What the deaf man heard


Remorselessness gushed from an obituary in Fort Worth’s city newspaper and dumbfounded the conversation for the Saturday morning breakfast crowd at our downtown family restaurant, Burger & Shake. Marvin Williams was a victim of vehicular homicide. The suspect (identity withheld) was still at large.  The dark highway where his life ended was the daily pre-dawn journey from his trailer on the outskirts of Weatherford, Texas. He was going to breakfast.  I was a collegian when I heard the grim tale and twelve when I met him, just beginning my family business career—washing dishes. Marvin strutted through the city streets wearing his wide brimmed Stetson complimented by western-cut clothes and boots with the gumption of a Texas rancher.  He was stone deaf but displayed lip reading expertise which impressed all that met him as he conversed in mechanical intonation.  I liked him.

           Although the butt end of playful mirth, Marvin’s temper flared and retorted with his limited knowledge of sign by flipping the finger.  Keen with his fists, a prowess proved more than once, he feared no man.  The deaf man maintained employment at parking lots and lived in a rooming house close to his work. At 65 he departed to Weatherford for retirement.

           As we rode home at the work day’s end my father spoke: “You’ve been quiet all day.”

           “Yes, sir.”

           “About Marvin?” he inquired.  I nodded. “Remember Jack Mars who used to come in with him and worked with him at the parking lot near Nichols?” he asked.  Nichols was an upscale department store that featured furs and expensive jewelry. “You remember Mars went to prison. He was freed a few months ago.”

               I replied, “I don’t remember why he went. I was twelve at the time.”

           “Well,” Dad drew a breath. “He and the janitor at Nichols planned a burglary there.  The janitor being the inside man could shut off the alarm system, and they could empty out the store. The police were waiting for them the night they broke in.”  I looked at my father inquisitively. “They felt safe plotting the crime in front of Marvin at the parking lot.  He read their lips and reported to the police.” My jaw dropped.

           “Yea,” he continued. “There was a quiet ceremony for him at the police station. He got a citation and an honorary badge.”

           “I remember the badge, “I remarked. “He flashed it around a lot.”

           My father nodded, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I deliberated a moment.  It was reasonable Mars killed Marvin. “Best thing is to keep our mouths shut and let the law handle it,” he advised.

           “Yes sir,” I paused, “What the deaf man heard.”


           With contentment I replied, “Mars and his accomplice were arrested on ‘hearsay’ evidence from what the deaf man heard!”

           Dad smiled, “I never thought of it that way.”


By Tom Fegan


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