Muffled: A Short Story

09 Feb


“Mr. Rohit?”

The boy paused, his attention entirely undivided as he studied the edge of the wooden desk before him, running his hand along it and repeatedly tilting his head so as to better examine it from several angles. Just barely over the threshold of detection was a source of sound which manifested itself as a blurry, moving blob in the topmost part of his peripheral, the rest of his visual field filled with the dark shine of expensive, government-owned wood.

“Mr. Rohit is my father,” he almost said, eventually resolving that he lacked the humility to cop to such a cliche phrase and directed his eyes from the edge of the desk upward with a sadistically deliberate slowness. The boy was only barely able to notice a reaction to his lack of enthusiasm before making eye contact with the some four-odd foot-tall troll-person; he blinked twice, boringly redirecting his attention back to the desk edge painted with its many black grooves and imperfections, devoting to this transition an equal measure of slothfulness as he had in directing his attention away from it. He understood that to look away from the man behind the desk too quickly might give some indication of nervousness or concern, and hesitation perhaps if too slowly. In his desire to appear apathetic and uninvolved, he resumed his amateur study of woodworking.

“Mr. Rohit?”

The temperature of the office seemed to have been rising steadily over the short period of ten minutes. Was this how torture tactics worked?

“I need you to look at me, young man,” the Dean said through pursed lips. “This is not a joke.”
The boy sighed inaudibly and looked down as the small, square enclosure which was the dean’s office began to make him feel uneasy, cracking under the impending stress of claustrophobia and cold sweat.

“What?” the boy asked, speaking for the first time without raising his head, making no effort to hide his irritation. “Why am I here?”

“You are here,” the Dean began, “to answer to some very serious allegations made against you by a group of your peers. Within the context of recent disciplinary developments, your guilt is not an, ehm… inconceivable possibility; I am sure you know Mrs. Malhotra, the geometry teach—

“Are you listening to me, Mr. Rohit?” he asked more forcefully this time as he noticed the boy’s head begin to droop once again. No response issued from the lanky, slouched adolescent, a master of the art of sleeping while sitting, despite never having learned how to do so with his eyes open (though this not due to a lack of effort—he had, quite literally, lost a fair amount of sleep over the whole thing). After a brief interlude of silence, five stubby fingers and a sweaty, fat palm softly nudged the boy’s shoulder, who awoke with a start at the slightest hint of stimulus and wiped drool from the corner of his mouth with his right arm.

“Are you paying attention, Mr. Rohit? You need to wake up.”

“No, I’m not paying the fuck attention,” the boy flared, staring up at the pig-human with bloodshot eyes, an embodiment of that queer phenomenon whereby the transition from sleepiness to anger occurs with alarming speed. “I’m tired as all hell, and you keep talking up a goddamn storm instead of explaining why I’m here. I have classes to be in. Just spit it the fuck out already, won’t you?”

The chubby figure behind the desk hesitated, and what little flesh the boy could distinguish as the Dean’s face appeared to soften briefly; thereafter followed repetitive contractions of his dime-sized nostrils and an expression of suspicion, perhaps even a little anger.

“Are you high, boy?” the Dean blurted out, leaving his mouth slightly ajar in an expression of shock after he finished the question. It was understood by both parties that the Dean had taken notice of the circumcorneal redness, strings of drool, and lack of affect which indicated that Suraj was far less capable than he thought he was, at least at the moment; moving into a state of light panic and looking around, presumably to make sure nobody was listening, the Dean made movements that the boy could only interpret as checking to see if his office had been bugged. Had these people truly never dealt with a stoned student before?

“What are you thinking?” he whispered sharply, leaning over and casting anxious glances at his office door, presumably making sure he was not being watched or listened to; it was clear that the Dean was uncomfortable with the position he was in. Suraj laughed.

“I’m on some new medication. I just started today and it’s got me a bit droopy. Call my doctor and check for yourself if you’re really that paranoid.”

Multiple pops, cracks, and clanks signaled the rise of this not-quite-skinny, not-quite-fat man from his office chair, intense enough to be detected by Suraj as a sequence of vibrations moving from the floor beneath him to the bones in his legs and feet. The Dean prompted further laughter from the boy as his stout, chubby figure waddled towards him with surprising agility and vigor.

