Tiri of Portugal

by Roderick T. Long
[writing as Alexander Lafayette Young]

[Idaho Falls, 1975-76 (age 11 or 12); the teacher, missing the point, corrected “Base Ball” to “Baseball.”]

Tiri stood on the gangplank, looking up at its suddenly vast expanse fearfully. Once he walked the endless mile up the gangplank, he would start on the longest journey from home that he had ever been on.

He had never before been out of sight of the little village of Ravan, in Portugal. To be sure, he had been on his father’s fishing boat – but that had been with his father, and besides, The Phoenician rarely went far from shore.

But this time, Tiri would be going all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, and he would be alone. He would travel all the way to America to visit a boy he did not even know, except by letter.

“Go on, Tiri!” urged his father. So he kissed his mother once more, and boarded The Liberty Queen.

*     *     *

Terry stood on the dock, waiting for The Liberty Queen to pull in. He looked forward to the visit of his Portuguese pen-pal, Tiri. He saw the ship come in and the gang plank let down.

Tiri was standing at the top of the gang plank, looking scared. He glanced around wildly, and wanted to run. The flashing lights and loud noises and immense crowds terrified him.

Terry waved. Tiri saw him and ran down the gangplank. He soon reached Terry’s side.

“You ... are ... Terry?” Tiri asked in faltering English.

“Sure,” said Terry, “and you must be Tiri. Our names are almost the same!”

“Come on over here,” said Terry, “and meet my folks! They’re in the blue car.”

Tiri stared at the car. There had been a car or two in Ravan, but it had been nothing like this! Tiri wondered that Terry could even spot his car among the teeming thousands of honking masses.

“Tiri, this is my dad. And this is my mom,” Terry was saying. Tiri forced himself to focus his eyes. “Mom, Dad – this is Tiri.”

“Hello, Mister and Mrs. .... Roberts,” said Tiri. He remembered that the return address on Terry’s letters had always said, “TERRY ROBERTS.”

Then, Terry’s parents drove Tiri to Terry’s home in the car. It was the first time that Tiri had ever been in an “au-to.” Tiri had had his dinner on The Liberty Queen, so he went to bed as soon as they got home. The next morning, Teri got up, and found he was the only one awake. He was surprised to learn that Americans did not get up before five.

When the rest of the family got up, Tiri was served something called “pankaxe.” They were thin slices of some kind of bread, but they had an odd sweet taste, and they were covered in a strange sort of sauce.

“You want to go to the movies?” asked Terry. Tiri said yes. There had been a television set in Ravan, and the owner had sometimes let the kids watch it, but it had been nothing like this! While before Tiri had watched a small, black-and-white screen, he now saw a huge, full-color screen dozens of times larger than himself!

The movie was what Terry called a “western” – filled with men on horses, screaming women, and gunfights. Tiri had learned to speak English, but he could not understand the Texas dialect, so he did not know what was going on.

Then, Terry taught Tiri how to play Base Ball, which consisted of hitting a throw ball with a stick. When someone has hit a ball, he drops the stick and runs toward a predesignated point. If he reaches this point before someone has caught the ball, he is “safe.” It all seemed very strange to Tiri.

A few weeks later, Tiri boarded The Sea Hawk, and set off towards Portugal. He was sad to leave Terry, but he was also happy, for he knew that he would soon be back in the little fishing village of Ravan.







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