Author's note: "What the Deaf Man Heard" is one of my favorite movies. It is sweet and deep and gentle, deals with issues but lightly, and is the story of a kind of hidden identity. I have always been interested in what characters are thinking behind the lines given to them to speak, so years ago, when I was 22 or so, I set out to write the story of what everyone is thinking and feeling in "What the Deaf Man Heard." This is it.
(Note: There are a few places where characters think or say things that are fairly inappropriate by current standards. That is because they are reflecting 1960s standards, not my own or those of the makers of the move.)
Sammy's mom was impatiently calling to him, so he abandoned the can he was kicking and ran to their apartment. Scolding him gently, she helped him change his clothes and handed him one of their suitcases, taking the other. He wished she'd tell him where they were going, but all she would say was that it was time for him to move up in the world a little. She herded him onto the bus, carefully fielding his innocent and curious ten-year-old questions as he clutched his favorite music box with the tune his mom always sang.
It was a very long bus ride, but Sammy occupied himself by gazing eagerly out the window and at his fellow passengers. His mom was the prettiest woman on the bus, he thought loyally. She had red hair and green eyes, a pretty nose and a naturally red mouth. Miss Ellen Ayers, was her name. That reminded him.
"Mom," he said hesitantly, "the other kids ask me…"
"Ask you what?"
"Why my mom is a Miss while their moms are Mrs."
That was a question she wasn't prepared to deal with yet. Besides, he wasn't old enough yet to know how it was that his unmarried mother had a child. "Now, it's time for you to go to sleep," she said as if his question hadn't at all been important.
"No buts, Sammy. Not another word from you. The only sound I want to hear is a ten-year old snoring."
With a sigh he settled down with his head on her lap and was soon asleep. He was an obedient child; for that she was thankful. She didn't know how she'd done it, but her son was a very good boy.
At eight o'clock the bus rolled into a town and came to a stop. "Half hour stop!" called the bus driver. "We leave at eight-thirty with or without you!"
Ellen could hear music from a bar across the road and could see a group of young people dancing outside of it. She loved the new swing craze. She was still a young woman, still pretty, still wanting a little fun. Sammy would be alright on the bus if she went over and had a drink and watched the dancers. The boy didn't stir as she slipped out.
With her drink in her hand, she stood in the door and watched the young people dance. One young man held out his hand to her. He was nice looking and had a good smile, so she accepted, determining to leave after one dance. But it turned into two, and he was a very good dancer. He was spinning her around and around when there was a shout and the sound of breaking glass. A fight was breaking out, and she tried to get away, but he kept spinning her until she was so dizzy she sagged against him. And then one hand was clapped around her mouth, and there was so much commotion that no one saw him drag her, struggling mightily, around the corner and into an alley. And the last thing she saw was the bus pulling out…