“You’re lying, Mr. Rohit,” the Dean said through closed teeth, now standing over the boy and taking several short whiffs of his gray hooded sweater. He paused and bent over Suraj’s shoulder, taking deeper inhalations and giving them adequate time to digest.

“I can smell it on you, Suraj. You smell like dope,” he concluded with confidence, electing to resume an upright posture once more in light of his discovery. The boy half-expected that he might place his hands on his hips and stare off into the distance dramatically; instead, he paced back towards the backside of the desk and dropped his plump bottom onto the leather cushion (which issued a high-pitched scream in response), rickety and in desperate need of repair after years of excessive load-bearing.

“I will call in the resource officer in a heartbeat if you do not believe I am serious about this. Are you going to stop lying to me, young man? Do I need to call Officer?”
“I’m not lying to you,” Suraj said unconvincingly. “I don’t have any dope.”

He truly wasn’t, and he really didn’t: What the the Dean was smelling was resin, which he had liberated from his bowl with the aid of an aggressive, hour-long ass-fucking with a bobby pin and subsequently smoked a fuck-ton of prior to embarking on his academic pursuits for the day. He hadn’t had any pot, unfortunately, but with it being 4/20 he would be god-damned if he didn’t find a way to get high somehow; despite hating the cliche nature of stoner culture, he felt that he could at least observe this small tradition, which would also offer the benefit of intoxicating him. Suraj noticed that the Dean’s face had taken the form of a ripening tomato, and that he appeared to be angrily holding his breath for some reason.

“Listen,” the vermilion ripple of flesh started, exhaling hard as he did so and spraying pieces of saliva from his lips in the process. “Do not insult my intelligence. You are here because four individuals have implicated you in a very serious instance of vandalism which took place yesterday, in the East Wing, near the end of the school day. You’re familiar with Mrs. Malhotra? … Right… I have here,” he started, pausing as he opened a desk drawer above his lap, slid it towards him and started rummaging through the papers within.

Suraj had time enough to sketch a brief plan of action in his mind as the administrator flipped through pages of God-knows-what, removing several sheets and holding them in his left hand to make room for more effective and efficient searching with his right one. After a minute or two, he finally closed it—taking particular care not to slam the drawer—turning on his swivel chair to face Suraj again as he concluded that whatever he had been attempting to locate was not to be found therein. The Dean’s next best guess was the uppermost of three large filing cabinets, stacked vertically, centimeters from his left knee and leg; after nearly twenty seconds of angrily biting his lower lip and rearranging multiple stacks of invisible documents, he pulled a tan manila folder from beneath other the desk and placed it on his desk, open.

“Right… I have here, three— no, four— disciplinary referrals here under your name, all written by Mrs. Malhotra herself,” he said very quickly, licking his middle finger and sliding four pieces of paper off the top of the stack towards Suraj. He reversed their orientation in the process by twisting his wrist without lifting his saliva-topped appendage, his finger making a gesture in the form of a letter C, so that Suraj need not attempt to read the documents upside-down, which he very well could have done.

“It’s barely September, and each one of these reprimands have been issued in the last three weeks. If you are going to try to convince me that it is just acoincidence—”

“Woah, woah, woah,” Suraj said, just now processing parts of the conversation which had happened a minute or two ago. “Are you accusing me of vandalism, did you say? What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Well,” the Dean began, clearing his throat and visibly uncomfortable once more. Though slightly amused by the reproach demonstrated by a figure of authority, Suraj did not laugh, well aware that this situation had the potential to fuck him good and proper if serious words like vandalism were being thrown around.

“Yesterday, during Mrs. Malhotra’s planning period—that is the last hour of the school day—someone…” he started, heaving a large sigh. “Well… urinated in her filing cabinets, destroying a large amount of homework to be graded and other paperwork. She’s extremely upset.”

The boy allowed his jaw to drop dramatically, adopting an expression of ultimate shock, completely at a loss for words. Taking note, the Dean hesitated briefly before resuming his reading of the charges.

