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What Falls on Deaf Ears

A story for those who weren’t made for public view.

By Kenneth BouttePublished 3 years ago 8 min read

What Falls on Deaf Ears

The unmistakable smell of coffee swirls through the small gas station as the twins prepare for the early risers like me. I’m usually one of the first ones in to avoid the crowds. Avoiding people’s stares is something I’ve incorporated into my daily routine. Today is no different.

“Wait another girl is missing?”

“Yea, 4th one in 6 months. They say ole man Wade is launching another search party. Spending a pretty penny to do it too.”

“Boy I sure hope they find this one, and put an end to all this…” Randal says to his twin brother Raymond handing him a pack of cigarettes to stock the shelves. Kelsi Petercott being taken is the biggest news to hit our small town since my dad’s mining accident. It’s all anyone in Gorgoke, is talking about; though I can never hear them. I’ve been deaf since I was 7. My dad’s foreman sent him into a new shaft where he found a new mineral. No one knew it was poisonous at the time so trace amounts of toxins covered my dad’s body. Running out to hug him was the worst thing I could have done but it was the last time I’d ever be able to hold him. He died before he reached the front door. 17 miners died that day. Mr. Wade stepped down as foreman and my brief hug was enough to char my face and days later take my hearing. Some of the townsfolk think I have some super ability like DareDevil, some think I’m faking because I can read lips so well, but most just treat me different like I’m contaminated.

“Hey Tyler!” Raymond says overexaggerating his facial movements so I can read his lips. “I didn’t see you there. I guess you’re deaf and I’m blind. Haha!” A fake smile is all I can offer in an effort to stay cordial towards his attempt at humor. I pass him my apple juice and the exact change of $1.37 so I can quickly leave. Yet he begs for more facial amplified conversation. “Are you ready for prom? Got a hot date?” Calmly I shake my head no and make my way to the door, pointing to my watch as if I’m running late. I know he didn’t mean any harm by it, but I don’t need him patronizing me. I know the lesions and rashes on my face will never make me anyone’s prom date but I don’t need him rubbing it in.

Outside, bumper stickers of the lost girls pass by on school buses. They’re full of girls terrified they would be next. News crews line the streets hoping to be the first to report the latest findings. Pictures of Kelsi hang on every tree, post and sign. Just seeing her big bright smile is a sad reminder of how cruel people can be. How some people can just be so evil for no reason…

I pull up to the farm as the sun begins to rise. The trees and grass steam with the morning dew and create a visual reminder of how unusually hot it is for March. Sweat is already on my brow by the time I make it to the barn. Freckled with patches of peeling paint and tattered with holes, she stands an eye sore to the lush greenery around her. Her doors buckle outward like tired legs and drag along the dry cracked soil. Her old rustic body pants in the stillness of the dead air and her walls gasp for a fresh coat of sealant. Yet here she stands, just like me. Broken and beaten, a shell of her former glory, but she stands. Just asking anyone to love and respect her just as she is.

She greets me with a breath scented with hay, horse shit and a faint taste of something sweet. The horses delight in the sight of me and buck and rear to be released from the stables. They long to stretch their legs and prance along the 50-acre property while I shovel shit and lay hay into their stalls. Dragging along the third bale of hay, I notice all of the tools hanging on the back wall have fallen to the ground. Every rake, shovel, hoe, broom and pitchfork seem to have leaped off the wall and lay scattered on the floor. Surely, I missed them when I entered and quickly collect them and return them to their holders.

With the minor delay put to rest, I continue my morning tasks of stacking new bales, replacing the trough water, and soaping the saddles. A lone curious vulture perches himself on the tree outside and studies my chores. It’s unusual to see one so close, and from this distance I can really take in the details.

I’m cooked by the time I begin to replace the bedding. This old barn bakes like an oven and at this point I’m medium well. Parching sweat oozes from my skin, dripping mercilessly into my eyes. Callused palms rub them feverishly while clumsy feet send me crashing to the ground. To my surprise my legs are entangled in the projectile tools that have once again leaped from their holsters to the floor. Had I knocked them down in my panic? Was there a gust of wind coming from the rafters? My eyes turn to the trees to find them still. The clouds are at a standstill as though the heavens are in a traffic jam. An eerie feeling crawls down my spine twisting and winding along the cold sweat. My muscles flinch at every shadow now, and my bones are ready to jump from my skin. Trembling hands replace each tool and I back away from the wall slowly. I’m spellbound in fear watching, waiting, wondering…

Buzz Buzz

The vibration from a text is enough to scare the life out of me.

