Karl and Hans Hexenmeister
Standing and talking nearby
Mon May 27, 2019 19:45

Karl Hexenmeister flooed into the transportation station, carrying Hans, who was just about too big to do that much longer, but Hansel's accent was too uncertain to be sure he'd arrive in the right place if he went alone. He put the six year old down on the other side, though Karl continued to hold his nephew's hand, as he nodded a greeting to the smiling woman standing nearby, not smiling himself, but not frowning either. Leading Hans through the doorway into the school, he looked around and was pleased to see a banner welcoming him in his own native language (as well as many others). Karl had lived in the United States for almost twenty years, so his English was perfectly respectable, but it was still nice to see his mother tongue unexpectedly.

“What letter is that?” Hans asked in accented English, pointing at the banner.

“Which one?” Karl asked back in the same language, his own accent still notable but not difficult to understand.

“The funny one, like a d and an o.”

Ah, the cyrillic. “That’s a Russian letter,” he told the boy, “we don’t use it in English or German.”

“So ist es wie ein ß in Englisch,” he said, switching to German, not because he was any more comfortable in that language but because English didn’t have the letter he was talking about. Of his brother’s three children, Karl had unsurprisingly had the easiest time teaching English to the one who had still been in the process of learning German when he arrived in America. Hansel had an accent, yes, but his command of the language was far better than either of his older siblings.

“Not exactly,” Karl explained, sticking to English as he usually did with his wards, since that was the language they’d need most in life for as long as they lived and went to school in America. “German and English use the same alphabet. German just has an extra letter and some umlats in it. Russian uses an entirely different script. See how the rest of the letters in that word are a little bit unusual, too?”

Hans tilted his head and studied it seriously. “Yes.”

“It’s called cyrillic.”

“Cyrillic,” Hans repeated the new word. “What does it say then?”

Karl looked at it, but he’d never learned Russian and he had no idea at all if the letters corresponded even remotely to the ones that looked close to his own alphabet. “I have no idea how to say it in Russian, but it means Welcome. They all say Welcome. See, that one says ‘Wilkommen’ - with the W.”

Hansel found the appropriate word and nodded. “Wil-kom-men,” he repeated slowly, reading it himself with difficulty. Karl had been trying to teach him to read all year, and it was coming along pretty well, he thought. “Und dieser sagt,” he frowned in deep concentration at another word. There were times Karl wasn’t sure that Hans even realized he was swapping languages mid-conversation. “Bye-en-vay-new,” Hans sounded out carefully.

Karl knew French about as well as he knew Russian, but he still flinched at the butchering of the word. “That’s in French,” he explained. “French uses different rules for pronunciation, just like English and German use different rules.”

“Oh. So how do you say that one?”

“I don’t know the rules, just that they’re different,” he admitted. He’d had to get used to admitting he didn’t know a lot of things since Hans and his siblings had been dropped suddenly and unexpectedly into his life. Hans wasn’t so bad. Hans had been so little. Hans had slotted into his life like he was meant to be there. But the older two, Karl still struggled with trying to connect to them, a task not made any easier by needing to send them off to boarding school for three quarters of the year.

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