“Regardless… Because you’ve been specifically named by not one, not two, notthree, but FOUR individuals, plus the extremely recent history of conflict with this teacher in particular, you are, quite frankly, our ‘number one suspect,’ if you will—”

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding,” Suraj interjected incredulously, shaking his head rapidly as he began to comprehend the insane nature of his early-morning office visit. He let his body go limp, deflating into the chair as far backwards as he was able, a tribute incarnate to anti-marijuana television advertisements circa 2005. He felt it was unfair that he could not laugh at the absurdity of the situation, as he would have in any other situation in which he was not stoned nor the “number one suspect.”

“Now, Suraj, we just—”

“No, no. Hold on a fucking second. You called me down here because you think I pissed,” he said, pausing dramatically for a brief moment. “In my fucking geometry teacher’s desk? Why in God’s name do you think I did it? Because some fucking group of four kids in a school with sixty cliques and thirty fucking gangs says I did? Because some angry bitch has been too busy trying to gut me that she can’t grade papers in a timely fucking fashion? Fuck you. This whole school is one big fucking brick toilet. You, sir,” he said, intentionally drawing out the last word sarcastically, “can suck a cock, and you—”

He turned, now facing the third person in the room for the first time during the meeting; an Punjabi girl of nineteen or twenty, to whom Suraj had never actually spoken directly despite having seen her every day for three years, rotated nervously to face the boy whose angry outburst had quite visibly frightened her. Suraj’s feelings of pressure and vulnerability—which had been present since the word “vandalism” was used—had only served to make the boy more unpredictable; he had hit the breaking point.

“Fuck you, too, Komal. As if I can’t fucking see what you’re saying,” he said. “How many goddamn people do you know that can’t hear or can’t read lips either? You are a translator. You will translate what I say, as I say it. Read my hands,” he started, violently molding them into different gestures and movements at an almost imperceptible speed.

“Fuck yourself,” he finished with a grand flourish of his arms, resisting the urge to spit in her face for taking advantage of his inability to speak for himself.

“I don’t care if you don’t ‘like swear words,’ I don’t care if it was your mother’s dying wish that you never speak a naughty word in any fucking language, be it sign or fucking Punjabi,” he continued. “If I sign a ‘bad word,’ you fuckingtranslate the bad word. If you fucking censor me again, Komal, I’ll hop over this fucking chair and break your goddamn neck, which I have no trouble doing on my own. You’re all pieces of shit,” he ended dramatically, making sure to highlight each obscenity with both slower and more deliberate hand movement before proceeding to rise to his feet once again.

He spoke aloud with his actual voice, garbled and throaty without the ability to moderate his speech with the aid of hearing. He could see the effect this perverse sound—compounded with his sarcastic enthusiasm, in the form of a menacing smile—had on the Dean, who took no care to avoid flinching in response. This was the first time he had attempted to speak with his actual vocal chords in several years, preferring sign language for the majority of the time he had been deaf and therefore the majority of his life; to speak aloud now, especially stoned on resin, was difficult and emotional for Suraj, though it was important that his act be convincing.

Komal, with straight black hair down to her ass, was crying by this point and extremely confused as to how her workday had taken such a terrible turn. Suraj saw her cast a desperate glance at the Dean for some form of support, and slowly break and begin to cry as she realized that she was alone in this conflict, as the Dean had absolutely no clue what was happening; he had only observed a sequence of aggressive hand gestures, including the violent miming of a blowjob, followed by a near-unintelligible garble.

The brain behind the desk began to realize that there was a situation occurring, his gaze oscillating rapidly between Suraj and the Translator, asking for information. It was raw, unadulterated comedy; Suraj would have erupted with giggles had he not been so angry. Komal wiped her nose on her sleeve and then, looking down at her elbow, held her face with the crook of her right thumb and index finger above her lips and sobbed lightly into her palm. Suraj watched the Dean’s expression from confusion to concern, asking several times, “What did he say?”

Even with her mouth exposed, it was difficult for the hard-of-hearing non-conformist to read her lips while she was crying. Suraj could make out the word “break,” and could only assume that she had snitched on him for threatening her, though technically he could not be certain and did not really care at the moment—the Dean, on the other hand, did not seem to think that threatening a faculty member was much of a joke. He immediately uprooted himself from his chair and moved quickly for the door, taking exceptional careto slam it; Komal continued to cry into her palm silently in the corner.

