Author's Note: What you are about to read may sound odd and unusual, perhaps a bit incoherent. Actually, the story is told in American Sign Language, or ASL gloss. What does that mean? Simply put, it is not a translation. ASL is not English on the hands; like any other foreign language, ASL has its own grammar, vocabulary, idioms, and so on. What you are about to read is, I hope, a clear delineation of how ASL can be structured sentence-wise. [Editor's Note: The audio track was voiced by T. K. Dalton]
House-house-house that-way neighbors new move-there. These-two move i-n eight-nine months ago, not sure exact when, eight-nine-months approximately. First meet, me-think okay-okay. Both hearing, facial-expression-extreme-show-teeth-for-lipreading not, nice. Themselves dress-fancy not. Man pants s-w-e-a-t-pants purple, T-shirt purple same, but strange what? Gold thick-elaborate-surround-neck b-l-i-n-g. Himself brag show money have. Me-look-him-up-down, okay. Other-person woman dress same-same j-u-s-t different color but unique what? Simple necklace gold p-e-a-r-l pendant. Odd man dress-loud attract-attention-from-everyone, woman simple good-enough. Their preferences respect okay.
Two-cars parked front have. One old blue paint fall-off-here-there r-u-s-t thick-layer bad whew. Other car strange: car fancy-fancy B-M-W hot red, black stripes-emanating-from-front-grille-lining-car’s-side, thick wheels. B-M-W typical-typical car not. Car expensive obvious whew-whew. Car strange worse what? My area you-know: nice simple houses, good school nearby, kids play all-over safe, neighbors down-the-block windows watch-supervise kids play. Live here thumbs-up. Plus neighbors here-there sign fingerspell a-bit, better than nothing. Fine-fine accept all-right.
Before explain deep happen, me-backtrack explain happen before these-two move. That house before own who? N-o-r-m-a-n S-l-i-m-m, name-sign-NS, nice old man. Like work-work fix-fix house, mow-mow, house clean-perfect pow-chin whew. Me-admit jealous house upkeep whew, but okay. House mine clean-clean perfect not, accept. NS hearing, not sign, but write-back-and-forth problem none. Us-two get-along fine. One day himself fall sudden front house. Me-spot-bam run-fast gently-turn-him-onto-back, himself-breath-hard, me-text 9-1-1 “heart-attack come now.” Me-know 9-1-1 point-find-me fast. Me-focus NS careful-careful all-right, me worried okay, not sure, but watch-watch anyway. NS try talk, but lipread hard why? Part-face frozen, me-realize s-t-r-o-k-e. Me watch-watch look-around ambulance arrive, wait-wait, me worry. Pah! Ambulance arrive. Me-step-back let m-e-d-i-c-s do-do-do business theirs. One woman approach-me not realize me-deaf, first confused. Me-phone show type back-and-forth, question-question-me, type-phone work-out okay. NS carried-away hospital. Week later come-home. Walk slow, different. Part face stiff. Facial-expression odd why? Left-eyebrow up-down-movement none. Blink can, but look-me strange. Time progress, me-used stiff-eyebrow. Write-back-and-forth same before. Stroke effect not bad. Me relief. Back-then house clean-perfect, now what? Little-by-little house clean-perfect dissolve dirty. Me-offer clean-clean house. Me good neighbor want. Agree, okay-okay. Weekend me-come wash-floor, wash windows, carry-machine-weed-eater-around house-base, trees back. Me finish thumbs-up me-go, but NS come-come, gesture money. Me no-no. Me-acquiesce meet-him garage. He-write, Me good neighbor, best. Wish more neighbors same me. Wish you my son.
Heart-touch. Me-gesture thank-you.
That night true-biz heart-attack die.
Couple recent move house his? Man NS son that. Different father wow. Background story not-know, but obvious flashy attention-want. First think money earn how? D-r-u-g-s. Week-week later eye-spot fancy car park front house. Money where from? Not obsess, but let-it-go. Plus busy j-o-b kids house upkeep et-cetera, pay-attention those-two not. Busy-busy.
But one thing notice: man fancy bling drive car fancy, woman simple drive car old. Strange, hit-me, oh-oh: why man support woman money none? Old car that replace need. Man money give-give buy new car, why not? Not make sense.
