March 15, 2007
Reed Smith and I had noticed last week that the Schirmann’s dog, Sallie, was looking a little bloated and less well than usual. At dinner, we asked our host parents how Sallie was doing. They reported that, “Oh, Sallie est mort.” Translation: Sallie is dead.
This was not an appropriate time to laugh, so I shot my hand up to cover my mouth. Reed and I looked at each other, then looked at the Schirmanns, then looked at each other. Intonation and body language are as important to the meaning
conveyed in language as are the words used. Madame Schirmann’s tone was the same one she would use to say, “So yeah, I raked a bunch of leaves today.”
I leaned across the table slightly toward Reed. “Hey, man. Did they just say that Sallie is dead?” Reed pressed his lips together and nodded slowly. “OK, right,” I said.
Reed and I both loved Sallie from the moment we moved in to the Schirmanns’. She is possibly the Alsatian region’s ugliest dog. Now, don’t misunderstand. I think that she’s so ugly that she’s cute. That wiry hair and waddling walk melt your heart. I still don’t know what kind of dog she was. I guess some type of terrier mix.
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