C.O.D.A.-Conglomerate of Deaf Agents

   He climbed the knobby brown trunk of the statuesque peach tree in the backyard. His beat-up Pro Wings sneakers navigated the toe holds of the trunk with effortless skill. He then crouched low and leaped to a thick bough that pointed towards his bedroom window-the same space he was forced to share with his four-year-old sister, Chelsea. With a grunt, he hoisted his short, gaunt body up onto the tender, slick wood of the limb. He locked his legs around it and crawled to its narrowing end, straddling it just like those soldiers did on the Army commercial he’d seen the previous week on T.V. The slender, foliage-filled tip began to bow under his weight. No matter; he had gotten to where he’d been trying to go. He released from the branches and dropped a mere foot onto the roof of the house’s rear end. Like a cat on a hot tin roof, he tippy-toed to its edge, right up to the leaf-clogged storm drain. His eyes darted towards the house’s shut back door, then over to the rusty, ne’er-accessed steel fence that separated the driveway from the garage. Then back to the door.

   He was constantly on the lookout for mom and dad. And Chelsea, because she’d recently discovered that being a tattle-tell had its perks. And she was smart. He quietly eased his way across the grainy, tar-patched surface. Not that his parents would hear him, but Chelsea would, and she loved being their ears. They had warned him repeatedly not to climb up on the roof, that it was dangerous. Well, that is, in their muffled, broken English way, of course.

   Alex Greene’s parents were deaf. His father, Paul, was technically hard-of-hearing and had a cochlear implant since he was a little boy. A cochlear implant is a surgically-implanted electronic device that stimulates functioning auditory nerves inside the cochlear with an electric field. The transmitter coil, which is about the size of a half-dollar, was anchored astride his dad’s right ear by a magnet. His father would joke that he had his own built-in Bluetooth hands-free earpiece long before cell phones became commonplace.

   Alex’s mother, Marcy, was profoundly deaf, though voiced English words and sentences relatively well due to the fact that she was raised orally. As a girl growing up, most public schools refused to teach deaf students sign language, insisting that the whole of the world was a hearing one and demanding that the Deaf be fully assimilated into such. If they tried to sign to each other in class, teachers would stroll by and smack them on their hands and arms with yard sticks, ordering them to cease and desist. It was this sobering truth that wearied Alex. His mom, if she caught him, would lay into him even more loudly than his dad.

   Alex’s deaf parents made him and his sister Chelsea, quite naturally, C.O.D.A.s. Children of Deaf Adults. He wasn’t at all deaf, though he spoke and thought differently than the other hearing children at school. So he wasn’t really hearing, either. He couldn’t tell you what he was. He didn’t exactly fit in anywhere. He often had a hard time listening to his parents.

   “Do this, do that. Don’t do that, don’t touch this. Go here, go there.”

   Sure, he understood them. But they didn’t really speak his language. He swore they didn’t understand him. After all, he spent many hours and days interpreting complex adult situations for them. He was, for the majority of the time, their conduit to the hearing world which was, unfortunately for all parties involved, the whole of it. When they learned something new, he learned something new. In many ways, he was just as knowledgeable as them. Wasn’t he? Most days, the nine-year-old felt like he was nineteen. Thus, he found himself, once again, on the roof of his house, subconsciously acting out his ever-fleeting, thrill-seeking adolescence.

   Besides, he absolutely loved jumping off of high places. It was so fun!

   He took one last look toward the house. All was quiet. He eyed the circular cement stepping stones on the dirt-patched lawn twelve feet below. The second one from the wall would be his landing pad. The cool, stiff breeze blowing from off the Pacific stirred some fallen, crumpled leaves below in small, circular whirlwinds. He imagined if he had his daddy’s army fatigue-green jacket right now, he could construct some makeshift parachute, get caught in the early autumn updraft, and float away to Brazil or China or somewhere else far and away, never to be seen or heard from again. He squatted, resting his sunk-in chest against his bony knees. One final look at the back door.

   “Ready . . . set,” he whispered, raising his hoodie over his dirty blond hair and extending his thin, attenuate arms out like condor wings.

   He leapfrogged off the edge with the wind rushing past his ears, sounding like the engines of a descending 747 aircraft in overcast skies. He seemed to be falling forever. Suddenly, the back door shot open as if an invisible string were attached from it to his ankle, just waiting to expose him the second he performed the disobedient act; as if his mother were lying in wait and ready to bust him at the drop of a hat. In midair, Alex frightfully glanced over to see an enraged Marcy standing on the badly cracked back porch with her hands on her broad hips. Alex landed hard on the dirt and collapsed instantly to one knee, almost plunging headlong into the cement. He had missed his target.

