The Helen Keller Alliance
E very morning, Abby ran her fingers over the cluster of raised dots on the sign outside her office door.
Dr. Abigael Gallant, Psychologist.
Above, serif letters spelled the same thing. She opened the door. “Morning, Cleo.”
“Morning, Abby. Got everything ready for you.”
“You always do.” She sniffed. “Morning, Ellie.”
“How do you always know I’m here?”
“I know.” The too-sweet scent of her intern’s perfume wafting in the air almost drowned out the rich aroma of coffee bubbling into the pot. Abby went into her office, unhooked Daisy’s halter and gave her guide dog a neck rub. Then she and Daisy settled at her desk.
Cleo brought her a cup of coffee. “Thanks. What would I do without you?”
“You’d do it all by yourself like you did before you hired me.”
“But you make it so much easier.”
“First appointment at nine,” Cleo said. “New patient. Luke McCallister. Cop. Sergeant Dykstra said he has issues. It’s all in the report.” Abby flipped the crystal on her watch to finger the time.
“Okay, I’ve read the report, but I’ll go over the information to refresh my memory.” Cleo left and Abby got to work, reading the Braille printout of Hub City detective Luke McCallister’s file. He’d lost his hearing in the line of duty, and issues was putting it mildly.
Half an hour later, Ellie knocked on the door. She came close to Abby’s desk and whispered. “McCallister’s here, and he’s a hunk.”
“Thanks for letting me know. Ask him if he’d mind waiting while I take a quick shower, change my clothes, and refresh my lipstick.”
“Show him in. Oh, and, Ellie, stop panting. You sound like a teenage boy in heat.”
Abby didn’t hear McCallister’s footsteps because he started speaking long before he reached the patient’s chair.
“Well,” he said, “put the two of us together and we have one Helen Keller.”
She breathed in the scent of sandalwood, and her highly-tuned antennae picked up on the nervous quiver in his words, even though the detective tried to conceal it with sarcasm.
She followed McCallister’s voice and faced in his direction. “Have a seat, Detective. I assume you read lips.”
The leather seat cushion whooshed as he sat. “Read ’ em , been known to kiss a few.”
Arrogant SOB. This is going to be a long hour. She moved to the chair opposite McCallister, offering her best nice-to-meet-you smile. “We’ll stay with the reading for now.” She wanted to say she never kissed on a first consultation, but the ethically questionable response would probably give this patient the wrong idea. “Do you have any hearing at all?”
“None at normal decibels. I would hear enough of a siren to know one is wailing, feel the vibration from a loud noise, but that’s about it.”
Because she specialized in counseling the disabled, she knew a good lip-reader took in the whole face. She enunciated her words. “I’m pretty good at following sounds, but you’ll need to tell me if I’m not facing you correctly. Ask me to repeat anything you don’t understand, okay?”
“Fine, thanks. My speech reading instructor said I was her quickest study, but I still understand only about forty percent. I fudge the rest. Sometimes I tune out, or if a person talks fast or turns away, I’m lost. It’s frustrating as hell. But if I can’t keep up or miss something, I’ll ask you to repeat.”
“Forty percent is better than good.”
“It still means I miss sixty percent.”
“We’ll work this out, and I can always write down anything you don’t understand. Now, your sergeant said you weren’t happy about counseling.”
He shifted in his seat. “I’m fighting hard to stay in the department. If I didn’t agree to see the shrink my bosses recommended, they’d have reason to can me.”
An honest response. “So, will this be a battle of wills or a forced collaboration? I say ‘forced’ because I’m used to working with people who want what I have to offer.”
Silence. Did he misinterpret her words or was he debating another smart-ass answer? She’d treated macho types before. Many relegated therapy to the weak-minded and struggled to adjust when faced with a life-altering disability. She waved her hand in the air. “Hel-lo. You haven’t slipped out on me yet, have you?”
“I thought you people could hear better. You didn’t hear me leave, did you?”
“ We people
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