top of page

Lost in Translation

Posie Brown

The three of them sat side-by-side in the small sauna on the edge of the North Sea. As often happens in places of forced intimacy among strangers, the unspoken rules of social engagement were in play.

Personal space would be maintained. No accidental-on-purpose brushing of skin on exposed areas. Conversation was to be passed like a baton. Speakers should convey the best version of themselves according to personal interpretation. Absolute truth optional.

A silver crucifix hung from the neck of the man whose story was one of rejuvenation, a rebirth after his move to Margate. He talked as if he was practising a sermon. Maybe he was.

‘I’m truly blessed. My family all say I’ve deserted them, but I’m living life to the fullest. I’ve always been involved with faith - Judaism, Islam, the lot. But as you see, I’m at home with Christianity.’ 

He smiled and gently touched the heavy-looking cross. Drawing their attention to it. In case they had overlooked it. 

‘I suppose you could say I’ve returned to the faith of my homeland. Except I’m the missionary now. That’s right. I’m returning the favour.’

He looked at the girl and winked. As if he knew that she needed saving.  Abruptly, she stood up to pour water on the hot metal stove, ratcheting up the heat. She felt the steam embrace her, burrowing inside her lungs, dissolving her until there was nothing left. It was a comfort to think it would be as if she had never existed.

She sat back down between the two men while the man with the piercings spoke in a voice that slid around the sauna. His reptilian skin shone with the heat. He grinned as he talked, licking his top lip as he did so with a sharp, flicking movement. The girl felt nauseous as she watched him out of the corner of her eye but his litany of money-making and women had a mantric quality which drew her in. 

‘I left the third wife because I knew it was time for change. Sold my properties, stopped the gambling, cut back on alcohol and now I’ve a nice little place in the country. Over the years, I’ve made a killing financially so I’ve got nothing to complain about.’

A heavy air of expectation hung in the silence that followed. It was the girl’s turn. She could feel the tension as the men exchanged glances. Glances with a meaning she couldn’t grasp. Through the glass door of the sauna, she could see the sea pool, grey waves rippling in the northerly breeze. In minutes, she had launched into the water, hair spread out like oarweed.  

They watched her as she struck out across the pool. Crucifix man nodded with acceptance. His companion looked at him with sympathy, nipple rings glinting.

‘I really thought she’d have come round to your way.’

A wry smile flashed across the face of the other.  

‘I don’t know. I’m not sure she understood the game.’

Posie Brown has had a long career as a professional writer, working as a journalist before going into corporate communications. She also worked with a number of arts charities. A timely redundancy has now given her the opportunity to finally focus more on her fiction writing and her story Gull was featured in The Phare Summer 23. She lives in Kent, UK

bottom of page