   She marched fiercely toward him, waving her right index finger back and forth at him in a “No, no, no!” manner.

   “What did I tell you? I’ve told you time and time again: “Do NOT jump off the roof!” When will you listen?!”

   She both yelled and signed this at him, the long strands of her stringy yellow bangs tumbling across the furrowed brow of her angry mien.

   “You’re gonna hurt yourself, Alex!”

   He shot to his feet and dusted off his faded, holey Levis jeans.

   “I know, mom, I know,” he signed back.

   “Then listen!” she ordered.

   She turned and reentered the house, mumbling incoherently to herself.

   He was always a little scared of her. She worked at the hospital down at the Naval base, meaning she was an employee of the United States government. He didn’t know exactly what she did there, but he knew it was something important. Something big. No doubt top secret. She’d come home from work donning sky blue jumpsuits-the same kind doctors on the TLC channel on television would wear-and a pair of what resembled cotton shower caps ensconcing her white tennis shoes. She’d remove from around her neck this great, big identification badge bearing an old, faded picture of herself and drop it on the little black nightstand next to the front door; she had another, smaller piece of plastic that resembled a credit card in her purse. She told him once it was a magical key that she’d hold up to a box next to doors that would open them, accessing special rooms and restricted departments.

   “Mom works for the Navy-yeah right!” he thought. She did much more than that. He just knew she was a secret agent, privy to classified dossiers and highly trained in the arts of hand-to-hand combat and high-tech international espionage. And he knew her T-Mobile Sidekick 3 was really an advanced computer that could relay signals to satellites orbiting hundreds of miles up in space to drop bombs on the enemy anywhere they might be headquartered.

   The same applied to his father, if not even more so. Paul had told his son that as a boy growing up, he didn’t fit in anywhere, just like Alex. Though once he received his cochlear implant, he entered into a unique fraternity of individuals-only 100,000 or so all over the U.S. had gotten similar procedures. Alex envisioned his father being able to do anything with his implant; the same as 007 would with his Omega or Rolex wristwatch or one of the Aston Martin roadsters he’d obtain from Q-Branch. One day while the implant was detached and at rest on the dresser in his parent’s bedroom, Alex could’ve sworn he heard the low banter of some foreign language emitting statically from it. In addition, he would always hide and spy on his dad placing and receiving late-night calls on the family’s Sorenson video phone with people he’d never met-fellow agents, he thought. They used signs and hand shapes Alex had yet to learn. His father told him they were old friends from his residency school days back East and that they used colloquially different sign language, but Alex knew better. They were using secret code so that the enemy could not intercept and decipher their conversations of tactical strategies. Needless to say, the young Alex had quite an active imagination. It was this fanciful imagery that moved him to determine undoubtedly that his folks were special agents for an organization called the Conglomerate of Deaf Agents-C.O.D.A.

   And he had an awe and curious fear of C.O.D.A.

   Yet this same awe and fear didn’t keep him off that roof. Three days later, he was again atop it; this time with his dad’s green down jacket, its sleeves tied in a knot and scarfed around his pencil neck while the rest of it draped down his back like the cape of a crusading superhero. He stealthily edged up to the side of the roof, eying the back door per his habit.

   “Captain A.G. to the rescue!” he cried, raising a clenched right fist high in the air.

   As he went to leap off, though, his left toe caught the elevated lip of the storm drain. With a metallic clang, he tumbled off face first.

   “Argh!!!” he screamed, flailing his arms in the hopes he’d catch some hidden rope and break his fall.

   Unfortunately, only the hard, cold ground did.

   When he awoke, he was lying in his bed. He felt absolutely no pain from his fall, will he thought was strange. What was even stranger was that his mother wasn’t towering over him and chewing him out about yet again disobeying her. The house stood eerily quiet, even for a family that was half deaf. Alex jumped to his feet and proceeded cautiously to the living room. He bobbed his head around the corner of the doorway. Maybe, just maybe, an enemy spy or rogue agent would be hiding in the room, waiting for him to unknowingly enter and subsequently pounce on him. He noticed his dad at rest in his favorite easy chair facing the small, 15” television screen. The face of Carlos Negron, a family friend, was displayed on it.

   “Do you understand your objective clearly, Grey Fox?” he saw Carlos sign.

   “Yes, Red Baron. I am to infiltrate C-L-A-U-S-S-E-A-U’s outpost and destroy it,” Paul replied.

