<div><DIV>The year I turned nine, months before anyone knew I<BR> was going deaf, the voices of everyone I loved had all but disappeared.<BR> Their chatter had been like the nattering of birds<BR> in the trees—a cheerful if sometimes annoying reminder of<BR> how alive the world was around me. As their voices lapsed<BR> away, I no longer felt sure how any but the most common<BR> words sounded, how they ought to be pronounced, and<BR> that made me uneasy about opening my mouth. My place<BR> in the family that year was to watch, which was how I was<BR> learning to listen. I’d sit at the kitchen table—where most<BR> stories of any importance were told—and read lips, piecing<BR> together the shapes they formed until they made a kind<BR> of sense. Lip reading—whether you know you’re doing it<BR> or not—is a hard, intimate business, and during my ninth<BR> year, when the way people sucked or licked their teeth as<BR> they were talking took sneaking precedence over the look<BR> in their eyes, all that rapt staring at mouths would wring<BR> me dry. After every couple of stories, I’d turn my gaze<BR> away, give myself a breather, and recharge. It took me so<BR> much concentrated effort to make sense, much less sentences, <BR>out of the lips as they moved, that any and every<BR> utterance had to have a payoff. If people were making idle<BR> conversation or empty yak about, say, grocery shopping or<BR> getting their nails done, I’d heave the sigh of the doomed<BR> and lean my head against the table, pressing the bridge of<BR> my nose against the metal rim hard enough to dig a furrow.<BR> I’d glance up every now and then to see if the topic<BR> had changed to something more interesting, like who had<BR> died and what had killed them. If talk was stalled at yellow<BR> versus white onions or the rising price of a pedicure,<BR> I’d get to pitying myself, slaving like a dung beetle over a<BR> worthless bit of nothing, and give up—put my head back<BR> down on the table, close my eyes, and deliberately lose<BR> control. The rising, falling mumble of those incomprehensible<BR> voices would wash over me until sounds would inexplicably<BR> leap from the muttering to shake themselves clear<BR> in my mind as words. A name, the time of night, the make<BR> of a car, a part of town, a tired old cliché. I’d string them<BR> together as randomly as I caught them, but they still always<BR> seemed to be telling me a story. <I>Ruby, two a.m., Ford, east</I><BR> <I>of Hutto, dying of hunger, </I>and I’d see the black-eyed Great-<BR> Aunt Ruby I’d never met gunning her Mustang down the<BR> one main street of a hick Texas town en route to love or a<BR> Burger King. It soothed my hurt and anger to imagine all<BR> those arbitrary words telling me the illicit secrets behind<BR> everything I hadn’t heard.<BR>  <BR> Which may be why I now find myself enamored of the<BR> memoir. The good ones thrill me every bit as much as the<BR> great novels, but it’s the crappy ones I’ve lost my heart to.<BR> They make me feel like a rescue dog, sniffing out the dim<BR> glimmerings of feelings sincere and raw within a tangled<BR> wreckage of inchoate ramblings and obvious lies. I’ve been<BR> reading a ton of bad ones lately, most of which I’ve gotten<BR> only halfway through. They are piled up by my bedside and<BR> not in the best of shape. I’m a passionate reader and the<BR> books have suffered for it, their covers wavy from having<BR> been dropped in the tub, spines busted from being tossed<BR> on the floor, pages folded, creased, coffee-stained, and<BR> marked with ink. Red. I feel intensely fond of the whole<BR> lot of lousy writing that has found its way to print because<BR> I smell in those stinkers a fecund democracy. Every sort<BR> of half-coherent loser getting their say. Maybe even mean<BR> little deaf queers like me.<BR>  <BR> As a toddler I was an ardent chatterbox, with such an<BR> adult and rapid-fire vocabulary that one of our German<BR> neighbors in Stuttgart mistook me for a dwarf. By age seven<BR> I was becoming what passes in our family of energetic talkers<BR> as taciturn, more like my father, who would sneak away<BR> from the kitchen table in the middle of a detailed piece of<BR> family gossip my mother and my sister, Trudy, were sharing<BR> and flee to the bathroom so he could read the Sunday<BR> paper in peace. I never left the table. I just stopped talking.<BR> My mother and Trudy never worried about my growing<BR> silence—they’d taken it as appreciative. But then they<BR> didn’t know the reasons behind it. Sounds had started disappearing<BR> all around me. I didn’t know where to, and I<BR> didn’t think to ask—not then and not the handful of years<BR> later when I started having my “visions.” Or so I liked to<BR> call them, although they never clued me in to anything<BR> useful or remotely prophetic.<BR>  <BR> Whatever they were, they were first visited upon me<BR> when I was nine and our family had resettled from Berlin,<BR> Germany, to Fort Hood, Texas. One hot spring Texas<BR> night I was sprawled on the dry grass of our new front<BR> yard, gazing up at a spiral of stars, when I suddenly found<BR> myself six feet in the air, looking down at myself lying on<BR> the grass looking up at those stars. I was a little pissed off<BR> by how perfectly cheerful my body seemed without me.<BR>  <BR> These odd displacements weren’t exactly a daily occurrence,<BR> but that year, they happened often enough to make<BR> themselves familiar. Once I went zooming to the ceiling of<BR> the school gym as if sucked up by a vacuum. I dangled there<BR> looking down on a scene that was small as a dollhouse, everything<BR> normal about it. My PE teacher blew herself red<BR> on her whistle while my six classmates and I, all of us looking<BR> a bit zaftig in our blue shorts and white snap blouses,<BR> thundered across the polished wooden floor. No one else<BR> seemed aware that while my body was stampeding along<BR> with the rest of the herd, I wasn’t there at all. I’d become<BR> a much more delicate presence adrift in the rafters, smiling<BR> down on our sweaty race as if it were a mildly amusing<BR> bit of low comedy. Decades later in London, where<BR> I’d gone to perform one of my one-woman shows, I saw<BR> something of the same kind of life in miniature in a pennymechanical<BR> shop. A carved wooden man, not much bigger<BR> than my own thumb, was sleeping on a perfectly detailed<BR> cloth and wooden bed inside his tiny bedroom. He slept<BR> there until I dropped in a coin that clicked the switch that<BR> set it all in motion. With a ticking noise, the window of his<BR> minuscule room flew open and a dream horse, its nostrils<BR> and eyes painted to look as wild and flaring as its mane,<BR> poked its head through the gap. Up the little man sat, his<BR> closed doll eyes snapping wide with alarm as the horse<BR> reared and the wooden chair at the foot of the bed tilted<BR> and twirled. Watching that nightmare unfold in the little<BR> man’s shoebox of a room awakened in me the same queasy<BR> prickle of enchantment I’d felt as a kid, looking down on a<BR> play-pretend world.</DIV></div><br/> <i>(Continues...)</i> <!-- Copyright Notice --> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'>Excerpted from <b>Mean Little deaf Queer</b> by <b>Terry Galloway</b>. Copyright © 2010 Terry Galloway. Excerpted by permission of Beacon Press. <br/>All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br/>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.</font><hr noshade size='1'></blockquote>