Excerpt of House of the Deaf by Lamar Herrin
(Page 3 of 8)
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"Sorolla," the woman beside him confided. Shed caught him off
guard. He stiffened, and she added, in a measured, marveling voice, "Has anyone
ever painted the Mediterranean like that?"
He turned to her and they exchanged a look.
"If youll tell me your son or daughters name, Ill do my best
to help you."
He paused. He had a name to give, a name to give up, and in that
single lucid interval he knew he should keep the name and take it home with him.
He had a home. He had a daughter in college, with no desire to go abroad, who
"Michelle Williamson," he said, adding before the name could
register, "you might not remember, she was only here for a month before she was
killed, and thats been almost three years now."
Stunned, Madeline Pratt sat down behind her desk. "Of course I
remember," she half-whispered.
"When she was little we called her Mick, sometimes Mickey
Mouse," he went on, giving it all up, with a flat grudging vehemence in his
voice he couldnt control, "but she probably hadnt been here long enough to get
to the nickname stage."
Madeline Pratt lowered her eyes to her desk and shook her head.
There was a single framed picture on her desk that he could only see the back
of. He checked the urge to reach out and turn the picture toward him, but
promised himself he would see it before he left this office. It was, he
understood, a way of moving ahead, making these small daring promises to
himself. He added, "But come to think of it, she would never tell you that
nickname. We teased her with it, and she didnt like to be teased."
Madeline Pratt raised her head and said, "Im terribly sorry,
Mr. Williamson. I dont know what to say to you."
Her eyes were moist. They were large in their sockets, the
hollows beneath them were washed out. She looked utterly unresourceful. What was
a woman like this doing running a program responsible for the safety of fifty
students a year?
"Thats okay," he said. "Im sure you said it all to her mother
when she came to bring the body back. I stayed home. I had no desire to come to
Spain. Spain didnt interest me in the least."
"Yes, I remember your wife well. I was astonished at how well
she bore up."
"My ex-wife," he corrected her. "Not many marriages will
last after a thing like that."
"No," she allowed, but only to do him the courtesy.
He didnt want the courtesy. His ex-wife, Gail, would never do
that, but he didnt want his ex-wife either. She sold real estate now and was
enormously successful because she had a talent for disarming you with her
honesty. It was a talent shed developed, a strategy: heres whats going to
drive you crazy about this house, but heres where the balance tilts slightly in
your favor. Shed kept a balance sheet on her marriage in a similar way until
the balance tilted against him, against it.
Hed once loved her, her beauty and the freshness of her
outlook, her mind, her very being, until that freshness had hardened into
something brusque and hurtful. That was before their daughter had been killed.
Gail had put on weight too, and in the name of that hardened freshness, she knew
how to throw her weight around. After the divorce shed told their daughter that
her father was a fool. No one could be such a romantic sap about a woman looking
the way she looked now. No one shed want to be married to. Shed gotten a
divorce, and had actually told their daughter that. Annie. Their surviving
Then he told Madeline Pratt what he did want. It brought a
flinch to her face and a start to her eyes. "I want you to take me where it
happened," he said. "I understand its not far from here. I want to stand
there," he was more emphatic now, speaking from the unsounded depth of his
desire, "where they killed her."
From House of the Deaf by Lamar Herrin, the complete text of chapter 1, pages 1-15. Copyright 2005 Lamar Herrin. All rights reserved.