snippets from books

The yellow warbler would often claim that she was fine until she hit Brownsville.  “Then — wham!” she’d tell her friends.  “I don’t know if it’s the air or what, but whenever we pass it on our migration, I have to stop and puke my guts out.”

“Indeed she does,” her husband would say, laughing.

“An hour or two’s rest is all I need, but isn’t it strange?  Not Olmito or Bayview or Indian Lake, but Brownsville.  Brownsville every time.”

the birds she was talking to would try to sound sympathetic or, at the very least, interested.  “Hmmmmm,” they’d say, or, “Brownsville, I think I have a cousin there.”

From the southern tip of Texas, the couple would fly over Mexico and then into Central America.  “My family’s been wintering in Guatemala for as long as I can remember,” the warbler would explain.”  “Every year, like clockwork, here we come by the tens of thousands — but do you think any of those Spanish-speaking birds have bothered learning English?  Not on your life!”

“It’s really horrible,” her husband would say.

“Well, funny too,” his wife would insist.  “Horrible and funny.  Like one time I asked this little Guatemalan bird, I said, ‘Don day est tass las gran days mose cass de cab eyza?’

Here her listeners would cock their heads, confused and more than a little impressed.  “Wait a second, you speak that stuff?”

“Oh, I’ve picked some up,” the warbler would say in that offhand way of hers.  “I mean, really, what choice do I have?  I guess I’m a pretty quick study.  At least I’ve been told I am.”

“She’s terrific with languages,” her husband would boast, and his wife would raise a wing in protest:  “Well, not always.  In this particular case, for instance, I thought I’d asked where all the big horseflies were.  A reasonable question, only instead of cob ayo, which is ‘horse,’ I said cab eyza.  So what I really asked was ‘Where are all the big head flies?’ ”



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