The Last One

It was six o’clock and the barber shop was closing. Tuone Udaina put the broom away, wiped his hands on a crisp white towel, and stepped out into the warm Adriatic air of Veglia, his island home.

Deaf and toothless, the old man was usually grumpy. His friends, the few that remained, called him a goat. He wasn’t grumpy on this night though. He was thinking about another friend.

Maybe not a friend in the common usage of the word but a new companion nonetheless. His name was Matteo, and he and Tuone spent many hours at his barbershop talking about times gone by. About his life. About Dalmatia. Tuone liked him because he was genuinely interested. He felt important around Matteo.

As Tuone took his usual route home, up the hill and across the winding road, he thought about what he could tell Matteo at their next meeting. He laughed to himself remembering a little fight that his parents had when he was a child. They didn’t know that he was hiding in the closet, listening to every word. He would tell Matteo about that one. About the funny little word that his mother called his father that day.

Tuone crested the top of the hill and saw his path blocked. He forgot they were building a new road. He would either have to go back down the hill and take the long way through town or else wind his way around the heaps of broken stones and timbers until he reached the path. He chose the latter.

Unbeknownst to Tuone, a nameless anarchist had come across a discarded Ottoman land mine that day and decided to plant it amidst the rubble. Tuone stepped on it.

On June 10th, 1898, Tuone died and the Dalmatian language went with him.


100swallows said...

A well-told story, cyurkanin. The punch line really floors. I read somewhere that languages are disappearing by the dozens each century. My mother's dream was that "we would all become one". But the more I see of our smaller, homogeneous world, the more I wonder if diverse wasn't better. Someone said that in spite of our freedom of speech we are all going to end up saying the same things, having the same point of view. Funny.

cyurkanin said...

Thanks swallows. It's funny how diversity leads to an opposite result, isn't it? There was probably twenty different tales of the death of languages that I sifted through before picking this one.