An excerpt from Caroline


Dr. Stephens made a notation in his battered pocket calendar. “And how was the homework from Monday night?”

“The students’ stories were very good overall.” Caroline pulled the stack of graded papers from her attaché. “It was such an evocative assignment, asking them to write about a memory from their home towns. I was quite surprised when you gave them that to do.”

He smiled as she spread the pages out on the table for his review. “It helps me understand a little more about where they’ve come from, and what they hope for.”

“I’ll use this idea when I’m in Nyasa this summer,” she said. “Many of the students I’m to teach are from rural areas who come into the cities for work, just like our Polish students. I’m sure they’ll be homesick.”

“Will you be homesick?”

Caroline laughed lightly. “Oh, no! This was my father’s work, and his father’s work before him. I come from a long line of teachers and translators.” She fished out one particular paper from the stack and handed it to him. “I wonder if you can take a look at this. Johann has the most trouble. His handwriting is terrible in most places, and even where it isn’t, the sentences are very confused. It doesn’t look like common syntax problems moving between German and English.”

Dr. Stephens scanned the paragraph, his dark brows knitting as he read, his fingertips delicate on the paper. His was a strong hand, she thought, but then noticed the cuff of his jacket was fraying. His white shirt was starched to within an inch of its life but still, that tie. The green and blue monstrosity didn’t suit either his coloring or the brown tweed jacket at all.

“You’re right,” he said finally. “This is something more than a common translation issue. Have you heard him read aloud, by any chance?”

“No, I haven’t. Not yet.”

“Let’s ask him to stay after class a few minutes tonight and read for us. Not in front of the other students.”

“Do you think he has a learning difficulty?” Caroline asked. And if he did, how could the big German hope to pass his citizenship examination?