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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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The Silents

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We had been talking for most of the afternoon, and he had been drawing Indian heads all the while. He got up to fill his coffee cup and drank quietly. When Mama’s alarm clock rang, I stared off into their bedroom. He saw me and poked me to get my attention. As he turned and saw her standing behind him, he held his hands out palms up. “What?”

“Where is Addle?” she asked. That was the name she used for my sister because “Adelaide” was filled with sound traps. My father reduced it to an “A,” just as he reduced my name to a “C.” He pointed to the living room. She walked to the stove, turned on the gas, and started dinner.

Papa’s eyes followed her movement to the stove. Her back as turned to him, hut he smiled anyway. She must have felt it because she cured her hips in that secret wax’ she had of sending him messages that made him smile or wink or blush or puff up his tobaccoed cheeks. He got up, folded his newspaper under his arm, and poked me again. “I don’t need adventure now,” he laughed. “I have Mama and you and Addle.” He left everything out of her name but the A. Then he walked up to my mother, patted her on the shoulder, and left the kitchen to sit at the dining room table until dinner was ready. She sighed a tired sigh— her hand still on the soup spoon—and straightened her hips.

By the time dinner was served, I’d forgotten the uncles’ names and Germany and dead Grandfather Herzberg and remembered only Aunt Flora because she was deaf and his hobo days and boxcars and running away from school. And I sighed, wondering how it was that these two people, whom I loved so much, came to be mine.

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