Nothing Anything

by Jason Schaefer

 

I clear the worksheets from the previous class into the trash, scrub the whiteboard clean, pick up the “rubber” shrapnel off the floor and take full advantage of this brief studentless window by thumbing through all three of my social media accounts frantically, taking nothing in, until there’s a light knock on the door and it flings open and the next batch of kids shuffles in.

They greet me, one by one: 

“Khello.” 

“Hi, teacher.”

“Khello, tee-ach-er.” 

Another kid mumbles unintelligibly.

“Good moornin.”

“Hello.”

I tell them “Hello, hi, hey, good morning, what’s up, hey” and, without jostling one another, they take their seats around the table. They’re one of the better groups. With a higher level of English, too. I try to remember their names and leaf through my notebook, pretending as if I have some important notes I need to consult before we start the lesson. 

I straighten out the pile of worksheets I’d printed for the day.

“So, uh, how are you doing today?” 

Crickets.

The tension mounts. The addition of “doing” and “today” to the formulation seems to have thrown them off, their internal translator jumping a groove. They eye each other nervously. 

“How. AreYou.”

They sigh. A few giggle. They respond more or less in unison, as if quoting a religious incantation they learned by heart long ago whose magical words they can’t quite fully comprehend—the way I was taught to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s Prayer: 

“I’m fine, thank you. And you?”

I curse whoever taught every Spanish kid at birth that this how native speakers talk and then I say, “Oh me? I’m great. Very considerate of you to ask.”

They blink, some still smiling, trying to digest my response. So maybe their level isn’t so good. After a few beats, one of the slower kids says in a low voice, “Qué? Qué ha dicho?”

Ha dicho qué está great,” says one of the better kids. Dani, or something like that.

Ah, vale,” the first boy nods,“y qué es gret.”

“Es grey-at. Teacher,” says probably-Dani, “great is como genial, no?”

“Yeah, I think so.” I check my blank notebook again. “So, what class did you just have?” 

I sneak a look at my phone. Only a minute has passed. Seems like much longer.

Qué?”

“Qué dijo?”

“What class was before this. What class did you just finish.”

Before es despues,” the first boy says.

“No, es antes,” a girl responds.

“Ah, qué clase,” he says, “osea–”

“I mean where were you. Math, P.E…”

“Ah. Maths,” says a girl, followed by a collective exhale.

“Oh. And what were you studying there?”

They eye each other, unsure.

“Anything.”

“Anything important,” says the kid who I am now almost certain is named Dani. 

“Nothing,” a girl corrects him. “Nothing important.”

“Okay,” I say. It really was a stupid question. What middle-schooler remembers math class? I jump to another topic. “Well, uh, do you have plans for the weekend?”

It occurs to me that today is Monday and I should’ve asked them about what they did over the weekend. Aihnoa, their teacher, asked me to drill on them on the past simple. And here I am, discussing future plans.

“Plans? Planes? For the next, el próximo…” The tallest kid corroborates with the rest of the class. “Anything. Ah, yes. I had one football match.”

“Nice. You have a football match. Cause I asked you about next weekend. And you?” 

I point through each of the students and get an answer.

Pues I have a basketball match and then I lunch at the house of my grandmother,” Dani says.

“You eat lunch. And you?”

“Stay with family and friends.”

“Alright. You?”

Some more unintelligible mumbling.

“Okay, fine. You?”

No sé. Play with mobile phone.”

“Alright. And you?”

The girl grins and shifts in her seat. “This weekend after my English lesson I go to Madrid, no, I am going to went to Madrid.” She was shorter and wore her hair in a ponytail. Also an Ainhoa, I think. “We go to see the Rey Leon otra vez—bueno, The Lion King. Did you see–no, did you saw?

“Did I see it? Just the movie, never the the musical. It any good?”

“Is berry-berry good.”

I try to think of something else to say.

“Madrid is a sheet,” says Dani.

Several others nod, including Ainhoa. 

“Yes, it is one sheet.” 

I pretend to not hear their attempts at profanity and put my notebook down. I rifle through the worksheets.

“So anything else exciting going on in your lives? Glad to be back from Christmas break?”

“No, no no no no no no no.”

“School is berry-berry boring. I don’t like,” says Dani.

“School is a mierda—a sheet,” says Ainhoa.

“Yes, school is a sheet.”

“I no like. Is a big sheet.”

Their heads bob up and down.

