said Dexter. He couldn't stand her being sad. Gladys Louise sighed and opened the present and then she started to laugh and laugh so that once again her face was wet with tears.

The next day was the last day before school let out for Christmas vacation. Dexter and his mom were flying out the door and Gladys Louise and Rex came flying across the street just as usual.

“Wait, wait! Dexter, I need to tell you something.” He was so glad to see the smile back on her face. “Dexter, I know that you have probably heard all the Latin that you want to hear but there's one more word that I want to tell you. Have you ever heard the Christmas Carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen?” He nodded. “Well, do you remember the chorus, “Oh tidings of comfort and joy”? He nodded again. Well, comfort is really my favorite word in the English language. It comes from two Latin words, cum which means “with” or “together” and fort from fortis which means “strong.” So when you offer comfort, you are helping someone to be strong. Who would have ever thought that a fish with Latin on it could be such a comfort! I was being such a pessimist yesterday and that's not like me to just see the worst in things. Yes, Rex ran away but he came right back and yes, I'm old and alone but I do have the best neighbors and the best magister in the world who would give me such a wonderful Christmas present with Latin on it. Go to school. Carpe diem and ferias laetas! That means “happy holidays!” “Ferias Laetas!” Dexter and his mom yelled back!

A note from the author: Ferias Laetas to all of the readers of The Latin Lady!

This excerpt appeared in Bolchazy-Carducci's free newsletter, E-Litterae.
Click here to subscribe.