And Now For Something Different...

A Fictional Story Based on the All-Too-Real Sentences Duolingo Keeps Giving Me

Geno’s startup company was impressive and growing, even if it was a backyard money-printing scam. His brother, however, had his doubts.

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“When are you going to learn?” Raul asked after Sunday family brunch.

Geno tilted his head toward his nephews to see if they felt the same.

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“We are going to abandon him,” Raul’s twin sons chirped in unison.

“Very well,” Geno said, leaving to go draw himself a bath. Geno loved a good soak.

Everyone was quiet, including Raul, the twins, Geno’s quiet wife Sara Louise and his not-so-quiet daughter Patricia. (His son Theo was in Rio de Janeiro, making a new acquisition—a high-speed money printer swiped from the Brazilian Mint). The silence was intolerable. Finally, Patricia cracked. She locked eyes with her uncle and said:

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“You don’t belong here.”

And so, Raul left.

###

Later, the twins were feeling peeved. Patricia had been awfully curt to their father and Theo wasn’t even there for what was clearly important family business.Rio de Janeiro for a week? Really, Theo? Only Geno and Sara Louise had handled themselves well. The twins, still eager to stay in the money-printing business, asked their friends for advice.

Was Patricia too harsh?

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“She can improve,” Smith said after a moment’s thought. Maureen and Damon gave nods in agreement.

But, the twins postulated, this could be the start of a coup. First, Theo and Patricia force Raul out. Then, the twins would be shown the door. And then, their beloved, evil-minded uncle Geno. Theo and Patricia were definitely up to something.

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“They can die.” Smith said without a second thought.

Maureen cracked her knuckles, a nervous habit from childhood.

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“They are going to pay.”

Damon smiled. He was halfway through dental school, an education he found continually useful.

“And,” he said:

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“They are not going to feel anything.”

The twins looked at each other in their twinsy way. What great friends they had.

###

After Geno’s soak, he went to his money shed, or more precisely the shed behind his house where he illegally printed money. The shed had one ground level, plus two underground floors where all the action happened. Unfortunately, the action was not looking good today.

As soon Geno stepped down to the second level, Jen H. quit. She was going to work as a substitute art teacher instead.

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“They offer more money,” she shrugged, grabbing her bag and leaving.

That left only Geno, his wife and children, his nephews and the intern, Jen L. Before dropping out of college to pursue a life of crime, she had been a elementary education major.

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“They are going to reduce her,” Jen L. said of Jen H.’s decision.

Geno rubbed his temples. There was another problem, too. The neighbors were getting suspicious, asking questions. Too many questions.

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“The neighbor can change.”

Theo hopped down the steps. His flight had been delayed, but he finally made it home/to the money shed. Geno was never happier to see him.

“We have work to do, my son.”

###

The next day, the twins planned to confront their cousins while Geno planned to confront his neighbor. The sun was high and the air crisp. A perfect day for confrontations.

“We don’t like what’s going on here,” the twins said to Patricia and Theo.

“Catch me up. What’s going on here?” Theo asked.

“You tell us.”

“We were sleeping and you guys texted and said to come over, and then you texted again and said it was urgent, and then one more time, so we came over and now you’re asking us what’s going on.”

“Patricia was not so nice to our dad. We think you’re up to something.”

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“I cannot remember that,” Patricia said matter-of-factly.

“We’ll help you remember.” The twins tied up both cousins. They dragged Patricia out to their car, but when they returned to get Theo, he had escaped.

###

Geno rang The Robertsons’ doorbell. He found friends more useful than enemies and hoped The Robertsons would agree. But when the door opened, it was their babysitter Angela who opened it up.

“Oh, hello there,” Geno said with a warm smile.

Angela had heard about this neighbor. She instinctively crossed her arms.

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“You are going to get it.”

She slammed the door in Geno’s face. Oh well, he thought.

###

Geno texted his wife, children, nephews and the only Jen left, Jen L.

EMERGENCY FAMILY MEETING 8 PM.

Am I part of the family? Jen L. beamed.

###

8 pm came quickly enough. Geno and Sara Louise sat side by side in the money shed. Theo looked like he had been roughed up, but he didn’t say a thing. Jen L. wore a giant smile on her face. The twins arrived last with Patricia in tow who, like her brother, was tip-lipped.

“We have a problem,” Geno said.

“Yes, we do,” all four cousins said in unison.

“The neighbors?”

“No, the twins.”

“No, your kids.”

Geno sighed. This was not going to plan. “Patricia, what happened to you?” he said, noticing something was different about her.

“De pulled mah teef!” she yelled, revealing an empty mouth.

The twins countered immediately, “They’re planning a coup, Uncle Geno!”

Jen L. had gone to the bathroom and came back right at “coup.” Everyone but Sara Louise was on their feet.

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“You never wait for me,” she complained, but no one heard her. Theo was shouting at the twins who were shouting at Geno who was shouting at Patricia who seemed to be shouting, but was mostly mouthing moaning noises.

Finally, Geno whistled—a soaring, painful sound—and everyone went silent. “Maybe Raul was right. It’s just too much.”

He turned to his wife, the stoic Sara Louise. They were an odd pair and always had been. But the confusion they caused others only made them love one another more.

“What do you think, my sweet?” he asked his Mennonite bride.

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“It’s impossible to know,” Sarah Louise said.

Geno caught his reflection in a mirror on the wall.

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“You are a man,” he said to himself, and then continued to the room:

“Boys, you crossed the line. Patricia—you have been acting suspicious. And where’s the Brazilian high-speed press, Theo? You’re out. All of you. Now.”

The four cousins looked stunned as they shuffled their feet up the stairs and out of the money shed. Not even Sara Louise would make eye contact.

“Raul was right. I can’t keep doing this. JL, the family business is yours.”

Jen L.’s eyes welled with tears. What a boost this would be to her blossoming criminal career. She hugged Geno and Sarah Louise and promised not to let them down before they too shuffled up the stairs.

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“I am going to control this!” she yelled to the empty money shed.

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