“Okay,” I say. “So, uh, let’s see the time…” I pull my phone out again. Five minutes in. Only twenty or so left—depending on when Ainhoa the teacher sends the next group. Sometimes she forgets, meaning I have to stretch my lesson out. An ESL teacher always has to be flexible, especially at a public school. I figure the worksheet should eat up the twenty minutes and if there’s any leftover we’ll just play a game or two of hangman. 

Then one more group and a two hour break for lunch/siesta.

“Teacher, you have a iPhone?” the tall boy asks me. His name was a complicated Basque one I could never remember.

“Sure.”

I pocket it quickly.

“Teacher, what number,” asks Dani.

“Are you asking me for my number?” 

Ainhoa and another girl laugh. 

“No, teacher. Is iPhone ten, iPhone eleven…?”

“What’s the latest model? The most recent.”

“The new?” Dani confers with Ainhoa, the Basque-named kid and the slow boy who I just notice wears braces.  They report back to me.

“Quince.. Iphone fifteen.. No, fifty.”

Ez, fifty no. Fifteen.”

“Okay,” I say. “Well mine is the future model. An iPhone seventeen.”

“Setenta?,” the braces-kid’s jaw dropped.

“Yeah, seventy, exactly. It’s a super advanced copy. Only certain Americans can get it.”

Qué?”

Qué ha dicho?”

An argument breaks out almost entirely in Basque peppered with obscenities in Spanish. The whole class begins to inspect the pocket where I put my phone. I hear a “puta” thrown across the table by one of the boys followed by a collective gasp. It was one swear too many. A girl jolts her hand in the air. The tattletail of the group, apparently.

I put my phone on the table for the whole class to see.

“Just kidding. It’s just a shi—a crappy Android I got second hand. Segundo….mano?

Si, si, yes, yes,” Aihnoa says.

I feel my status with them plummet to subatomic levels. I clear my throat and my uninteresting phone now says we have 18 minutes left. I pick up the worksheets and count out one for each student.

“Well, anyways. Enough phone talk, and uh.” 

Ainhoa quiets brace-face and the tattletail.

“Today’s lesson is going to be about an important holiday in my country. Does anyone remember where I’m from?”

“Ooneeted Keengdom.”

“The Oosa.”

“Yes, the U.S.A. Bingo. Got it in two. Great job, uh,” I suddenly remember the tattletail’s name. “Irati, right? Awesome. So yeah, I’m from the U.S. Well, today in my country there’s a very important holiday taking place.”

“Christmas.”

“New Year’s.”

“Uh, no. Hoy. Today. Christmas was last month and New Year’s, uh, noche, no, el ano nuevo,was like.”

Some of them giggle.

“Khalloween.”

“Thanksgiving.”

“No, we talked about those when they happened. Look–”

“Is jour beerthday,” Dani says.

“No–why would my that be a holiday. No. A holiday is a special day everyone celebrates and eats special food and stuff. But this day isn’t—I mean, it’s not really a holiday like that. You don’t give gifts to each other or eat candy…” I feel I’m losing them. “I mean, it is an important day though. Post offices are closed. Oh and children don’t have to go to school.”

Qué suerte.”

“It’s actually a celebration of a person’s life. It’s a day in remembrance of a really important figure from the U.S., a man who…”

A hand flies up. Irati. 

El dia de San…Patricio? San Patricio Day?

“Um, no. But good try. A for effort. This is a holiday celebrating, maybe you’ve heard of him, Martin Luther King?”

I place the worksheets on the table and six hands reach out to get the first copy. There is some wrinkling and ripping of paper  in the scuffle and some worksheets pass from hand to hand before the students settle down, each facing their own, now slightly damaged, piece of paper.

Es qué…me suena.,” says a girl with bangs who I think is named Ione. She squints at the photo of MLK at the top of the page. 

“No fue el presidente?” says the Basque-named kid.

Qué va, es un actor. He is one actor,” says Dani.

“Ander, no es lo de…”Aihnoa says to him, before switching to Euskera. So the kid I thought was Dani is actually an Ander.  I suddenly remember Dani is in the next group. And that they don’t even look or act alike.

“Bai, bai,” says the now-Ander. “Yes, we know him. He fought for the, eh, cómo se dice, eh, how do you say negros? The n–

“Uh,” I cut him off. “You’re gonna wanna say ‘black people’ or ‘African Americans’ there. Definitely don’t use the Spanish word or, uh, any other word you might’ve heard before in a song.”

“Yes, yes, he fought for the black persons. The black people.”

“Excellent, Dani.”

He looks at me, confused. 

