Excerpt from House of the Deaf by Lamar Herrin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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House of the Deaf

By Lamar Herrin

House of the Deaf

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In the hall he asked Madeline Pratt, "She lived here, didn’t she? Where did she live, upstairs?"

The director nodded. "Now not as many students do. More live with families. But your daughter chose to live by herself. She said she was here to learn."

Her tone was detached, informative. If they were going to do this, would he allow her this tone?

She continued, "She went running every morning. She was running that morning. But you already know that."

He did, but he wanted to know everything. He wanted her to skip nothing. He nodded, and they descended that last flight of stairs, pushed through the iron gate and stepped onto the street. Where, two years and eight months earlier, September the twenty-ninth, his daughter, Madeline Pratt’s program member, Michelle Williamson, turned left and ran up this street. She ran along the sidewalk her father had walked down, only she ran earlier in the morning. How much earlier? Between seven-thirty and eight. Before reaching Paseo San Francisco de Sales, the street where her father had jostled that passerby, she turned left up a narrower street, Calle Domenico Scarlotti, and ran uphill, a gradual incline. She passed office buildings and apartment buildings and a small hotel, the Mindanao, where he might have taken a room. There were three upscale restaurants and a jewelry store—they were quickly leaving the student scene—and two beauty salons. After four blocks, Domenico Scarlotti deadended in Calle General Ampudia, and there, before an elegant furniture store, she turned right and ran past apartment buildings in whose glassy façades she might have observed herself, had she not had her attention turned to more important things. On Paseo San Francisco de Sales she ran past that string of banks her father had noticed from down the street, closed at that early hour. Directly ahead she came to a plaza that turned out to be a small park, Parque Santander, where cypresses and sycamores and locusts grew and short gnarled trees she would have known the name for and her father didn’t. Paths led off into the park. A runner could either piece these paths together or use the broad sidewalk that surrounded the park as a track. The trick would be to cross the heavily trafficked streets and reach the park without breaking stride. She would know the trick.

She had been running in this park for a month. It was where she came.

When the light changed, Madeline Pratt led him across the street. He saw no runners at this late-morning hour. No students. But he put his daughter there; he allowed her to appear before him. The gold of her hair was drawn up in a ponytail. She ran with her upright carriage and measured stride. She wore light-colored shorts and shirts—pale greens, blues, oranges, pinks— clothes he’d never seen darkened with sweat. She wore her timer’s watch with the black band. She didn’t wear headphones. She would hear the world around her, as well as see it, smell it, feel its crunching give under her feet.

On her face Ben saw an expression of great diligence, as though she were monitoring all her vital signs at once.

He followed Madeline Pratt into the park. Tables were set out before a concession stand. Two women whose small children played on some teeter-totters were having coffee. These were working-class women—at least the jeans and featureless tee-shirts they wore indicated little interest in clothes. They wore no makeup; their hair did not look combed. There was a dry itemizing tone to their voices, with a hint of some grievance. He asked Madeline Pratt to have coffee with him. When he offered to bring the coffee to her, she cautiously corrected him. Even in such informal surroundings they would be served.

He had what she had, a cortado, an espresso with a splash of warm milk. One sugar.

From House of the Deaf by Lamar Herrin, the complete text of chapter 1, pages 1-15. Copyright 2005 Lamar Herrin. All rights reserved.

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