I look around. No one prowled these mean streets. All alone, I could be standing on Mainstreet Anywhere USA except I don’t see a Starbucks.
The silence is defining. I have no clue except a plaque at the entrance “Site of Vitagraph Company of America, Motion Picture Studio, 1916.”
A shadowy figure beckons from a side doorway. “Hey” she says. “Yeah. You. You lookin’ for a quality clinical education?” That’s an easy one.
“No. I want the admissions office here.” “F%#k that. I can get you Harvard Med-guaranteed.” “Not interested.” “OK. Forget the Crimson Tide.”
“That’s Alabama.” “Whatever.” She leans in. “How about I fix you up with Johns Hopkins, early admissions, first tier, no questions asked?”
“You’re barking up the wrong prospective premed. I’m not seeking a lucrative medical career. I’m looking for a girl.” “That would be me.”
“No. I’m here to meet with the Dean of Admissions.” “Oh. That would also be me.” She points to the Vitagraph plaque. “We can’t talk here.”
She puts a finger to her lip and signs “Come along” or maybe “Complain.” My American Sign Language is rusty. Luckily my cell has an ASL app.
“Why are we signing?” “This was a silent film studio. We took a vow of silence to work here.” She signs again which I snap with the app.
It translates as “stomach.” “What about your stomach?” She signs either “no” or”squirrel.” My ASL app says “Monster.” I realize I’m hungry.
“A monster?” She shakes her head. I follow her inside. In silence we reach her office where with a look down the hall she closes the door.
There is a pad on her desk. I write “Why did you think I’m an applicant?” She takes the pad. “Most candidates have been around the block.”
We look out her window. A line of med school wannabees stretches down to the corner. She writes “We get seven applicants for each opening.”
“Most are multiple med school rejects. We’re their last hope.” “You get all the students who couldn’t get into their first choice school?”
“Or second or third. It’s like the joke: What do you call somone graduating last in a med school class?” “Doctor.” We both laugh silently.
Mary writes “Sadly, many of our students are so desperate for a medical diploma they’ll do anything. They cheat, they lie, they steal.”
“And get expelled?” “Only if their financial aid runs out. Once they make residency the medical code of omerta protects them from exposure.”
“Why do hospitals grant residencies to such students?” “Shh!” She signs “We pay them. All professions are conspiracies against the laity.”
I write “Are you quoting Shaw?” Seeing my confusion, Mary signs “But you didn’t hear it from me!” I write “I didn’t hear anything from you!”
This may be my most difficult interrogation ever. I’ve handled tough characters before but never in ASL translation! I give it one more try.
(The Twitter Mystery continues daily at @Twitstery)