CLOSED CAPTIONED (featuring Christopher Grant’s The Deaf Guy) - JIMMY CALLAWAY
I jump over one backyard fence, then another. Not in a rush, y’know, don’t wanna make a lot of noise. I ditch my bloody overcoat in a recycling bin. I bought it here in town and only wore it tonight. Same with the gun, a naked .38. Same deal: bought in town, used once in town, stays in town. By the time the cops find ‘em, I’ll be home in bed.
I watch the street for ten minutes, standing back in the shadows of a copse of elm trees. It’s a little nippy out and I begin to miss my coat. I look behind me every now and then, but it’s all clear. Not even a whiff of anything weird on the breeze.
I walk to the rental and close the door carefully behind me. I start it up and roll away casually, waiting until I clear the block before I start fiddling with the heater.
I got a little while yet before I catch the red eye, so I find a bar not too far from the airport. It’s pretty grim in here. A couple in one corner, a fat guy at the other end. A surly bald guy behind the bar. Kinda bright in here for such a dive, but maybe that’s to keep the tourists out, y’know, if they can see just how god-awful this place is. Hell, I almost turn around and leave.
Instead, I sit in the middle of the bar. “Bud,” I say to the bartender. I prefer Samuel Adams, but I find if I stick to monosyllabic words, it’s harder for people to notice my pre-lingual impediment. The bartender pops a bottle open for me, and I set a twenty down, nodding my thanks.
The TV over the bar is on, but it must be muted because the closed captioning is on, the dialogue dragging itself across the bottom of the screen. It’s a re-run of Small Wonder, and frankly I’m surprised that I even remember this show. I was a grown man by the time this hit the airwaves, what was I doing watching this crap?
I’m not all that surprised that I remember this particular episode, though. Seems every sit-com in the ‘80s had at least one episode where a character with some sort of handicap shows up and teaches us all to laugh about love again. Mr. Belvedere had that kid with AIDS. Full House had Grady show up with Alzheimer’s. And this Small Wonder has a new kid at Jamie’s school who also happens to be deaf.
Jamie’s buddy, the token black kid, is yanking the deaf kid’s crank by moving his mouth around in gibberish, so the deaf kid can’t read his lips. It’s pretty funny, but Jesus. That gag had whiskers on it when I was a kid.
I take a glance over at Slim down at the end of the bar. Talk about an old joke. The lonely fat guy in a bar, nursing a 7 & 7 and having perpetually wet eyes. Boring.
The couple at the other end is pretty entertaining, though. Even if I couldn’t read lips, I wouldn’t need closed captioning here.
The woman’s face is red, her hands fluttering like chubby birds. The guy, cheeks all sunken in, probably been off the meth for only a year, two tops. Staring straight ahead as his woman gesticulates at him. I don’t know which of her best friends he’s nailed, but they oughtta both relax, be grateful that either one of ’em ever gets laid.
Once I was in this coffee shop in Austin, killing some time before a job, and I was eavesdropping in my own way on this young couple across the room. Pretty young thing, she looked like she was as sharp as a Nerf ball. Her boyfriend looked the serious, bookish type, always pissed off ’cause no one’s as smart as he is.
She asked him, “If you had to be either blind for the rest of your life or deaf for the rest of your life, which would it be?”
“Deaf,” he said.
She said, “Why?”
He said, without blinking, “So I’d never have to hear another ridiculous fucking question like that again.”
I laughed so hard, I drew stares from the whole place.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a ‘Special Report’ graphic come up on the TV, followed by a reporter standing in front of a familiar house. The captions drag by, but I’ve heard this song before, as they say.
...REPORTS OF SHOTS FIRED...NORMALLY QUIET NEIGHBORHOOD...TWO DEAD...NAMES UNRELEASED...WIFE NOTIFIED...POLICE COMBING THE AREA...ANY INFORMATION, PLEASE CALL..
Well, I figure it’s about time to head home. I lay a fresh twenty on top of my change and make a ‘round for the house’ gesture with my finger. The bartender raises his eyebrows at me.
What can I say?
I got a soft spot for the handicapped.
BIO: Jimmy Callaway blah blah blah attentionchildren.blogspot.com
Irish Times Crime Fiction column, February 2018
13 hours ago