I swear, when I graduate at the end of this year I’m never touching a dirty dish again.
Head down, I dipped the white dinner plate through the soapsuds a final time. White coffee mugs and saucers stared at me as they waited in a stack beside the industrial sink.
Six course dinners at a five star hotel forced me to become good friends with each white dish that repeatedly passed through my hands. Why couldn’t the dishes at least have some color to brighten my evenings?
Running my fingers over the plate as I rinsed it, I felt a deep scratch on the back. Annoyed, I turned over the dish and tilted it toward the light.
As I traced my fingers over the scratch, I could tell it crudely formed a word.
Curious, I grabbed a peppershaker from one of the prep tables. Dumping out a generous amount I carefully scraped the excess away, filling each indention. What I saw astounded me.
Help! room 803
A finger dug into my shoulder, causing me to wince and face my manager. I could tell by how wide Ms. Porter’s lips parted that she was yelling. Apparently, she had already spoken to me, forgetting I had to see her lips to read them.
“What are you doing, Melinda? The dining room is full, and you’re standing there with the clean plate rack empty! I will not tolerate this kind of negligence even if you are-” Ms. Porter snapped her lips together on the last word, avoiding my eyes.
“I’m so sorry. I’ll fill the rack immediately.” I knew from Ms. Porter’s expression my speech impediment bothered her.
Ms. Porter turned on her heel. I had a feeling she said something else once her face turned away from me.
Hurrying to fulfill my promise did not stop me from churning the message on the back of the plate over in my mind.
Is this a practical joke or is someone in room 803 really in trouble? Who is going to take a dish washing deaf girl like me serious about this?
Turning in a crazy story about a message on the back of an elegant white dinner plate at this classy hotel could cost my job.
You have to tell someone.
I recognized the still small voice; the only voice I had ever heard. It could not be ignored, no matter the consequence.
Three Days Later
I rinsed the white plate, quickly running my fingers over the entire piece with a half smile. After the FBI had rescued the young woman being held for ransom in Room 803, I could not stop myself from checking each beautiful white dish that passed through my hands. A thrill shot up my spine as I recalled the events.
A finger dug into my shoulder and I realized with dread I had been standing idle. I faced Ms. Porter with a shamed face. To my surprise, her lips parted softly.
“Someone would like to speak with you Melinda. Take a ten minute break; they’re waiting in the hall.”
I signed “thank you” to the woman, certain she appreciated not hearing me speak.
Head ducked slightly, I approached the two FBI agents smiling at me. I recognized them both from three nights ago, but I could only recall the name of one: Sue Thomas. I remembered her well, as she had been kind enough to sign for me when the questions had been coming so rapidly.
“Hi Melinda, it’s good to see you again.” Agent Thomas signed and spoke simultaneously.
I smiled in appreciation. “Good to see you. But you don’t have to sign. I can keep up with the conversation now that the excitement is over.”
The other agent touched my arm to draw my attention to him. “We wanted to thank you again for aiding us in this case. You played a major role in saving Allison Parker’s life.”
I blushed, shrugging my shoulders. “I didn’t do anything really.”
Agent Thomas spoke again, appearing serious. “I understand you’re in college, majoring in Criminal Justice. Have you ever considered a career in the FBI?”
The thought made me want to laugh. It made me want to cry. Instead, I prayed my voice did not sound shaky as I replied simply, “I’m deaf.”
Agent Thomas looked at me with the sweetest smile I had ever seen.
“So am I.”
Note: While Sue Thomas is an actual deaf woman who once worked for the FBI, this story is fiction.
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