An Excerpt From “Deaf Speak”

by Mackenna Kuehl

Instructions: Remember to set your alarm for 6:15 am, the exact time when you need to go and wake your mother up. Make sure mom sets her vibrating alarm as well, just in case your alarm doesn’t go off. Kiss mom and brother goodnight, then get in bed.

Lie awake for about half an hour and make sure mom turns off the TV downstairs, or it will make a buzzing noise and keep you awake. Listen for her to lock all the doors, and reset the security system. When you hear four clicks and an electronic beep, it’s safe to drift off to sleep.

The alarm clock  goes off. Reach over and turn it off, then pad down the hall to wake mom. Her bed is vibrating and her alarm is blinking, but she’s still asleep. She can’t hear you open her door, so make sure to touch her gently, softly, don’t jar her from her deep sleep, nothing but your touch can disturb her. Slowly stroke her arm. Lay your head next to hers and wait until she starts to stir. Shake her arm a little until her lids open. Good, you didn’t scare her; she hates being scared awake.

Once she’s up, you can go back to bed. Mom will wake you up at 7 so you can get ready for school. At 7, the creak of the door hinges wakes you, but keep your lids closed. Let Mom stroke your arm until the sleep leaves your heavy lids. Rub your eyes and sit up.

The water from her bathroom sink is still running, go to her room and turn it off. Get dressed and make sure your little brother is awake. Take him downstairs for breakfast. Mom is busy getting things together for work, she didn’t hear the toaster pop, so your toast is a little burnt and dry, but that’s okay. You’ve learned to like it that way.

Mom leaves for work a little earlier than you have to leave for school, so make sure she’s looking directly at your lips when you say goodbye. Sign”‘I love you” and wait for her to sign back. Watch as she kisses your brother and then leaves through the garage door. Listen as her car pulls out of the driveway. Finish breakfast and make sure you and your brother both have your backpacks and house keys. Lock the door on your way out and walk to school. Drop your brother off at his kindergarten class and tell him to meet you in your fifth grade pod at 2:45 so you can walk home from school together.

Go to your classroom. Forget your lunch. Don’t bother calling mom from school. She won’t be able to understand you over the phone. Mooch some lunch off of your friends. They have better food anyway. After school meet your brother and walk home together. Make sure he does his homework, then do yours.

Mom comes home an hour later. Tell her about your day, half in broken sign language and half in over enunciated words. Don’t get frustrated when you have to repeat yourself three times. Just try to be clear. Enunciate.

Don’t bother yelling. It won’t make a difference. Scream anyway when she turns around. You won’t get in trouble. Your friends get in trouble for yelling, but you don’t. Scream to the top of your lungs. Relish the sound of your voice as it fills the room and dances in your ears. Scream until your chest heaves and there is no more air. Raise your foot to stomp on the ground, and then stop. Mom will feel the vibrations in the floorboards. Gently put your foot down. Scare your little brother.

You shouldn’t scream anymore.

Stop screaming and go watch TV.

Your face is red.

Watch cartoons with your brother with the captions on. Mute the TV. You’re so used to reading the captions that you don’t need the sound anymore.

Mackenna Kuehl is a senior at Whitworth University. She is an aspiring writer, avid reader and animal lover. Her neurotic golden retriever, Sam, is her biggest supporter and the inspiration for many of her pieces.

One thought on “An Excerpt From “Deaf Speak”

  1. Very good, very excellent writing! Shows strong emotions and expresses the childhood’s viewpoint of that kind of life. I am a hearing impaired woman who has raised two hearing children. I realize it was hard for my children to have to deal with my not hearing everything. I hope it was not as hard for my children to deal with me regarding my deafness but I did have other issues that were very hard for them to deal with. I am sure I was embarrassing to my children from time to time in front of their friends but that still happens with hearing families with no handicaps. Not only is there the hearing loss issue, there is the “mother/child/teen issues” that can get blurred into complexing the relationship even further…like which issue is really about the deafness and which is really about the mother/child growing up stuff. Again, very good writing. Good luck in future endeavors!

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