Chapter Two--Shredded Board Games

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That brings a grin to her face.  She's so much prettier when she smiles.  I find myself creeping closer to her over the dash until her expression breaks, her eyes drawing the obvious barrier that needs to remain.  "The bass player.  He was deaf, actually, but got Cochlear implants."

I recover quickly from the slight falter, surprised by this new information.  "He obviously wasn't capital-D-Deaf, then."

"What makes you say that?"  She mouths, signing along with one hand.   She's good at it, her motions clear and fluid.  Her grammar good.  I wonder who taught her.

"If he had adopted the Deaf culture--you know, capital-D-Deaf--he never would've gotten implants.  I mean, why fix what isn't broken?  It's basically betraying the community who accepted you all your life!"  She watches me out of the corner of her eye, skepticism shrouding her face.  "It's not a handicap and I get so tired of people treating it like one."  

"You never know what happened to him.  If you hear at one point and music is your passion, and then all of a sudden it's vanished--that sucks!"  Her eyebrows knit together, her fingers gripping the wheel even tighter.   She's too fiery about this.  I wonder if it rings too true.  "If that happened to me, I would get implants!  Sure as heck, I would..."  

Too quickly, I retort, "If you ever get implants, I will kill you."

Jenna sneers, turning roughly into the obese parking lot of a school.  "You don't even know me."

"That's okay.  But we're both a part of something...bigger.  A history of people all unified from one single--"

"Handicap," she interrupts me, elbowing my hand down.

"Difference.  It's nothing more than a difference."  I stare her down, but I can see her throat moving.  Why does she do that?  A nervous tick?  "Why, are you ashamed of it?  Do you wish that everything you said was available for any old person to read?  You want Karen to see everything you say, I'm sure.  And of course, you're so sad that I can't witness whatever you've whispered over the weekend."  

"You know what, you little--" Her torso twists and I prep myself to be punched in the face by this divinity, but her fist falters when our eyes lock.  "No.  Gosh, no."  She runs her hand over her face and kicks the car door open with a scuffed black shoe.

I follow, no longer afraid of what she thinks.  This is pretty much unsalvageable, I might as well roll with it.  But instead of leaving me in the dust at this new school, she starts signing strings of hardly intelligible advice.  "Prepare yourself for the PDA.  All the really creepy kids touch each other's butts.  There's three separate lunch lines: the hot meal, the sandwich, and a salad bar.  The water fountain in the cafeteria will shoot up your nose, and there's a good chance that the Spanish teacher will flirt with you.  No one knows why she hasn't been fired.  Just keep walking."

She holds open the door to the office for me, her eyes nervously scanning the hallways beyond me.  "You can go, if you want," I sign close to my torso, looking down at her.  I'm terrified that if anyone just sees ASL, I'll be shot up in flames.

"No.  The secretary is a freak.  I'd never allow you to face her on your own."  But  Jenna is not mentally with me; her eyes are far down the hall.  

Sure enough, as soon as the secretary sees me, her glasses and the corners of her mouth lower.  I approach slowly, unsure of how this language barrier will work.  Fumbling for a paper I'm not sure I'm allowed to use, I scratch down my name and predicament.

"John Montgomery..." she turns and thumbs through a filing folder, tisking through her lips that look as if they've sucked on a lemon for forty years.  "Need an interpreter?  I think we have funding for one if you must..."  She waves with a darkly polished and crooked finger at Jenna.  "That girl doesn't use one..."

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