   Alex gasped loudly. Grey Fox? Red Baron? Clausseau? He was right! His father was a spy! At that moment, he sprinted out the back door to the family car and hid under a thick wool Mexican blanket lying lazily on its back seat. He wanted desperately to go with his father on this top-secret mission. A few moments later, Paul also entered the car, started the engine, and reversed out of the driveway. Alex peeked ever so slightly out of a slit in the blanket with a single blue eye. Paul drove down Interstate 8 all the way to its termination at the beach. Alex held his small hand over his mouth in stunned amazement as his dad drove the car across an abandoned swatch of shoreline, straight into the aqua blue waves and underneath the crashing, whitewater surf. Their car doubled as a submarine. After a few seconds of floating in suspended animation underwater, Paul hit the afterburners, (normally the vehicle’s dual exhaust pipes), and they zoomed away.

   Clausseau was a French-born Libyan nationalist who was the menacing kingpin of terrorist cells in both Libya and Morocco in Western Africa. C.O.D.A. agents were known for their remarkable skills and counter-terrorism tactics. Less hearing heightened their four other senses making them excellent operatives highly sought after by the government. Paul was dispatched to Africa to thwart an up-and-coming division of Clausseau’s intrepid organization.

   In no time at all, their car-submarine ran aground on a desolate, moonlit beach in Essaouira, Morocco. Paul opened the car door and raced out toward a cluster of large tents a couple of hundred yards away to the east. Suddenly, five masked men bearing machine guns leapt from behind high sand dunes and ambushed him. They had been anticipating his arrival. Quickly, Paul pressed a trigger on his implant. The blinding flash of a greenish-blue laser bolted from it, taking two guards out instantly. He then pulled the device off, held down another button with his right thumb, and in a blur hurled a razor-thin coiled thread toward one of the tents like a expert bass fisherman would cast a line into a freshwater lake. A small grappling hook engorged itself into the sackcloth outer wall of the tent. He released his thumb and spun away airborne from the oncoming legion of guards, the line rapidly reeling itself back into his implant. Alex, still hiding in the back seat, watched in fascinated horror as another phalanx of three men seized his father and dragged him to the outpost.

   Just then, another whipped the rear passenger door of the car open.

   “Whoa!” Alex yelled.

   The man reached in, grabbed Alex around the ankles, and pulled him out. The man shouted at his comrades close to the tents, then at Alex, all in French.

   “Please don’t hurt my dad!” Alex yelled.

   The man stomped him towards the main tent, shoving him with one muscular arm through its entrance and to the sandy ground. Paul was sitting in a chair, tied to it with his hands bound behind his back. Several guards stood behind him with their guns drawn.

   “He won’t talk,” one of the masked assailants remarked with a heavy French accent.

   “Because he cannot talk. He’s one of those C.O.D.A.s. That is why he is here. No matter how much we threaten or torture, they never give up their own!” another angrily replied.

   “What about the boy?” the one who had apprehended Alex asked. “He can speak.”

   “Yes. Have him interpret for this agent . . .” The terrorist looked Alex dead in the face. “Or you’ll both die.”

   Paul squirmed with rage in his bonds, trying to free himself. He then shook his head in the negative at his son.

   “Don’t do it, son. Don't do it,” he silently mouthed.

   “Go ahead, boy. Tell him to tell us where headquarters are. If he does not, -.”

   “Never! We'll die before we help you!” Alex declared fearlessly.

   “Have it your way, then,” the man uttered.

   He held his AK-47 up to Paul's temple, feathering its trigger with his gloved right index finger.

   “I love you,” Paul's sodden eyes bemoaned to his son just before he shut them tightly, bracing for the tragic inevitable.


   The entire left half of the tent exploded, knocking all the henchmen unconscious to the ground. Paul and his chair were tossed over as well. The ear-splitting shock wave missed Alex entirely, wiping out everything from four feet from the floor and up. Paul and Alex coughed violently in the dark, sandy smoke. A shadowy figure bolted into the collapsing tent, sliced the ropes binding Paul; then sprinted towards Alex, lifting him to his tiny feet and hustling the both of them away from the room. Alex felt the touch of his rescuer; a soft, familiar embrace. It was Marcy! The three broke away from the ablaze tent; stumbling chaotically in the moist, thick sand.

   “Mom, you saved us!” Alex screamed amid the tempestuous crackling of searing flames in the background.

   “Yeah. Good thing my Sidekick doubles as a grenade, right?” she replied.


   The fire of machine guns in the offing interrupted their hastened reunion; bullets ripped through the air around them, these spawning from a group of oncoming men from another nearby tent.

   “We gotta destroy da compound!” Paul yelled.

   He popped the coil of his implant from behind his ear, pulled a screw from it, and hurled it toward the approaching mob.

   “Run!” Alex's parents screamed in unison.

   They ran as fast as their feet could carry them toward the shore; the cochlear implant's beeps rapidly intensifying in both pitch and pace as it lay peacefully in the sand. When the advancing men hoofed over it, the beeps ceased.


