anyway have some tater

What’s up, it’s Alexei!

When Ngozi posted this picture yesterday of young post-draft Tater “trying his darnedest to answer press questions in English,” I thought, “You know, I could make a play fic out of that.” Which is what led to the following 2700+ words about Tater and his ESL tutor.

Many, many thanks to @ktheunready for being my Russian authenticity consultant and beta!


Georgia Martin stood at the back of the media scrum and watched Alexei Mashkov stumble his way through his post-draft interview, saw the way his fingers kneaded the brim of the brand-new Falconers’ cap he’d been handed for the initial official photos, saw the way his eyes widened and stayed intently glued to whoever was asking him a question, like he was afraid he’d miss some key bit of meaning if he blinked.

She pulled out her phone and made a call.

***

«No, Mama, I promise, my room is very nice. The family is very nice. Everything is very…»

«Let me guess, nice? »

Alexei sighed. «Yes.»

«You know I don’t doubt you, right, Alyosha? I’m not worried you can’t do this. You will be fine. But I know this is your first time to live in another country, with none of the boys from your teams here. It can be… hard, sometimes. I know.»

«Yeah, Mama, I know. You told me.»

«Are you telling me you’ve heard the stories of my youth too many times?» she asked in mock outrage.

«No, no!» he laughed. «Of course not.»

«Good. I should think not.» He could picture her face exactly, and it made him smile. «I’m glad your host family seems nice, Alyosha. I’m sure you will have many friends in no time.»

He flopped back on the bed again and stared at the ceiling. «I hope so.»

«We’ll talk again soon. Love you, son.»

«Love you, too.»

He hung up and let his phone rest on his chest. He’d been to America before. He’d thought he’d known what it would be like, that it wouldn’t be so bad. Different, yes, but there would be so many interesting new things to see, and new teammates, and he certainly knew how to play hockey. What he had failed to take into account, apparently, was how exhausting it was to try to function in English all day. For a US hockey team, the Falconers’ roster was shockingly low on Russian players, so his host family was one of the French Canadian ones. To their credit, they did speak some Russian, but it was hardly enough to have a real conversation. Alexei felt like he’d been practically mute all day.

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