Lost in Translucence (a Patois) by
(40 Stories)

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

I called my mother-in-law to find out how my father-in-law was doing in his by-pass surgery.  “How’s Bob?” I asked. “It’s over,” she answered.“Wha?” I asked.  “Over,” she repeated.  “All over.”  Which is to say, he was out of surgery and doing well, and not dead.

I saw a movie a while back, set in Tokyo, co-starring a world-weary Bill Murray and an alluring Scarlett Johanssen.  He was 52 years old, but looked older; she was 17 years old, playing a 22 year old character, and looked…like she might have quite a career ahead of her.  They talked and talked, and talked, and nothing happened.  I assume something was lost in translation.

In Quebec City I once ordered onion soup, and was served onion rings, or maybe it was the other way around.  Les oignons, bien sur.

The definition of “flammable” is “easily set on fire.”  The definition of “inflammable” is also “easily set on fire.”

Many times (well, a few times), I used “LOL” as an acronym for “lots of love.”  Sometimes this caused an eyebrow to rise.  More recently I’ve been educated by the younger folk that “LOL” is a generally accepted acronym for “laugh out loud”.  Which is a different sentiment than “lots of love.”  Fortunately, I’m too old to be embarrassed by internet ignorance, as are most of the people I communicate with.

Speaking of acronyms, I hate “HOV.”  It’s an acronym on signs for highway lanes which are restricted to cars with more than one occupant, but I can never remember what words it is an acronym for. I’ve driven halfway to NYC banging my brain to come up with a palatable de-acronym.  Close your eyes if you don’t want to know, but I just looked it up for the hundredth (+/-) time.  Completely unintuitive, it stands for “High-Occupancy Vehicle.”

Also in that category is “OPS”, which is thrown around all the time by baseball talkers, as a rating of batting proficiency.  It stands for “on-base plus slugging”, which is “a sabermetric baseball statistic calculated as the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage.”  I need a translation.  I’ll stick with “HR”, “RBI” and “BA”, and whether the hitter has a gleam in his eye and a confident swagger.

Finally, there was a guy with a metal detector working the beach in front of my house this morning, in the vicinity of where my grandfather’s gold ring slipped off my finger and was lost to the sea (in waist deep water) about 65 years ago.  My mother had given me the ring as a keepsake from her late father and was disappointed and unforgiving of the loss.  I acknowledge carelessly twisting and loosening it on my finger, even purposeful malfeasance.  I vividly remember its last shimmer as it caught refracted sunshine on its way down.  I grabbed for it but missed, and it was gone.  I still look for it every time I walk the beach, even though it may have swam to China by now, even though I realize my chance of finding it is quite remote, like one in a trillion trillion remote. But I still resent the metal detector guy poaching my search territory, and reducing ever so slightly my chance of success.

That being said, now I feel obliged (under the rules of the Retrospect) to concoct a way to tie my lost-ring episode to the contrails of the proffered prompt.  “Lost in translucence” may come close, rhetorically speaking, as it clings to the root and sound of the prompt, as the ring transitioned from the world of the real and visible to the underwater world of Neptune and Ariel and Moby Dick, a world whose sonorous language is unintelligible if translated into English.

...as the ring transitioned from the world of the real and visible to the underwater world of Neptune and Ariel and Moby Dick...


Bonus:  For those of you moved to hoard potato salad after reading my last entry, “Happy Birthday to Me,” don’t worry.  There’s plenty more from where that came from.  See pic below snapped this morning at local potato salad emporium:




Profile photo of jonathancanter jonathancanter
Here is what I said about myself on the back page of my 2020 humor/drama/politico novel "The Debutante (and the Bomb Factory)" (edited here, for clarity):

"Jonathan Canter Is a retIred attorney; widower; devoted father and grandfather (sounds like my obit); lifelong resident of Greater Boston; graduate of Harvard College (where he was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon); fan of waves and wolves; sporadic writer of dry and sometimes dark humor (see "Lucky Leonardo" (Sourcebooks, 2004), funny to the edge of tears); gamesman (see "A Crapshooter’s Companion"(2019), existential thriller and life manual); and part-time student of various ephemeral things."