“I mean Ander.” 

He smiles, pleased. 

“So he fought for the rights of black people. But did he fight with like guns and bombs and things like that, or did he fight, like, with peaceful methods?”

Cómo, cómo?”

Like with peace. Paz.”

“Ah, Paz. With peace, peace,” the class answers.  I’m surprised to see none of them laughing, as “peace” sounds like the Spanish word for piss. Not even a smirk.

Ainhoa says, cautiously, “He fight because of…the racists, no?”

“Yes, because of racists–or racism.” I write the word on the board. “Back in, well, when your parents were—or, no, more like when your grandparents were kids, black people in America—or in the South anyways—couldn’t vote.”

Ander says, “In Espain tampoco, because there was the dictatura Franco. All people can’t vote.”

“They couldn’t vote.”

“Couldn’t. Es verdad. Because is the past, no? Y…puto Franco.”

“Fack Franco,” the tall kid agrees.

The rest of the class shares in t0çhis sentiment..

“Yeah,” I nod. We can have a conversation about class-appropriate language later, but for now it’s best to just go with the momentum. “Well, in the US at that time—in the South anyways,  black people couldn’t use the same toilets as white people. And black kids couldn’t go to the same schools as white kids. If you were black, you couldn’t even eat in the same parts of restaurants as white people. Yeah?”

They nod hesitantly.

“Like, you if you were black you couldn’t even go to the same dentist as white people. That sounds pretty awful, right? You understand what I’m saying?”

“Jess,” says Ione. “We understand.”

Ander says, “Joder.

They all stare at the photo at the top of the page.

“So that’s just to give you a bit of context, Now you can all go ahead and read about his life and see why people in the US are celebrating him today.”

A hand flies up. I call on Ander.

“And today, the black people, they can go to the dentist?”

“Oh yeah, of course. They could go back then, too. They just had to go to like a specific one.”

Odio the dentist. I hate the dentist.”

Another hand shoots up. I point at Ione.

“And today, they can vote the black people?”

“Yeah, voting. Great question. So like, now they have the legal right to vote everywhere. But in some places, they make it so it’s more difficult. Or they play tricks like,” I pause, wondering whether it’d be a good use of the remainder of our classtime to discuss voter-ID laws and the like.

“Is yes or no,” Ione demands.

“Well, yes. Technically yes, but in practice… not always.”

“So is no.”

“Feefty-feefty,” says Ander.

“Yeah, sure. Fifty-fifty.”

“And the racism?”

“Yeah, there’s still obviously a lot of racism. It’s not as, not as big as it was before. Like in the times before the Civil Rights Movement.” I wave the worksheet. “But there are still major hurdles, obstacles, uh, problems…”

“There is Barack Obama. The black president.” Ander says it with clear, crisp consonants. “Before President Tramp.”

Several laugh at the mention of the latter.

“Yeah,” I say, “Obama was black and he became president. But Black Lives Matter—I mean, some very important social movements arose when he was president…So it’s not like he like solved racism. In fact, in a lot of ways—”

“Donald Tramp is berry-berry racist,” says Aihnoa.

More giggles.

“There are many many manifestations of the black people in the Ooneeted Estates,” says Irati.“Es qué, lo ví. I see on tv and one video on JouTuv.” 

“Yes, there are many protests of black people in the U.S–”

“The police they keel many black persons.”

Braces kid lifts his head from the worksheet. “Qué has dicho?”

She begins to speak in a rapid-fire Spanish that I can’t quite follow, firing off her hands like Yosemite Sam, miming the part of trigger-happy cops blasting apart black Americans. The students talk all at once and the conversation switches to Euskera. Ander stands up and mimes a man getting choked to death in a Half Nelson. The conversation gets louder and then switches back to Spanish, and then there’s an attempt to bring it back to English. Then they sit and quiet down.

“Is berry bad, the police in America.”

Y aqui también,” Aihnoa says.

“A see a bee,” says the tall kid.

“You see a bee?” I ask, looking around the room.

Ez.” He stands and demands the whiteboard marker. He scrawls A.C.A.B. on the board under where I’d written “Racism” and takes his seat.

“Ah, okay, nice.” I let it set there a moment and then worry that a passing teacher may glance in the window and wonder about my teaching methods. I compliment him on his excellent English skills and quickly wipe it away with the side of my fist. “Listen, let’s just get back to the worksheet. I’ll give you a few minutes to read through the text and then at the bottom you have some questions to answer. And if you finish early, you can get started on the wordfind on the back.”