   The massive fireball tore the misty night air in two, hammer-throwing ripples of crazed heat in all directions. Alex and his parents were lifted off their feet and cast toward the rolling, pitch-black tide of the northeastern Atlantic. They all hit the sand with a horrific crash. Alex lie, once again, asleep.

   When he awoke, he was lying in a hospital bed. His right arm rested in a freshly-molded hard cast. He had a huge bruised knot on his forehead, the swelling of which forcing the three stitches sewn across it to work mightily to hold the wound shut. The entire right side of his face was scratched up like a yet-to-be-declawed alley cat misinterpreted his head for a variegated ball of yarn.

   His parents stood at his bedside, their anger stemming from the product of their son's stubborn rebellion evaporating into smiles of joy and relief as he opened his eyes for the first time in two whole days.

   “Wha-What happened?” he asked.

   “You jumped off the roof again!” gestured Marcy, her irritation and disappointment immediately returning. “See what happens when you don't listen to your father and me? Thank goodness you're okay.”

   She lowered herself and kissed him tenderly on the forehead like only a mother could.

   “Don't scare me like that again. You hear me?”

   “Yes, Mom,” he said.

   She nodded in agreement, stroking his shaggy hair away from his head injury and tucking it gently behind his left ear; after which she, accompanied by a young ASL interpreter named Candace, walked to the nurse's station to inform them of the wonderful news and retrieve some food for her firstborn son.

   “How you feel?” Paul asked.

   “Sleepy,” he signed back with his un-casted arm. “I got hurt jumping off the roof?”


   “Not on the beach?”

   Paul looked at him with a puzzled countenance.

   “On the beach? No. We haven't been to the beach in months.”

   “But we were there on the beach. All of us. In M-O-R-O-K, no, M-O-R-O-C-C-O.” He spelled out the country's name letter-by-letter. “Don't you remember? They tied you up; said if I didn't interpret, they'd kill you. Mom came and saved us . . .”

   He gazed up at his father with tired, though still wide, imaginative brown eyes, desperately searching those of his father for affirmation. Paul stared at him blankly for a second or two before erupting in laughter.

   “We were kidnapped? In M-O-R-O-C-C-O? And Mom saved us?”

   He continued to cachinnate hysterically, so much so he was resigned to wipe away a tear from his left blue eye. A young patient in a neighboring bed awoke and began to smile at Paul's uncontrollable chuckling.

   “No, Dad, we were there! It was all real-I promise!” Alex insisted.

   Paul rested his heavy left hand on his son's shoulder and patted it gently.

   “You dreamt it all. Must've been while you were knocked out. Sounds like a whole lotta fun, though,” he said.

   “You're sure it was only a dream?”

   “Yeah. Positive.”

   Five weeks later, Alex stood in his backyard, tossing a brand new football up in the air and back down to himself in low, wobbly spirals. His cast was off, though not gone-it now rested on his bedroom dresser as a daily reminder of the importance of obeying his parents. It bore three signatures-that of Paul, Marcy, and Chelsea; the only real friends Alex had.

   Later that evening, while he slept and dreamt the night away, the circular matrix of white halogen lights on the front face of the family's Sorenson video phone strobed wildly with the alert of an incoming call. Paul sat down in his cherished easy chair, grabbed the remote control, and pressed the black “SELECT” button.

   “Hello?” he said.

   “Hello, Grey Fox,” Carlos greeted. “Are you ready for the details of your next assignment?”

   “Yes, Red Baron, I'm ready. Go ahead . . .”

StarPoet   StarPoet wrote
on 6/22/2009 11:43:17 PM
Great read. You threw down with your imagination and your descriptives and it shows. And I took from this that no matter what handicaps people may face, they can be overcome. Beetoven comes to mind, as well as Stevie Wonder, Helen Keller, Steinmetz, to name a few.

Short Story
writing kamikaze2009
Hello, all! My name is Joshua Lane. I am a poetry and fiction author living in San Diego, CA. Feel free to send me a message. Take care!

"If you doubt, you fail." -Anonymous
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Rating: 10.0/10

This is the piece that won the writingroom.com May 2009 Short Story contest. Enjoy!
A Word from the Writer
My full-time job is an ASL interpreter. I work with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people daily. These wonderful, passionate people have countless, awesome stories to tell. C.O.D.A.s-Children of Deaf Adults-are very unique participants in Deaf culture. While I am not a C.O.D.A., I both appreciate and value their experiences as well as their struggles and accomplishments in bridging the cultural and linguistic chasms between the Deaf and Hearing while simultaneously finding an identity and acceptance all their own. I dedicate this short story to them.
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