The Deb and Lucky are available on Amazon. The Crapshooter is available by request to the author in exchange for a dinner invitation.

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    I like your examples, and how you cleverly created a new concept to tie in a story of loss that might seem a bit tangential. It’s all charming in a a retrospective musing sort of way. Cheers.

  2. Suzy says:

    Wonderful story, as always, Jon. Of course you know we stole the title of the prompt from the Bill Murray/Scarlett Johanssen movie in which, I agree, nothing happened and they seemed ridiculous together. Lousy movie, but it WAS a great title.

    How funny that you actually used LOL to mean lots of love – there’s a commonly told joke about the “elderly” woman sending out texts about a death in the family, and signing them LOL until one of her dismayed kids tells her what it means. Presumably you didn’t use it in such a dramatically wrong context.

    I love the way you tied in the story of the guy with the metal detector “under the rules of Retrospect.” Not sarcasm, I really do love it! And also thanks for the pix of potato salad, now I am craving some. If only you could send it through cyberspace!

  3. Marian says:

    Lost in translucence is almost (maybe not quite?) a malapropism, Jon, and it fits the story perfectly. I finally have HOV imprinted in my mind now that every Bay Area freeway has those lanes. We could do an entire prompt on TLAs (three-letter acronyms).

  4. Once more Jon you cleverly slip slide around your subject – and our Retro prompt – to intrigue and delight.

    And sorry about the loss of your grandfather’s ring, I’ve lost several myself! (See my story WITH THIS RING)

    • “With this Ring” has the ominous ring of a story of a wedding band slipped down the kitchen sink. I will check it out, w hope that you managed a successful recovery.

      • Do read it Jon for a few surprises!

        • Dana Susan,
          I read it, including its many moments of ring (and marital) drama, highlighted in my opinion by the tossing of the ring off the bridge, which as I read the Rule Book violated the rules because either a fake ring is supposed to be tossed (to put fear into the partner, but not to lose forever the love asset) or similarly, it’s supposed to be a fake toss ( with the ring staying put via sleight of hand, and recoverable like the affikomen so as to permit the ritual to continue until next year in Jerusalem). Perhaps someday you will write the story of the events that precipitated and followed upon the grand toss (gesture). In general it seems you have had more than your fair share of ring losses; I have no comment on whether you have had more than your fair share of rings but I wish you many more, stunning, blinging and heartfelt.
          Thank you for alerting me to this drama.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    When our kids graduated from Stanford and high school, respectively, we took them to Japan and stayed at the Tokyo Park Hyatt ( the hotel in Lost in Translation). We ran all over the hotel to see where scenes had been shot (like the swimming pool, though we never took a dip; too busy sight-seeing). When we got home, we re-watched the movie just to see the hotel which was quite beautiful.

    Thanks for translating all those three letter abbreviations. I didn’t know what several stood for. And I love how you morphed into “lost in translucence” with the light reflecting off the ring. Too bad you lost it and now you have the beachcomber invading your space.

    Very fun (and hunger-producing) to send that potato salad photo! Now I’m hungry too!

    • I am glad that you had more fun in your stay at the Tokyo Park Hyatt than did Bill and Scarlett in theirs, because theirs was no fun at all.
      I am not widely travelled, but I have enjoyed those times when I’ve found find myself luxuriating in a non-shabby grand hotel ( like The Breakers in Palm Beach, or the Metropol (?) in A Gentleman in Moscow, or the grande dame Plaza as lived in by Eloise).

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I also used to think LOL meant lots of love. My kids had LOL over that! Thanks for making me LOL while reading your story.

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    Your title put me in mind of the lines from The Tempest about suffering a sea change!

    • I well remember the sea change experienced by Stephen Dedalus as he stood in the shallows (of the Irish Sea), and as the sea shifted around him so did his resolve to leave his (cultural and geographic) homeland, and embark on his life adventure as a writer. I recall big shifts in the sea around me too, but can’t tie them do translucently to newfound determinations in my heart to toss the old and embrace the new. Aha, but the briny sea air! Satisfaction enough for one swim.
      In the Tempest: I assume a fair sail gone awry, shipwrecked on Prospero’s magic island?
      Thank you for your comment.

Leave a Reply