My People (Story by R.C. Peris)

The fundraiser was a success. I raised $750,000 for the Republican candidate in our upcoming election. I held the fundraiser in my expansive backyard with the cascading pool, cabana, guest house and a lovely garden with a path that led to the horse stable where my three prized horses were housed. I hired a catering company and a valet service. Every waiter and valet attendant was Hispanic. My wife pointed this out and complained that most did not seem to know English.

“They don’t need to know English to serve,” I reminded her. “Just make sure the bartender knows English.”

“Well, the bartender is white. Faint accent. Dutch he said.” My wife was slowly curling her hair for what she called ‘beachy waves’.

“Oh, that’s wonderful we have a European doing drinks. The guests will be pleased.”

My wife frowned in the mirror. “I will tell the catering company and valet service to keep their people quiet.”

“Good,” I said as I dealt with my cufflinks.

The party was wonderful. The food was delicious. The liquor flowed. Checks were written. The Republican candidate showed up an hour late and the entrance was dramatic. All the guests clapped.

The late summer night was a tinge too warm for me so I asked our maid, Maria, for a paper towel to absorb the sweat on my forehead. She looked at me blankly and then spoke Spanish to one of the caterers. I forgot Maria knew very little English. All I knew about her was that she was legal and she kept the house sparkling.

“Oh, for God’s sake. Learn English you wetbacks.” I went to the kitchen and grabbed a paper towel.

The last guest left at 2 AM and I yelled at the caterers to clean up. I yelled at the valet service to leave. No one seemed to understand me.

“Fucking wetbacks,” I yelled.

I placed all the donor checks in the safe. I would hand them over to the Republican party tomorrow. And then I went to bed.

When I woke up I felt groggy. I asked my wife for an aspirin. She looked at me confused.

“An aspirin,” I demanded.

“What are you saying, Clark? You’re not speaking English.”

“What are you saying?” I listened to my voice. It wasn’t English. It was something strange. “What’s going on?”

My phone rang. I looked at the number. It was the Republican committee. I answered.

“I have the checks,” I said. But the weird language erupted from my mouth. They hung up.

I went to my maid. She was Mexican, I think. “Get me an orange juice.” She looked at me blankly and then smiled strangely. I got my own orange juice. I called a friend but the strange language persisted. Why couldn’t I speak English? No one could understand me. I felt so alone.

What language was I speaking? Maria said a word. Guatemala. I went to the local university. The language department. I tried so hard to get the secretary to understand me. I tried to draw a picture. The strange language persisted. Again and again. What was I speaking?

A reedy, white man passed in the hall. He heard me and looked curious. He responded in the strange language and I understood him.

“What am I speaking?”

“Quiche. A Mayan language of Guatemala.”

“How do I stop?”

“How did you start?”

“I don’t know.”

“You can’t speak English anymore?” The professor looked amused.


“Weird.” The professor walked away.

I tried to speak English but the words were strangled. I mailed the checks to the Republicans and then flew to Guatemala. I found people who understood me. They were mostly poor. Peasants. But they understood me. I sold my interests and moved to Guatemala permanently. I now live in the hills. Donkeys and chickens roam my land. I fight with the peasants for indigenous rights. What else can I do? They are the only ones who understand me when I speak and it is so wonderful to be heard and listened to. How dare the Guatemalan government try to suppress my rights! I am the people.


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