S-o: Me decide watch-watch out-of-the-corners-of-my-eyes what’s-up-what’s-up these-two. Me do-do, like drive school drop-off kids, me go work, me food shopping, et-cetera. Me come-go come-go. Me set time follow strict not. First take-care-take-care family home.
Anyway, yesterday strange happen.
Me happen mow-mow l-a-w-n morning. Hot sweat nose-wow but problem. Rain-rain recent all-week grass too-tall. S-u-n fine grab opportunity mow-mow. Know-that-know-that rain tomorrow do-do, have t-o mow-mow. Go-ahead mow-mow. G-a-s run-out. Nose-ptooey. Mow 1/2 finish. Plan go garage me-spot-bam woman three-places-down sit p-a-t-i-o cry-cry. Look-like blood head but can’t t-e-l-l three-houses-down, plus sun-in-my-eyes. Me-stop do-do? True-biz beat-up? If call police, find nothing, laughter-caught-in-throat? Me-go ask help? No interpret. Hearing you-know emotional cry-cry hands-cover-face lipread how?
But still me-doubt, help, hands-off?
Woman head turn-quick, man walk p-a-t-i-o. Bling gone. Appearance ordinary. Tank-top shorts finish. Those-two mouth-talk sudden argue-argue yell-yell. Man point-finger woman, woman point-toward-me. Not think those-two see me there. Argue-argue awful. Me-think leave alone, go-ahead garage g-a-s container bring mower. Pour g-a-s finish, put b-a-c-k finish. Me-pull-pull-start mower. Old, you know? Have t-o pull-pull whew, but run good. Dad give-me his old still-standing real-fine. Motor run perfect. Me go-ahead mow-mow, glance those-two argue still? Seem they-left, okay. Mow-mow finish. Me sweat stink nose-whew, time shower. Ready enter bathroom shower, front-door-lights-flash. F-k! R-o-b-e put-on-me, walk-down-stairs open-door. Woman p-e-a-r-l pendant stood there. Face shoulder arms blood b-r-u-i-s-e. Me-think, Communicate how? No paper write-back-and-forth, no phone type-back-and-forth. Me gesture, Wait-one-minute. Ready enter house get paper p-e-n, but woman do-do? Sign. Mind-me enter house? Her-sign not awkward, not like hearing, you-know? Fluent sign like deaf. Mind-flipped. Herself not come house inform-me sign before. Anyway, woman-stand there signing. Happen herself C-O-D-A grow-up parents deaf. Few years back herself enter program d-e-t-o-x why? Drug addict. Hard work become clean, d-r-u-g-s, alcohol, marijuana all stop. During program met NS son same problem. Both fall-in-love, but s-e-x none because program forbid.
Man true-biz work-work quit d-r-u-g-s, but problem: sober few months, w-a-g-o-n fall-off, roller-coaster. Woman frustrated, not-know do-do. Seem that morning those-two argue why? Man beat-beat h-e-r. Took car k-e-y-s, I-D, et-cetera, escape can’t. I-D out-there important, you know? Woman fed-up decide come-straight-me house why? NS tell-her me deaf good neighbor. Mind-scar that. Me-suggest call police file report catch-him bring-to-jail, maybe herself go special house women D-V. Et-cetera that. Woman sweet why? Call police request interpret if need me witness. Nice whew. Police come those-two house. Woman hide my house, policewoman know where hide, policewoman interpreter slip-undercover my house back door, police interrogate woman then me. Paperwork fill-out finish, police car arrive these-two house. Police knock-knock, man open-door shock yell-yell, swear look-like, turn-around take-off, but police capture-him arrest handcuffs finish. Stay jail how long, me not know, but important everyone safe.
(Photo Credit: Andrew Bertke)
[Image Description: The B&W photo of Raymond Luczak, who is a white, bearded middle-aged man, was taken by Andrew Bertke and shows the author wearing a dark-colored velour shirt and standing to the side against a white background; he gives a slight smile as he glances back at something out of the frame.]
Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of 18 books. His latest titles include QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology and The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips. His Deaf gay novel Men with Their Hands won first place in the Project: QueerLit Contest 2006. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and online at raymondluczak.com.