The woman oozed bitchiness from her "perfectly imperfect" coif that had probably taken 4 hours to create and looked like a five year old had decided to experiment with a Barbie doll's head, to the narrow, cold, ice-blue eyes, down to the perfect "retro" outfit that had actually never been anything but a "fashion no-no". In between the words that oozed from her lips, coated in what she thought was a lovely shade of red lipstick but really made it look like someone had taken initiative and socked her in the mouth, she popped her bubblegum madly. While sipping coffee, Katia stared at her with interest, over the rim of the thick, creamy ceramic mug.
"These disabled people," began the preamble. Katia's eyes fell to the terribly made-up lips, the stiff gestures of the angry hands of a bigot. She'd been annoyed by the woman a few times already this morning, acting like a lady of the manor in a small west-side coffee shop run by student liberals (a terrible choice, but they were all too polite to do anything but stifle their laughter in sips of coffee and polite coughs.) "Free money! Food stamps! And these idiots getting them jobs! I don't want some mongolian handling my oranges! I don't want to have everything translated- I see 'shadow puppets' of sorts at church! If they can't understand singing, why should the deaf be exposed to it?" (Damn it, Katia thought, you couldn't say melons and make your stupid statements amusing?) "They should be sterilized. Or maybe, put out of their misery." Katia, tired of distracting her young nephew, stood, and walked over.
"Hi!" she said, purposefully making her voice and gestures, from her wave to her pantomime, to her "bouncy" step, more effusive and bubbly.
"Hi," the woman said, sounding rather confused.
Katia pointed to the hearing aid in her ear, pointed out that she herself had a disability.
"Hi," she said again, using the flat voice she'd had when she'd first begun to speak, a mild version of the so called "Deaf Accent", "I've got good news. This past week, I was paper-trained!" She purposefully allowed the words to be more simple than usual, and to sound ridiculous. But the woman was taken aback.
"Be careful what you assume," Katia put some emphasis on the beginning of "assume". "Some of us read lips. And most of the time, the 'learning disabled', are quicker than you give credit for." She turned on her heel, a military style pivot and went back to her nephew, who bore a whipped cream mustache from his hot chocolate and was gazing at his reflection in a spoon. Bitch Woman looked shocked. She had no idea that ranting to her "friend" who stared at her, now, mystified and amused, would lead to anyone telling her off. Katia had no clue what had caused her rant, she'd received only snippets, but she was never one to keep her mouth shut when people behaved stupidly, or hurt themselves. Katia's nephew looked up at her. "Aunt Kate?"
"Why are you just sitting down?"
Katia grinned. Mikey had been so interested in his cup, that he had assumed she'd just been pacing as usual, reading the newspaper or finding something else to do, rather than sitting down at the same time he did, and then getting up again.
Katia wondered if he'd heard Batty McKook, but decided to keep quiet. She knew he'd be exposed to all sorts of people, but didn't want to show him the dark side of humanity if she could help it.
"I move a lot, silly, you know that."
"Let me guess, one of the paintings on the far wall caught your eye while Ted was talking to me about sports."
Katia thought for a second, and nodded. She hated lying, but the truth would hurt her more.
"Where did Ted go?"
"Just before you came back, he said he had to go shovel up front, or something."
Katia looked up. Their old friend, Ted the Barista, was busy cleaning a blender. Pausing, he used simple pantomime to let Katia know that he'd told Mikey that Batty was digging her own grave, and that Aunt Kate was being nice enough to offer her a better shovel. Score ten for Mikey's selective hearing! He'd seen the snow and sleet through the window, heard "shovel" and decided that Ted was going to shovel the snow in front of the cafe!
Was it wrong, part of her nagged, to lie to Mikey by omission? To tell him that Aunt Kate had gotten angry enough to go after a mean, nasty person because she didn't want to expose him to bigoted nonsense felt self-serving to her on one hand. On the other, it didn't feel right to lie that she'd been off staring at a photo of the sunset while the guys talked sports as they usually did. She smiled and sipped, and talked with Mikey about school, while her mind tumbled...