Suraj felt the rhythmic thump-thump of the Dean’s stomps grow less intense and pause before beginning its return to full amplitude in a dramatic crescendo of suspense which lasted approximately thirty seconds, finally culminating in a sort of anti-slam—the sudden and powerful swinging open of the door—which thrust a gust of air through the room and blew Komal’s hair over her left shoulder, which she fixed quickly in between sobs. Irate and accompanied by the RO, the Dean began speaking loudly and directly to the cop, pointing at Suraj and making large arm movements with an unreasonably angry expression on his face. Suraj believed him to be overreacting, personally figuring that this woman did not have a place in education regardless if she was not capable of withstanding insults from a deaf teenager whose obscenities comprised a lexicon with a whopping length of five words.

The Dean was cooling down slightly, though still clearly very angry that Komal was Suraj made out the words “drugs” and “threats,” as well as a third one he was quite sure was “vandalism.” The resource officer was middle-aged, plain, Caucasian and red-haired, an exact opposite of the police stereotype; he looked at the delinquent with stern disappointment, staring down at Suraj past a bushy ginger mustache.

The heat was coming down, and this began to freak out the youngest member of the Sharma family—he closed his eyes in an oft-utilized stress coping mechanism, and all was quiet. He felt vibrations in the floor which indicated the movement of both the Dean and the Translator, and a dull reverberation he could only assume was a door slamming; upon opening his eyes, he was able to confirm that he was alone. The Dean, for some odd reason, had left to collect the resource officer only to leave once more.

Suraj was shocked to find that he grew rather bored very quickly. He looked at the clock on the white brick wall to his right, which read just past eight-thirty behind the once-transparent, yellowing plastic cover. A lot had transpired in less than half an hour, and the office’s sole occupant found himself studying the room in a less-than-successful attempt to pass time. In less than twenty minutes, Suraj was sound asleep, hunched over in his chair and snoring.

A piece of phlegm, saliva, or some other airway obtrusion caused a cough to issue from the slumbering teenager, which prompted him to wake with a start. He looked at the clock, noticing that an additional half hour had passed as he slept; had they forgotten about him? He could feel the shuffling of feet and commotion behind the thick door, and after five minutes, he wondered if he had been locked inside. Extending his arm, he gripped the doorknob and twisted it slightly, and, noticing no rigidity, assumed that he was, in fact, free.

He swung the heavy door open, and noticed nobody was standing outside of it. Despite this, he could ‘hear’ people doing things somewhere in the office; he stepped through the doorway into the lobby where seats for students to sit in while waiting to meet with administrators, as well as a receptionist’s desk for the ‘administrative assistant’ who handled calls for those same primarily male administrators. There Suraj observed the school staff, though there body language was peculiar and strange, and he thought he could hear several women sobbing… Had his outburst truly upset this many people? He had not even made noise.

“Look, I didn’t mean to—” he started, before pausing in confusion as he stopped to observe the scene.

The resource officer, the Dean, and several secretaries who would preferred to be called administrative assistants stood gathered around a tiny television next to the receptionist’s desk, forming a circle. Several of the women were indeed crying. Suraj was intrigued, but mostly confused, and approached the circle to see what was going on. He called out to the Dean by name for the first time, who turned around and appeared very upset and disturbed, though was not crying.

“What— What’s going on?” Suraj asked, having long ago dropped the uptight badass routine.


“Just go home, Suraj. Get out of here.”

He did not ask any questions, and walked straight out of the lobby heading directly home to catch the news and find out what had saved his ass. In the years to come, he would regret his behavior that day and struggle with the fact that he had gotten off because of those two trenchcoat-wearing fuck-ups, that he almost owed them one for them putting holes in over thirty kids. His future self would furthermore commend the four assholes who had framed him for pissing in the geometry teacher’s desk; there are a lot of ways to pick on the deaf kid, but that was certainly one of the more creative ones—and he never even once felt the need to buy a gun.


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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in short write up


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