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In First Place is
The Grandeur of a Storm
By Angela Schmidt
Dad blows into Tucson like a storm in the summer, sudden, without enough warning, and we all show up to meet him at some midtown Denny’s or Village Inn, as usual. It’s like being summoned by something from deep within that has no words, and our windshields are splattered with the tadpole-shaped raindrops thrown at our path by a gritty and devilish wind.
Me, my husband, our two children, my sister and her husband, their two children, and our mother. In our church clothes, we form a small flock behind Dad as he requests seating for us all among the busy Sunday crowd. Our girls twirl their dresses unaware that the summer storm is doing its best to throw open the glass double doors behind us and careen through this diner like a train that is way off its track.
A busboy works hard to wipe the tables down while moving chairs to fit us in.
The clang of silverware rolling out of paper napkins onto formica table tops. Too many sweating ice waters filled too full. Small hands reaching for non-dairy creamer cups and crayons. The din of conversations and air conditioners. Steam rising off the pavement outside the long window, a whimper of an answer to an erratic declaration.
My sister and I help our children pick something out from the pictures on the wide foldout menu. Our husbands consider their own choices. Our mother strains to hear what Dad is saying from her place at the end of the table, but Dad doesn’t speak up to include her.
Dad tells me that he’s had a vision that my older brother is going to become the next great revivalist preacher – destined, in fact, to convert America back into a God-fearing and Christian nation. Dad says that my older brother is going to bring everybody back to that old time religion again, and that the next great American revival is obviously overdue, with all the blurring of lines going on in these last days.
Dad adds that my brother is merely resisting the call to the the ministry at present, but that God will keep chipping away at him until he accepts the challenge. Like Jonah, who didn’t want to go to Nineveh until he saw what life was like inside the belly of a whale.
My brother isn’t at Sunday lunch with the rest of us, as usual. He also isn’t really speaking to Dad, whom he only ever refers to as Leon, and never Dad.
I’m the one sitting across the table from Dad. I haven’t had a chance to look at the menu and the waitress is coming.
And I don’t know what to say about Dad’s vision, or anything else for that matter, though he’s never really looking for notes. I guess I want to say that it’s hard to imagine my older brother a great revivalist preacher. My brother doesn’t even go to church anymore. Not since Dad lost his.
My sister and I fuss to keep our children close as we get through the goodbyes under a reinvigorated sun in the crowded parking lot of a midtown Denny’s or Village Inn, whichever it is. And as abrupt as the rain, Dad is gone again.
Angela Schmidt is a creative writer and mental health nurse living in Tucson, AZ. She writes about her own life as a means to understand it better. She also hopes that readers will like her work.
In Second Place is
How To Survive a Team Lunch When You’ve Been Passed Over for Promotion
By S. Barb
Step 1: Ignore the roaring in your ears. No, that isn’t tinnitus. Yes, you heard right. Rick, your former classmate who shows up at work for a few hours a day, mostly for golf dates and liquid lunches, that Rick, has been deemed worthy of advancement.
Step 2: Unobtrusively clear your throat. Sip some of that glacier-sourced water in front of you, if you have to. Answer the server’s question, though you couldn’t care less at this point if your drink comes with ice.
Step 3: Don’t let your relief show as your boss, loving every second of this torment, knocks his spoon against his glass for the second time.
Step 4: Try not to spit out your drink as he announces that Sharnee – no, that’s Sharni with a slutty ‘i’ – also impressed them … with her ability to impress clients. Wink.
Step 5: Resist the urge to protest that Sharni’s outfits work harder than she does. Instead, loosen your deathgrip on your serviette. That flimsy piece of paper is not a lifeline nor is it your boss’s neck. The claw at the end of your arm is taking away from your carefully assembled poker face.
Step 6: Congratulate Rick and Sharni, loudly and boisterously if possible. Ignore the glee in her eyes and the pity in his as they take in your flaming cheeks (pretend it’s the booze if you have to; your reputation as a lightweight will come in handy here). Who were you kidding anyways, you never were good at poker.
Step 7. Conduct a reality check. Did you really think there’d be a prize for working hard like the good little immigrant that you are? Get real. The only prize is for navigating the labyrinth that is office politics and playing the game better.
You have a decision to make.
Okay, good, I’m glad you’ve decided to be sensible about this.
