No, it was too much. The whole thing, the shock of it, the scare and these people were going to pay, they were, she'd get an attorney, police brutality, incompetence, false arrest, the whole works. All right. All right, fine. If that was what they wanted, she'd give it to them. The car rocked beneath her. The cop held rigid, like a mannequin. She closed her eyes a moment, an old habit, and took herself out of the world.
They booked her, fingerprinted her, took away her pager and cell phone and her rings and her jade pendant and her purse, made her stand against a wall cowed and miserable and with her shoulders slumped and her eyes vacant for the lingering humiliation of the mug shot, and still nothing. No charges. No sense. The lips of the policemen flailed at her and she let her voice go till it must have grown wings and careened round the room with the dull gray walls and framed certificates and the flag that hung from a shining brass pole in limp validation of the whole corrupt and tottering system. She was beside herself. Hurt. Furious. Stung. There must be some mistake, she insisted over and over again. I'm Dana, Dana Halter. I teach at the San Roque School for the Deaf and I've never... I'm deaf, can't you see that? You've got the wrong person. She watched them shift and shrug as if she were some sort of freak of nature, a talking dolphin or a ventriloquist's dummy come to life, but they gave her nothing. To them she was just another criminal another perp one more worthless case to be locked away and ignored.
But they didn't lock her away, not yet. She was handcuffed to a bench that gave onto a hallway behind the front desk, and she didn't catch the explanation offered her the cop, the booking officer, a man in his thirties who looked almost apologetic as he took her by the arm, had averted his face as he gently but firmly pushed her down and readjusted the cuffs but it became clear when a bleached-out wisp of a man with a labile face and the faintest pale trace of a mustache came through the door and made his way to her, his hands already in motion. His name he finger-spelled it for her was Charles Iverson and he was an interpreter for the deaf. I work at the San Roque School sometimes , he signed. I've seen you around.
She didn't recognize him or maybe she did. There was something familiar in the smallness and neatness of him, and she seemed to recollect the image of him in the hallway, his head down, moving with swift, sure strides. She forced a smile. I'm glad you're here, she said aloud, lifting her cuffed hands in an attempt to sign simultaneously as she tended to do when she was agitated. There's some huge mistake. All I did was run a four-way stop... and they, they she felt the injustice and the hurt of it building in her and struggled to control her face. And her voice. It must have jumped and planed off because people were staring the booking officer, a secretary with an embellished figure and a hard plain face, two young Latinos stalled at the front desk in their canted baseball caps and voluminous shorts. Put a lid on it , that's what their body language told her.
Iverson took his time. His signing was rigid and inelegant but comprehensible for all that, and she focused her whole being on him as he explained the charges against her. There are multiple outstanding warrants , he began, in Marin County, Tulare and L.A. Counties and out of state too, in Nevada. Reno and Stateline.
Warrants? What warrants?
He was wearing a sport coat over a T-shirt with the name of a basketball team emblazoned across the breast. His hair had been sprayed or gelled, but not very successfully it curled up like the fluff of the chicks they'd kept under a heat lamp in elementary school, so blond it was nearly translucent. She watched him lift the lapel of his jacket and extract a folded sheet of paper from the inside pocket. He seemed to consider it a moment, weighing it like a knife, before dropping it to his lap and signing, Failure to appear on a number of charges, different courts, different dates, over the past two years. Passing bad checks, auto theft, possession of a controlled substance, assault with a deadly weapon the list goes on. He held her eyes. His mouth was drawn tight, no sympathy there. It came to her that he believed the charges, believed that she'd led a double life, that she'd violated every decent standard and let the deaf community down, one more hearing prejudice confirmed. Yes, his eyes said, the deaf live by their own rules, inferior rules, compromised rules, they live off of us and on us. It was a look she'd seen all her life.
Excerpted from Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle, Copyright (c) 2006. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, Penguin Group.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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