Between The Bars Part 3: The Deaf Teaching the Deaf

“Who is that guy we dropped off?” Elliot asked as Kareem tossed him his basketball and they walked back to the car. “I told you man, he lived out in the deaf neighborhood, just a dude I met at the expo a while back, why you so interested?” “No reason, just looks familiar.” Elliot said getting in the car. “He got a pretty good looking younger sister, little small for my taste, she paints or something, you’d probably like her, Picasso, she’s a satisfied customer of Kings Candy!” Kareem smirked, “Which reminds me I gotta drop some product off at her work on the way to drop you off, cool?”. “Aight” Elliot agreed, halfway paying attention. He was thinking about his mother. It had been a while since Elliot had painted. He went to the art school after he graduated for a semester, but didn’t agree with a lot of the professors there, and eventually dropped out and went to working with his father’s contracting company. Elliot Smith was fond of art, painting specifically because his late mother, Rebecca, was a very talented artist who taught at the Institution for the Deaf and was unable to hear. She was known to incorporate sign language in her art and it contributed to the deaf art community in a big way. Elliot cringed thinking about his mother, he missed her so much. She drank herself to death and left him, his father, and brother with her painful memory in the paintings on their walls. Elliot protested his father when he even mentioned removing them, and even paid to get one back that his father donated to the school. He couldn’t fathom accepting the removal of a single magnum opus of hers, even if they evoked woeful impressions. Elliot’s father, Ronald Smith, was a hard-working successful black man who owns a contracting company that restores historic downtown buildings. He started with general contracting when he was younger, with his father, but changed the focus to restoration after he met and married Rebecca, inspired by her artistic passion. The two were terribly in love, like you see in the movies. Eventually, and abruptly, Rebecca became consumed by the thought that she was straying away from art, specifically creating things herself. She thought that she couldn’t possibly teach students in a pure way if she didn’t consistently  produce works that she genuinely admired. She began drinking and neglecting her family, constantly chasing a transient feeling that diminished with every tilt of the glass. Ronald couldn’t bear to see his wife this way and tried to save her but, like the rain brings a river, she succumbed to her inevitable doom driving too fast on a road too narrow with the bottle in her hand. After her death, the elusive feeling of accomplishment that escorted her home revealed its contagious nature to Ronald as he lost his drive and motivation for work. Without his muse he no longer had a reason to be happy. Put off by the thought of his son mirroring Rebecca, Elliot’s decision to drop out of art school was, in a way, complementary to Ronald’s involvement, or lack-there-of, with Smith Restoration Contracting. Richard Smith, Elliot’s brother, took over as the boss man and Elliot reluctantly assumed a labor position with their family’s company. Richard and Elliot got along in a manner that rivals being at sea. Their interactions were both directionless and unsettling. Because of that, they didn’t work together often, and Elliot focused on preparing part of the “Deaf District” for beginning construction. The labor crew that he worked with was peppered with an assortment of lazy relapsing drug addicts, hardworking blue-collar types, and a token butch woman they ironically nick-named, “Ron”. Her name was Delilah. Elliot wasn’t very invested in working for his brother with his father’s company and was very vocal about it with his friends. “Man, I don’t wanna go to work tomorrow, Richard is inspecting” Elliot sighed as they pulled into the alley behind Bronsons. Kareem honked the horn, the back door of the bar opened and Joy walked toward his car. The alley was dark, and Elliot squinted trying to see her better. “Chill out bro you gonna scare away my money” Kareem said as he rolled down the window. “Hey, thanks for coming, I think your brother is busy or something” Joy said to Kareem as she slid him a wad of cash through the window. She didn’t actually try to contact Keenan, he scared her and much preferred dealing with Kareem because she trusted him and so did JP. “It’s all good, I got you. JP at the house and wudn’t no one there, you can chill for the rest of your shift” Kareem teased as he passed Joy the pills, “Where are my manners, this my homie E, he a mix breed”. Joy didn’t even notice Elliot sitting in the passenger seat and was immediately embarrassed, “Oh. Hi E… Joy. Okay well thanks ‘reem, bye” She scurried away and went back in to work. “That was weird” Elliot laughed as they pulled out of the alley and headed to his house. “Yeah, she is different for sure, but hey, she pays!” Kareem said counting the money she gave him. “She doesn’t look like an addict to me, pretty normal looking.” Elliot assessed. “Don’t go hittin on my clients bro!” Kareem joked, “Trust me, anyone who gets they shit delivered to they work is a little in need”.  “Ughh don’t remind me about work man, I’m over it” Elliot sighed again as they pulled into his driveway. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again bro, you could always come join the King brothers as we take over the 19, the competition is gettin’ confident.” Kareem said. “Naw man, I aint tryna get mixed up in that, no offense, besides I don’t think your brother likes me anyways” said Elliot as he gathered his things and got out of the car. “Keenan don’t like anyone man, but he a blunt blowin’ pistol totin’ mad man and we eatin’, ya feel? Better than a nerdy ass brother named DICK!” Kareem joked as Elliot shut the door and flipped him off, walking to the door and entering his house. As he walked up the stairs to go to bed he got a text and looked at his phone. It was from Kareem: [But for real homie, you owe me one, big time, and I gotta collect eventually] Elliot sighed as he kicked off his shoes, cut out the light, and jumped into his bed. He laid there looking at an obscured painting hanging on the wall of his room that he found after work one day. Wishing he didn’t owe anyone anything, wishing he didn’t have to work when he awoke, and wondering… wondering about the awkward girl with the pill addiction…


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