Step 8a: Lock away your naivety and hurt in a dim corner of your mind where not even their silhouettes are discernible.
Step 8b: Take your boss up on his standing offer, slimy as it is, and smash (as Gen Z would say). In the toilet. Parking garage. Stairwell. Doesn’t matter. You can always enjoy HR making it up to you down the line.
Step 9: For extra credit.
Learn how to play golf. Preferably in stilettos.
Barb started coming up with stories as a child to cope with boring situations (of which there were many), a habit which followed her into adulthood. She has only recently started sharing her stories with others.
In Third Place is
How Can They Dance If They Can’t Hear The Music?
By Cassie Hussey
This was one of the few “How Can They” questions I didn’t get growing up. After I got my wedding proofs in 1985, I proudly showed them around. Some people who knew my parents were Deaf but weren’t really close with me would see the picture of my father and me dancing to “Daddy’s Little Girl” and ask, “How can they dance if they can’t hear the music?” This gave me an opportunity to educate them about deafness.
Some Deaf people, like my mother, can’t hear a thing. They “hear” music with vibrations, either placing their hands on a stereo or musical instrument or through their feet when a loud band is playing. Deaf people have rhythm too and can pick up the beat through the vibration. My mom was never a fan of music if she had to “hear” it through hand touch on a stereo player. She did love to dance with my dad when a band was playing.
My dad had some residual hearing. He could detect a call for him if the name “Pete” or “Peter” was sung out loudly. He could hear a few words over the phone: yes, no, and OK. A conversation might go like this:
Dad: Did you get home safely?
Dad: Good. How is the cat?
Dad: Ok, bye
Dad could hear music when the volume was turned up. As a teenager, I was the only one listening to 60s-70s rock whose father would encourage “Turn it up, turn it up!” I remember that Dad especially enjoyed the Scott McKenzie song, “San Francisco”. He asked if I could write the words for him, and I wrote the lyrics out as best as I could understand them. It didn’t faze him that the song was about hippies, Haight-Asbury, and a concert there.
We had a radio in the living room, and he’d turn on the station I listened to and wait for the song to play. Many times, I would walk by because I heard the song playing, and I would see him sitting on a chair with his hand cupping one ear and the other hand holding the paper so he could read the lyrics. I bought a 45 of the song because I knew it wouldn’t play on the radio forever and gave it to him so he could play it whenever he wanted.
I remember one Christmas, my brother wanted a drum set. He wanted to learn to play the solo from the song “Wipe Out”. He nearly tumbled down the stairs with excitement on Christmas morning after spotting the drum set. He got right on it and began this slow practice, tapping with one hand and then tapping with the other.
“That doesn’t sound like ‘Wipeout’,” I teased him.
“You have to learn how to do it first,” he explained.
The following day, I heard the drums going and they sounded impressive considering how slow my brother had been the day before. So, I came downstairs to compliment him and nearly rolled down myself. My father was sitting there, playing the drums. I was totally amazed.
“You play drums?”
My father laughed at the expression on my face. “Yes, I played in high school,” he told me. He added he played the French horn in the school band!
And I found myself asking the dumb question. “But how?”
“I can hear a little,” he explained. He added the band teacher functioned as a sort of metronome for the band members, showing the beat and when the sound was supposed to be louder or faster. Most of the band members had some residual hearing so they were able to enjoy making music. How cool, I thought. Dad also went on to explain how it was that Deaf people enjoyed dancing.
As he aged, Dad lost most of his residual hearing. He couldn’t hear us on the phone anymore but, by then, we all had TDDs (telecommunication devices for the Deaf) and could have nice long conversations with each other. He never lost his appreciation for music and had a few noise complaint visits from the police because he’d turned the music up so loud.
Dad passed away in 2009. I think he is on a cloud above with Deaf friends and family members, strumming away on amplified harps.
Cassie Hussey is a writer and a Coda (adult child of Deaf parents) from Long Island. Storytelling has been my lifelong passion. She wears many hats: wife, mother, grandma, great-grandmother, cat mom, and online Book Nook tutor. She’s currently working on a memoir about growing up hearing in a Deaf family.
The Honorable Mentions are
Claudia Geagan for “Physics of Love” and
Larry Hippler for “A Man with No Shoe”
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