I hope you went to school early and NOT to Wade’s farm!

-Mom

Mom, we’ve been through this, I’ve quit school.

But she’s not even there to bully you anymore! Stop working for that monster!

-Mom

Ughh! It’s not just her! There will always be people like her! Mr. Wade is the only person that accepts me! Countless applications and he’s the only one that said yes! Being his yard hand is good work for now and working up there no one has to see me. I know we have the insurance money but I want to be my own man!

I told you he only hired you because he wants to make up for what he did. The more that they compensate is only to exonerate!

-Mom

Fine! Maybe I should go work in the mines like dad…

The heated exchange strips me of my fear and replaces it with anger and sadness. My mother hasn’t physically spoken to me since my dad died and these texts are her only method of trying to connect with me. It’s sad our relationship has dwindled down to messages on a screen but I don’t think the woman has looked at my face in over 10 years. Tears begin swelling in my eyes with the thought but I quickly dash them away as if I’m embarrassed to cry in front of a vulture. Wait, there are two now. Both staring at the barn with black piercing eyes of a singular focus. It’s creepy to say the least and strikes an uneasiness in the already ghostly atmosphere. I take one more glance at the wall and breathe a sigh of relief that nothing has fallen. But still these birds are giving me the creeps. They’re so ugly. “Ahh! Shoo go away!” I scream, and wave my arms frantically while taking charge at the tree. The buzzards take flight and begin mocking me overhead. “Pot meet kettle…” They say almost in an effort to remind me that even ugly birds can soar like eagles if given the chance.

Hey Tyler. I didn’t know you were coming today.’ Mr. Wade signs to me as he approaches on his tractor. He is the only person I know to make any effort to learn to communicate with me.

“I’m here every day.” I say with a smile as he walks over to give me a hug.

‘Why don’t you call it quits, it’s too hot for this kinda work. You wanna join the search party this evening for Kelsi?’ His signing has gotten much better. There are still a few mistakes but I can tell he’s been practicing. It’s his own way of respecting me for who I am and offering me a kindness I can’t begin to repay.

“Nah, I don’t think I will. Kelsi was a bit of a bitch. She tried to force me to be the hunchback of Notre Dame in the school play. She constantly ragged on the way I look. She even did a school report about becoming crossed eyed from watching movies with subtitles just to mock me. She went out of her way to be evil to me for no reason. She’s the reason I quit school. Ya know what the best part of being deaf is? You can’t hear people laughing at you.”

His dirt covered palms wrap themselves around me. His embrace says words I haven’t felt in ages. He looks me in the eyes as the tears begin to form but before his fingers can form a word. The barn steals his eyes for a moment. He tries to pull away but something grips his attention. I can’t help but to bring myself to the barn to discover what’s so captivating. Only to find all of the tools along the back wall have made their way to the ground again. Wade’s body is so stiff I can’t even see his chest rise and fall. He quickly signs something about the drafts from loose boards letting in a breeze, but there is no wind. The boards on the wall are jumping! Pulsating as if the building is alive. I can feel a hard thumping coming from the other side. I toss bales of hay frantically over my shoulder, until I discover a door. Wade falls to his knees, lifeless and white as a ghost. “Please no! It’s just loose boards!” he cries. My hands are trembling as they turn the handle and…

There she is, barely clothed and chained to the wall. Her long blonde hair clings to the sweat covering her filthy body. Her hands are splintered and bloody from desperate attempts to get my attention. The stress from screaming lays thick on her tongue. How torturous it must have been for her to have your cries swallowed by the emptiness of the landscape and ignored by the malfunction of my ears. Her soft emerald eyes meet mine and she breathes a sigh of relief in the sight of a familiar face. In an instant I understand why Wade hired a deaf yard hand. Why he’s spending so much trying to find her. Why the vultures flock to the serenades of her screams. Wade stares wide eyed, quivering and terrified of what happens next. I run to the poor girl and tug at her restraints. The chains are embedded deep within the structural beams and try as I might they won’t pull free. She won’t be going anywhere. Tears race down her face as the hopelessness sets in. Her heart is pounding so hard I can feel it in the floor boards. The look of terror in her eyes is almost enough to make me reconsider. I wipe the tears from her eyes. “Shhh, Don’t cry. It’s ok. Ya know the best part of being deaf is Kelsi? I don’t have to hear you scream… Have fun Mr. Wade, the restraints are good and tight, she won’t escape. We can tack down those loose boards tomorrow...”

-End

Short Story

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    KBWritten by Kenneth Boutte

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