Educational Endeavors

The Natives Speak

The tidal wave of acceptance from my Austrian co-workers breaks rather gently on the shore

” Hey, Scotland! SCOTLAND, was ist daß?”

There are two trays in each of my hands and I am worming my way through the kitchen that the chefs have rigged together inside the Armory, a monstrous edifice on Park Avenue in the East Side that sits on a full block of territory and was used to house the armaments needed to defend Manhattan. The ” kitchen” we have set up for ” the restaurant” in one of the high-ceilinged, wood-inlaid prize rooms has no running water and no kitchen equipment.

I hear the chef yell out behind me, but don’t have time to stop. If these things do not find their way to the correct people, all hell will break loose. I sprint from the kitchen and throw down my charges just in the nick of time. On my way back to the kitchen, I tug down at the plaid vest they have belted round my rib cage like a corset. Its supposed to lie flat and drape over the torso, like a bit of flair, an afterthought, but on this body, wears like a piece of horrible nationalist underwear. And so, having assumed the look of a misguided mid-Lothain prostitute in the new uniform, they are back to calling me “Scotland” again.

Back in the kitchen, I find the chef, and pronounce his name. He puts down his knife and wipes his hands on his apron.

” Ah, Scotland. There you are.” He picks up an apple from a nearby bowl, slow and with deliberation. ” What is this?” he asks, and holds it out.

The kitchen races wild in the background and curses fly even as food does, and I am unclear on what he is asking me.

” Is something wrong with the apple? I’m afraid I didn’t have anything to do with bringing them in, let me see what I can do to find some mor–”

” Ha! no, no, NO, Scotland,” he says in that unblinking way of his. ” Vat is it, in German?”

I tug down on my corset-vest again, uncomfortable. This is a rather unexpected turn events, factoring in his famous answer to my one-time question of naming a grapefruit lying around. He turned away from me then, and said, ” I don’t know– Ach, I am not an intellectual, don’t ask me!” and hustled off.

But now, I stared at the piece of fruit he was thrusting towards me.

” Bitte?”

“Vat do you call this in German?” He says again, laughing now.

” –Das Apple,” I say.”Das Apfel!”

“Das Abfel, das Ab-FEL” he corrects, thrilled.

“Das Abpfel.”

Nein, das Apfel.”

I throw a grape at him with this final permutation. ” I know how to say ‘Apple’ in German, don’t make me doubt myself!” Christ, these Austrian Devils. You can’t make them speak the Queen’s English or Hannover’s German. I back out of the kitchen, and race back to the bar, but when I drop a wine bottle ( which doesnt break) and also get fired (unrelated incidents), he says, ” It’s all okay, Scotland. You’re okay,” and I could ask him the name of any fruit I could think of and he would at the very least, answer.

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