Sin Palabras

It started as just another graveyard shift, working Train Check, in Indio, California about summer 1969.  My partner was Kevin Doyle, who worked the graveyard shift on an almost permanent basis. 
Well into our shift we made a number of apprehensions.  One was a kid I found, after I jumped into a moving boxcar.   When I questioned him he began gesturing, pointing to his mouth and ears, and shaking his head.  I guessed that he was trying to tell me he couldn't speak, hear or both.   I grabbed him, figuring we could sort it out later.  I put him in with the rest of the catch in the back of the International Harvester we were driving and towards morning, we headed to the office.  I mentioned to Kevin that the kid had some kind of speech or hearing problem.  We left him for last and as I was finishing my last write-up,  I heard Kevin yelling in the next interview room.  I looked in and Kevin was trying to process the kid.  I quickly finished and went to help.   Kevin was fit to be tied.  The kid was a deaf-mute.   I ended up writing one word questions on a pad and having him try to write his answers.  Seemed like he was also illiterate.  After a long painstaking effort and a lot of charades on our part, we finally had enough to complete the I-213.  Kevin had had enough and went to the front office/squad room to do his paperwork while I finished up.  
Somewhere during the process of extracting information  I began to suspect something.  When I finished processing the kid we both got up and started to walk to the lock-up.  He spotted the scale we had and proceeded to get on it to weigh himself, momentarily turning his back toward me.  I quickly said in a normal voice  "no sirve!".  He immediately turned his head toward me and said "ah, no sirve?"
I was just too busy laughing to get mad.  Turned out this kid, as far as he knew, was born in Cd. Juarez,  abandoned and grew up on the streets.  As to the deaf-mute act,  he had been doing it for years whenever confronted by any authority figure.  He got the idea from a mime/clown's act doing something similar and started practicing it.  Whenever police or other authorities caught him or tried to question him, he went into his act.  He assured me that they would soon give up and push him away.   I asked him what prompted him to travel our way.  He said he wanted to "conocer" Los Angeles.
I never had the heart to tell Kevin.
Manny Cornejo