They look at the paper for a moment. The silence feels awkward. I ask for a volunteer to read through the text aloud. When no one does, I do it.

After reading the second paragraph of the three paragraph encapsulation of the life of Martin Luther King I’d found online ten minutes before school, I notice a raised hand in my periphery. I call on her.

“Yes, Ione?” 

“Itxazne.”

“Sorry?” I try to find the word she’s mispronouncing on the worksheet.

“My name is Itxazne.”

“Oh yeah, of course. Itxazne. Do you have a question?”
“Martin Luther King, he is….assasinate?”

“Assassinated. Yes, he was.”

“So he is…” she slides her hand across her throat,“deed?”

“Dead, yes.”

“And who kill him? The police?”

“Well, it was a man named James Earl Ray that shot—that supposedly shot him.”

“He is white?”

“Yeah, he was white. He’s dead now, too.”

While I wait for further interuptions I look ahead to the third paragraph. It presents both President Reagan and George H.W. as embarking on a heroic struggle to make MLK Day a national holiday. It ends by quoting the “I Have a Dream” speech. I clear my throat, ready to orate. 

And then another interruption.

“And why he kill? The asesino—assassinator. He is racist?” It was the tall kid with the complicated name.

“Of course he is racist,” Itxazne says. “What you think? You are silly.”

“Uh,” I say, “well no, that’s a really good question um….?”

“Ekaitz.”

“Ekaitz. Well, yeah, James Earl Ray was definitely a racist, Itzaxne is right there. But there is certainly a lot more to the story than just that. Look, if you want to know,” I set the worksheet on the table. Six pairs of eyes are silently digging into me for an answer. “If you want to know the truth, James Earl Ray was the guy who got charged—uh, cargado?–for the crime.”

Acusado,” Ainhoa corrects me.

“Yes, sure, acu, uh, accused of the crime. But it was like, there’s still a lot about the assassination that we don’t know about. And Dr. King’s family don’t even believe that James Earl Ray was the person reponsible for his death.”

“Martin Luther King was a doctor también?” 

“Uh, no, Ander, we just call him Dr. King, because, uh, that’s just what we call him sometimes. But that’s not important right now. Wait, what was I saying? 

Six pairs blink and Ander shrugs.

“The assassinator,” says Ekaitz.

“Yes,” says Ainhoa. “The cosas raras of the assassination and the process.”

“Oh yeah,  some of the strange things, uh, cosas sospechosos, are like, though James Earl Ray admitted he was guilty, uh, culpable before the trial, he spent the majority of the actual trial, the, proceso, declaring his own innocence—inocencia? That’s pretty strange, right? And there’s a ton of other stuff that doesn’t add up. Am I making any sense? Tengo sentido? Do you, uh, entiendes?

They all nod.

Aihnoa raises her hand. “Teacher, one thing. Can you no espeak espanish? Is berry distract. You speak in English and if we don’t understand I traduce.”

“Translate,” says Itxazne.

“Translate,” I repeat. “Yeah. Good. So James Earl Ray gets blamed for the crime, but it’s pretty clear he didn’t do it alone.” 

I pause to let Ainhoa finish.

“For example, I’m not an expert on the MLK assassination, but I do know that James Earl Ray was, like, just your run-of-the-mill common crook, an escaped convict, who, after supposedly shooting Dr. King, hooves it to London on a fake passport. And that’s where the police or Interpol or whoever finally catch up with him. I mean, like, I imagine you’d need some help getting ahold of a fake passport in ’68, but…”

Eh, teacher, can you…” says Ainhoa, followed by nervous laughter.

“Ah yes, sorry. I’ll slow down. Uh, no, nevermind that. Not important. Look. So the police arrest this one man, they put him in jail, and they say the investigation is over.”

Osea,” says Ander, fidgeting in his seat. “One person kills el medico ese, el Doctor Luther, and the police and all the world say the, eh, James Loquesea, that he is the assasinator. And the investigación no continues.”

“Doesn’t continue. Yeah, that’s basically what happened.”

“Then the police, they keel the doctor.” 

He looks down the scope of an invisible rifle and pulls the trigger.

“Fack the Police,” Ekaitz says. Several students repeat the phrase.

“Your English is pretty good, Ekaitz, but let’s all try not using language like that in the classroom. Just for the rest of the day. Okay? Well, listen. How should I put it? Martin Luther King, many people today think that was like this black Santa Claus figure who, like, ended racism because he was a really nice guy. But he was in reality like fighting against all kinds of things, you know?”

