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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Outcasts and Angels: The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature
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He sighed. “Marina, even if I could manage it somehow,” he said gently, “and you gave birth to a deaf baby—” Awkwardly he tried to sign to her, touching a finger to lips and ear for “deaf,” making a cradling gesture for “baby.” Marina swallowed around a sudden lump in her throat, loving him for that effort. But she’d lost track, and had to read the rest off the screen. Her head was beginning to hurt. [—you know they’ll never let you keep it. You might have six months before someone noticed, and then they would put the child in a foster home—with hearing people, you can be sure—and you would go to jail. They’d never let you see your son or daughter again, and your culture, as you put it, would still be lost.]

Marina shook her head emphatically. “They’d only do that if they can prove it was done on purpose. And we’ll make sure they don’t even suspect. The only people who know—the only ones who will know—are me, Grant, and you. As long as you don’t say anything, we’ll be fine.

“Furthermore, a DNA test won’t reveal anything unusual,” she continued, “because there won’t be any engineered genes involved. Nothing that doesn’t come directly from either me or Grant. Besides—what hearing person,” she spat the words, “is going to believe I actually wanted a deaf child? I’ll be appropriately sorrowful and outraged when my baby is diagnosed ‘defective.’ The whole thing will be put down to a lab mix-up.”

He shook his head. [Extremely risky. The media will be climbing all over this, you can be sure—the first child born deaf in America in twenty-five years!]

“Jeff.” She looked at him calmly. “You’re not going to change my mind. I want this more than anything, and if you won’t help me I will find some other way.” She paused, hands balling into fists on her thighs. “It can be done, I know it can. I just need to know if you’re willing to help me.” She held his gaze challengingly.

“God, Marina. Do you have any idea of what you’re really asking me to do here? What kind of risks are involved? Any idea at all?” His eyes flicked back and forth between hers, his expression open and pleading.

Marina glanced down, ashamed. [Any idea at all?] The cursor blinked on the interpreter, waiting. Of course, he was in just as much danger from this as she was. A long jail term; his career destroyed. And with nothing but an abstract principle urging him forward. In that moment she realized, with cold certainty, that he would turn her down . . . and more, that she couldn’t blame him. “I know—I know it’s a lot to ask. You don’t owe me this, Jeff, okay? You don’t owe me anything.” Marina stuffed the interpreter back into her shoulder bag and jumped down to the step below. She put a hand lightly on his leg. It was the only time they had touched since the handshake in the restaurant. “Thanks for buying lunch. I’ll return the favor sometime.” She reached up to retrieve the coolpack from his lap.

He held tight to the strap and didn’t let her have it, just stared at her, studying her face. Then he looked off over her left shoulder, eyes unfocused. Tiny lines between his eyebrows came and went and came again. Finally he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “I’ll do it,” he said, and she thought she must have read it wrong, but he met her eyes then and said it again. “I’ll do it.”

She let go and leaned up against the rock step. He looked off to the right again, out at the water.

[We’ll need to stay away from each other as much as possible. It’s bad enough that the child’s father is a gynecologist, though I’ll admit it makes for a tighter conspiracy. It wouldn’t do for you to suddenly start spending a lot of time with a biogeneticist, too. I’ll have to see you once more, though, to give you the embryos. I think I can get the recomb done this weekend— I’ll do several, in case the first one doesn’t implant. Just hang on to the extra ones. I’ll call you and we can meet for lunch again next week; that shouldn’t be too unusual.]

[Okay, that ought to do it for now. Oh, and a list of ob-gyns that use GeneSys’s labs. Shit.] She glanced up to see him rubbing a hand across his forehead. [I have no idea how I’m going to manage that. There should be a file somewhere—well, I’ll figure something out. I guess I’ll need you to let me know which doctor, and when she takes the cell sample. In fact, get a Friday appointment. That way it’ll be at the lab all weekend, and I’ll have more time. God, I don’t believe I’m doing this.] He got up and dusted the snow off his pants. “Let’s go.”

Marina followed, afraid that anything she said might change his mind. Because of course what she had told him wasn’t true at all. Anyone else she went to would be a complete stranger, and might turn her in before she even got her chance. She shivered a little in the rising wind.

They walked out of the park together, and back up Michigan Avenue past the restaurant. The windows were tinted, making it impossible to see more than vague shadows inside. When they got to the corner where she would turn toward the train station, Marina stopped.

“Well, I’ll call you.” Jeff ’s hand went up along his jaw in a Y shape. Call. Pointing at her. You. “We’ll do lunch, right?” An L at the lips. Lunch. He started away without waiting for her answer, stopped, then turned around and walked back. Reaching out, he gently pried the interpreter from her cold-numbed hand, faced away from her and spoke into it for a moment. Then, with a lopsided, ironic sort of grin, he handed it back to her, turned a second time and walked down the street.


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