ASL no crime by David Hagerty

Flash Fiction


I not understand. You keep me here why? ASL no crime.

Last month police arrest me. Dog they say I steal. French bull dog with big ears and sad face. True I take but I think no one want it. It run up to me on street. True it have collar but dirty. It small and weak. It not eat. I take to vet for help.

There police arrest me. Dog they say I take. Someone see person steal dog from back yard. Not me I tell them. I find. They not understand me. ASL they not understand. Interpreter I ask for. No police tell me. Ask lawyer.

Lawyer not understand why I take dog. Steal he think also.

Money I have not so I stay jail. I not like. Every day same. Same clothes. Same food. Dry orange and green meat sandwich. Green meat no one like. Green meat we throw away. Only bread we eat.

Jail busy and noisy. People think Deaf people cannot hear but noise I hear. Always noise here. All day and night loud voices and buzzers. Sleep I cannot.

Other men different from me. Sign they cannot. ASL no one understand. Every day I watch TV and card games but words I cannot understand because of noise.

Read I try but no books I like. Every day same books. Books about crime and criminals. Cowboys and Indians. No books about Deaf people.

First other men ignore me. Second they hear me try talk. I cannot talk good because I cannot hear how people talk. Third other men insult me. Fight me they want so I ignore them.

My hearing aids guards take. They need recharge. Guards refuse recharge. Guards mock me with fake sign but I understand lips and faces.

One man friend me. He see me stand alone in yard. Your name what he ask. I read lips some so I write on dirt JAMES. OMAR he write back. We write in dirt until we tired. Then he ask me sign for ASL so I show him. It two fingers roll backward. He like that so I teach him more sign. Signs for cigarette and smoke and medicine.

English he teach me. Before no one teach me. ASL school teach ASL but English I know not. ASL different. Word order different. Many words we not use like the, is, to. Words we waste not. Face and body we use instead.

Before I never need write. Animals I help. Dogs I walk. Cats I watch. They understand I communicate how. Words we not need. Body language they read like me.

OMAR say I learn fast. More books I read. Same books he read. Books about history and sciences. Letters I learn write.

He fast student also. Soon we sign across glass walls separate us. We sign you read what and you eat what? We sign even from cells. Little windows big enough for that.

Then ASL we teach his friends. We sign together. Men talk all day and night.

Our sign guards not like. Stop they tell us. No gang signs they say. Plot they say we have. Plot we have not. We friends.

Single cell they lock me in. Stop plot they say. No plot I say. We friends.

Friends I cannot see. Single I eat. Single I go yard. Single I sleep.

Yesterday my lawyer say plot bring drugs into jail I start. Plot I know not. Drugs I use not. I born Deaf because my mom use drugs. Quinine. Drugs I never use.

Ten years they say. Ten years for ASL. My job I lose. My apartment I lose. My life I lose.

In court my interpreters understand not. They not interpret right. Then my lawyer understand not. ASL he know not. My case he care not. Proof he say they have. Videos. Videos from what? Sign he say.

ASL no proof. ASL no crime.

Understand I want you. Understand me.

I not understand. You keep me here why?

I’ve written four political mysteries about a renegade governor trying to punish his daughter’s killer. I’ve also published more than two dozen short stories online and in print. Read more about me at