I look at Ainhoa. Everyone nods.

“Most people forget that when King went to Memphis, the city where he got killed, there was a massive strike happening.” I put it on the board. “A strike is like a manifestation—manifestación, I mean. Well, no, it’s like a protest, a protesta of workers. Can’t remember the word in Spanish.”

“Ah, una huelga.”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“But teacher, estrike no es hit?” Itxazne says. “Strike, struck, strucken, no?”

“Stricken. Yeah, great job, Itxazne. You guys’ English is spot on today. And yes, exactly—a strike, a Helga–”

Huelga, teacher,Aihnoa says.

“Yeah, that word. I guess I never realized we use the same word for both. I suppose a strike is like a blow in itself to the system. It’s a way to hit”–I smack my fist against my open palm and the lid of the marker flies off and bounces across the table to Ander. He passes it to Ekaitz who hands it to me. I laugh but they’re all surprisingly professional about it. “To hit at the system. A weapon—an arma–workers can use to… ya know? And King understood this. MLK went to Memphis because the garbagemen, or the, er,” I go for the Brit-word they’ve probably heard before, “Rubbishmen? No, they say ‘dustmen’ over there. In England I mean. Sorry. The guys who take out the trash.”

Ainhoa looks lost. I point at it from across the room.

“What do you call the people who take out that thing over there? The dudes who work on the trucks in the street and stuff.”

Basureros.”

Sure, so King was in Memphis in support of the basu, the basur–that word she said. The garbagemen. He was there as a part of his campaign to end poverty. You all know what poverty is right?” I put the word on the board even though someone had said “bai, pobreza.”

Right, so his, uh, Poor People’s Campaign, that’s what he called it, was an attempt to empower not just black people in America—the garbagemen were pretty much all black, by the way—I think I forgot to mention that. But it was, like, to fight against inequality. Inegualidad?”

Desigualdad, teacher.”

Yes, thank you. And to do that, you have to fight against not just the people that make that des-inequaltad possible—but the system that empowers those people. And what’s the name of that system?” No one says anything so I write “Capitalism!” across the board.

“Like, through Dr. King’s struggles, he basically found that you can’t just change a few things to end racism and inequality. The capitalist system thrives on keeping people separate. Something it still does today. And look. Martin Luther King is killed in 1968. In the years before that, you have a fuckton of—I mean a lot of people in the streets protesting. And not just African Americans. You have people coming out against the War in Vietnam, like King. And students, not much older than you guy out in the street, protesting. Feminists, LGBT, Latinos….  People realizing all of their common interests, getting together, fighting against injustice.”

Injusticia”

“Exactly. So you have a situation that could be potentially very. What’s the word I’m looking for.”

You have one revolución,” says Ander. 

Ekaitz makes an exploding noise with his mouth and Irati tries against her best efforts to cover a yawn and stay awake.

“Exactly. Potentially. So that’s the context where Martin Luther King made a lot of enemies—very powerful enemies.” I write “enemigos” on the board for some reason and I turn to the class.

“You guys know the FBI?” I add it to the board.

Bai. We know. Claro.”

“So look. As a reaction to some of these protests, the FBI has this program. They called it ‘Counterpro.’ No. ‘Cointerpro?’” 

I start to write it but stop halfway.

“Actually, you  know what? I don’t know how it’s pronounced. Or how you write it. But, look, the FBI was really pissed, okay? I mean they were really angry and they wanted to prevent all of these social movements from coalescing into one big revolutionary movement.You guys following any of this?”

Bai, si, yes, continue.”

“Sorry, it’s just, a lot of people–especially Americans–don’t know nothing—I mean, they don’t know anything about this.

“Okay, so this program basically meant the FBI could spy on all the activists they wanted to—and it’s linked to the deaths—the murders, the assassinations, of several really important activists. Many of them black. But we can talk about that some other time.” I feel my time with them is coming to an end and I still have many other points to make. We can talk about Fred Hampton after Carnival. “There’s a lot of crazy shit—crap we still don’t know about this time period, but one thing we know, one thing we do know about Martin Luther King and the FBI is that they were watching his every move. They recorded him all the time, and even tried to blackmail him into committing suicide. You know what blackmail is?”

I write it on the board.

Sí, sí. Correos negros. Continue, teacher.

