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Four Days in Michigan: A Novel

Philip Zazove


�He�s here!�

The message spread like wildfire through the house, and everyone hurried to the front window to see for themselves.

Chuck Winter exited the taxi, paid the driver, then paused at the curb as the cab drove away. It had been a long time since his last visit home to Springville. Too long, really. He studied the ranch house, bathed in the late morning sun. It hadn�t changed since his childhood. The slate gray roof, tan bricks, and immaculate yard were icons of stability in an increasingly turbulent world. They also brought back bittersweet memories. Of growing up as the only hearing person in a Deaf family. Of always feeling different from everyone at school. And of the continual requests to interpret for deaf people in public, even as a young child. He�d made the right decision to leave Michigan after high school, to go off on his own. Still, it was nice to come home.

He pulled up his coat collar, near his now-whitening blonde hair, to ward off the autumn chill. Chuck glanced up and down the street. Minor changes were evident in several houses, and the stately Dutch elm trees that had lined the road were gone now, making the street look more barren than in his younger days. Otherwise the road looked exactly as he had remembered it. He sighed at the memories, then recalled why he had come back. Chuck took one last look down the street before heading up the sidewalk.

When a short woman with dark hair opened the door, he dropped his suitcase and hugged her warmly. �Good to see you,� he told his oldest sister, Lisa, using his hands effortlessly to communicate in American Sign Language. She was approaching sixty years of age. Sadly, she also looked older.

�You too.�

�How�s Mother?�

She shook her head. �Not good. Dr. Benson doesn�t give her much longer.�

Before Chuck could reply, a large mutt nudged against him. He petted the dog as Lisa�s husband came up, followed by their other sister Judy and her husband. Chuck hugged each of them in turn, as is typical when Deaf friends and family meet each other. Then there was a flurry of hands as everyone signed, and many minutes passed before Chuck hung up his coat and they entered the dining room. It was there that Lisa updated him about the situation.

�Mom�s given up,� she signed with a Midwestern accent �She�s refusing the chemotherapy, and a few days ago she even stopped eating. The only thing that seems to interest her is news about that senator from New Jersey. You know, the one she�s always been interested in, who�s been an advocate of Deaf rights ever since he was elected.�

�Amazing. At a time like this, it�s hard to believe she still cares about someone she doesn�t even know.� The others nodded. �What does Dr. Benson say about Mom not eating?�

�Not much he can do.� Judy took over. �You know Mother. When she decides she�s going to do something, no one�s going to change her mind. And she�s as stubborn as ever. She won�t even go to his office anymore because she says it�s useless.�

�The doctor�s been nice enough to stop by here,� Lisa said. �Yesterday he told Mom she had at most a week left. That�s when she asked us to get you. She wanted you sent to her room as soon as you arrived.�

�Of course. After all, you always were her favorite.� Judy�s hands conveyed her feelings as much as her actual signs.

�That�s not true.�

�Yes it is.�

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