Today's Reading

We have another drink.

I tell her a story that has nothing to do with being deaf. I tell her about my childhood pet, a frog named Sherman. He was a bullfrog who sat on the biggest rock in the pond and hogged all the flies. I never tried to catch Sherman; I would just watch him, and sometimes he watched me, too. We liked to sit together, and I started calling him my pet.

"What happened to him?" Petra asks.

I shrug.

One day the rock was empty. Never saw him again.

Petra says this is sad. I tell her it isn't. Sad would've been finding his dead body and being forced to bury him. I never had to do that. I just imagined he went to a bigger pond with more flies.

She likes this and tells me so.

I do not tell her everything about Sherman. For instance, he had a long tongue that darted around so fast I could hardly see it, but I always wanted to grab it. I used to sit by the pond and wonder how bad of a thought that was. How terrible was it to try and grab a frog's tongue? And would it hurt him? If he died, would it be murder? I never tried to grab his tongue and probably couldn't have anyway, but I thought about it. And that made me feel like I wasn't a good friend to Sherman.

Petra tells me about her cat, Lionel, who is named after her childhood cat, also named Lionel. I tell her that's funny, but I'm not sure it is. She shows me pictures. Lionel is a tuxedo cat, with a face divided between black and white. He is too stark to be cute.

She continues to talk and shifts to her work. She brands products and companies, and she says it's both the easiest and the most difficult thing. Difficult in the beginning, because it's so hard to get anyone to remember anything, but as more people start to recognize a brand, it becomes easy.

"At some point, it doesn't even matter what we're selling. The brand becomes more important than the product." She points to my phone and asks if I bought it because of the name or because I like the phone.

Both?

She smiles. "See. You aren't even sure."

I guess not.

"What do you do?"

Accountant.

She nods. It is the least exciting profession in the world, but it is solid, stable, and something a deaf guy can easily do. Numbers don't speak with a voice.

The bartender comes over. He is neat and clean, college-aged. Petra takes charge of the ordering, and it is because I am deaf. Women always think I need to be taken care of. They like to do things for me because they think I am weak.

Petra secures us two more drinks and a fresh bowl of snacks, and she smiles like she is proud of herself. It makes me laugh. Silently, but still a laugh.

She leans toward me and puts her hand on my arm. Leaves it there. She has forgotten I am not her ideal man, and our progression is now predictable. It's not long before we go to her place. The decision is easier than it should be, though not because I find her particularly attractive. It is the choice. She gives me the power to decide, and right now I am a man who says yes.

Petra lives downtown, close to the bar, in the middle of all the big branding signs. Her place is not as neat as I'd expected. There is clutter everywhere: papers and clothes and dishes. It makes me think she loses her keys a lot.

"Lionel is around here somewhere. Hiding, probably."

I don't look for that stark cat.
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...