“No, wait, no. No. I’m pretty sure that’s not it. Blackmail is, shit, I don’t remember the word for it in Spanish. I mean shoot. But it’s when you want someone to do something. Like,” I point at Ander. “Like, if I catch Ander cheating on his maths test and I want him to like give me money or, no, that’s a shitty example. Crappy example. Doesn’t matter. Anyways, we know the FBI literally wrote Dr. King a letter telling him to kill himself or they’d release information that Mrs. King wouldn’t like to get. Like, here they are, saying basically in the open that they would prefer it if he’s dead—and like, if the very heart of the American domestic intelligence network is considering how fortunate your death would be, don’t you think—I mean, it seems pretty fuckin obvious–”

There’s a pounding on the door. I stop talking and we all turn to look. It flies open.

“Is time,” a tiny freckle-faced boy on the other side says, tapping on his watch.

Five other students squeeze into the classroom behind him and six different arguments erupt in Spanish and Basque between the chidren coming in and those whose seats they mean to take.

“No, is not time. We stay, we stay.” Itxazne hugged the table.

“Yes, we no go,” says Ekaitz, followed by something in Euskera directed at the girl standing over him, punctuating his remarks with a “jódete.”

“Class is a sheet. We stay,” Ander says. “We learn nothing in the class. It’s berry boring.”

“I hate the class,” says the kid with braces as he gathers his notebook and pencil-case. When he gets to his feet a short girl leaps to take his chair.

I shrug. “I dunno. I mean, I don’t wanna get in trouble with the teacher. If she says it’s time, it’s time to go.”

I check my phone. She’d forgotten to send them in at the halfway point, so only fourteen  minutes separated me from my two hour lunch.

Crestfallen, the remaining students stand to leave. They’d expected me to intervene on their behalf. 

Now they shuffle slowly out the door.

“Goodbye.”

Agur.”

“Goodbye.

“Goodbye, teacher.”

“Bye.”

“Bye-bye.”

“Goodbye, see you, bye, farewell, see ya later, bye now.”

After the door shuts, one of the new students—Dani, I think–punches the freckled kid on the arm.

“Hey, no fighting,” I say, without conviction. I check my phone again. Now thirteen minutes. I straighten up the remaining worksheets on the table. I flip through my notebook until I find a page with words on it.

“Teacher, you have a iPhone?”

“Yeah.” I anticipate his follow-up. “An iPhone Seventy.”

Dani bursts out laughing.

Qué ha dicho? Qué?” The short girl demands.

No, no existe. Doesn’t exist,” Dani says.

I count out six worksheets but don’t hand them out.

“Teacher, why it says ‘enemigos and FBI’ on the whiteboard?” another girl asks.

I turn around and can barely make out my own chickenscratch. I don’t erase a thing.

“Teacher, do you like football?” The freckled kid asks. “You are of Real Madrid or Barça?”

“Teacher,” another boy says, “how do you say ‘tetas muy grandes’ in English?”

Someone chucks a chunk of eraser at the wall behind me.

“Teacher, can I go to the toilet.”

“Teacher, can I–”

I raise my voice and ask them how they are.

They sit up to reply:

“I am fine, thank you. And you?”

“I’m okay, thanks. Very considerate of….” I can’t even finish the sentence. I scan last week’s shopping list and say, “So what were you studying in class? Before you came here?”

En eengleesh?”

“Yes, in English.”

“Anything,” says the tetas boy.

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

“I find that hard to believe. Can’t you remember what you talked about just five minutes ago with Ainhoa?

“Palabras. Cómo se dice palabras?” 

The boys laugh.

“Words. We estoody words.”

Past simple y present continuous,” a girl says.

“Ah okay. And what about it?”

She shrugs, making a good point. What about it?

Twelve minutes until lunch. I plow on. 

“And what did you do last weekend?”

“Weekend?”

“Like, Saturday, Sunday.”

“Ah, yes. I go to the mountain to hunt setas.

“That’s  awesome. So you went to the mountain to look for mushrooms.”

“Yes,” he’s looking out the window, also thinking about lunch. “I mooshroom look for hunt mountain went.”

“Good enough. And you?”

“Play with mobile phone.”

“You played with your mobile phone. And you?

“Stay with family and friends.”

Stayed . And–”

“Play with mobile phone.”

“Played. And–”

“Stay with family, play with mobile.”

I point at the last kid.

Qué? Qué ha preguntado?”

Someone translates the question to Spanish.

“Ah, vale. What I do the weekend. Claro. Okay. Es qué, this weekend I do anything.”

“You did nothing,” I say. 

“Anything.”

“Nothing.”

“Anything,” the kid corrects me. “Is berry-berry boring.”