Listen to Your Heart

Page 17


I started to correct her, then paused. I remembered what Tommy had said, about how the name fit my on-air persona. Maybe I could be however I wanted to be on the podcast. Maybe I could be the voice that I forced to stay inside of my head most of the time.
“Well, I don’t know about my teeth,” I said, “but I’ll sink something into it.”
Victoria gave a trill of laughter. “How about you give a whirl at our disclaimer?”
“Right. We are not professionals. Not even close. So if you have a real emergency, please call 911 or any of the phone numbers we put up on our website.”
“And speaking of our website,” Victoria said, “we have a new email option for those of you who don’t like to speak on air. We get it. You’re shy but you still have problems. So type away and we’ll try our best to help. It looks like we already have a caller on the line. Let’s get started.”
The crackling sound of a connected caller sounded in my ears.
“You’re on Not My Problem,” Victoria said. “We’re listening.”
“I’m anonymous, right?” was the first thing the girl said. “I sound like Batman or something?”
“Or something,” I said because right now she sounded nothing like Batman or any other disguised version of her own normal voice. That would change in edits.
“Yes, of course. Nobody will know who you are. Complain away,” Victoria said.
“It’s about Mr. Grady.”
“As in the Biology teacher here at Sequoia High?” Victoria said.
“Yes, that one. He is the worst teacher in the world.”
I cringed and looked at Ms. Lyon. Our teacher didn’t make a move to indicate we should stop Batman in her blaspheme. In fact, Ms. Lyon held her hand out to the side as if to say continue.
“In what way?” Victoria asked.
“He is horrible at teaching, goes off on personal stories throughout the class, and then expects us all to know the answers to the tests when he hasn’t taught them.”
“Have you tried telling him this?” Victoria asked.
“I haven’t, but enough other people have that I know the result—harsher grading of homework. No, thanks.”
“How about asking for a study guide for each unit?” I offered.
“Yes,” Victoria agreed. “So during class while he’s talking about his life, you can be filling out the study guide. Then if you have a question, just raise your hand and ask. Maybe it will get him back on track.”
There was silence on the line and I thought the Batman girl was going to come back with how this wouldn’t work. But then she said, “That’s not a bad idea. Thanks.”
When she hung up, Ms. Lyon said, “We’ll edit out the name of the teacher.”
That was probably a good idea, to avoid the students all having to deal with his wrath.
“There’s another phone call,” Mallory said. “She also wants to be anonymous.”
“You’re on Not My Problem,” Victoria said to the caller. “What can we help you with?”
“Hi. My boyfriend wants me to meet his parents for the first time,” the girl said. “And not just, hey, come over to my house and say hi. A formal dinner, at a fancy restaurant. A formal dinner? What does that even mean? Like there will be more than one fork and I have to pretend to like Roquefort?”
“What’s Roquefort?” Victoria asked.
“It’s a cheese. And it’s gross,” I said. I only knew this because my aunt was a caterer.
“Right?” the girl said. “So gross. I can’t pretend to like that.”
“Don’t pretend,” Victoria said. “You want his family to know the real you, not some made-up version. So be real.”
“And don’t order a cheese plate,” I said.
“What should I wear?” she asked.
“Take a deep breath,” Victoria said. She was right; the girl sounded close to panic. “Wear something you already own. Nice but not too flashy. Google some etiquette rules to feel more comfortable with the silverware. And then just be yourself. You sound absolutely charming to me.”
“I do?” the girl asked, sounding surprised but relieved.
“Yes, you do. Very well spoken and nice,” Victoria said reassuringly.
“Thank you.”
“Good luck.”
Victoria was going to be president one day, I decided.
Mallory shook her head, indicating no more calls.
I could see Jamie say something but couldn’t hear her.
Ms. Lyon pushed the button, letting us in. “Jamie says we have some interesting emails. Kat, I’ll bring you the iPad so you can read them.” Now even she was calling me Kat?
Ms. Lyon opened the door and brought me the iPad, pointing to where the emails waited. There were two, each with no subject line, so I didn’t know what to expect. I clicked on the first one and read aloud into the microphone.
“ ‘Kat, I happen to like Roquefort. It is one of the best. Perhaps you should keep your uncultured cheese opinions to yourself.’ ”
I let out a groan. “Was that a cheese pun? Is cheese cultured or am I thinking of something else? Also, this isn’t a live show. How does someone already know my opinions on cheese?”
Alana held up her phone, indicating she had been live tweeting.
Victoria spoke into the mic. “One of our fellow podcasters is tweeting this, Kat. You should’ve thought of the cheese lovers before you made such a bold declaration about cheese.”
“For the record, I’m a little picky about food, so I’m not a good judge,” I said.
“Let’s move on to the next email,” Victoria said, gesturing to the iPad.
I clicked on the second email and began to read out loud.
“ ‘Dear Victoria and Kat, I want to ask someone to the Fall Festival, but I’m seeing all these elaborate invites and wondering how I can even compare. Some guy used sidewalk chalk to write his invitation out in ten-foot-tall letters on the parking lot and then sent his drone up to take a picture of it. Is that what my date is going to expect? Will she say no if I just simply walk up and ask her?’ ”
I finished reading and caught my breath. With the Fall Festival about four weeks away, I wondered if we were about to get lots of these kinds of questions.
Victoria gave a small hum. “I guess you have to know who you’re asking. For example, I don’t think Kat here would mind a simple proposal. But I, on the other hand, expect the ten-foot letters. Do you hear that, Brian?” She paused and added, “Brian’s my boyfriend, listeners.”
“Hey now,” I said, even though she was very right about my preferences. “I don’t think it’s about the simplicity or complexity of the ask, but the thoughtfulness and sincerity of it.”
Victoria nodded. “I’d agree with that. Brian, when you do the ten-foot letters, make sure you’re sincere.”
“We have another caller,” Mallory said over the headset, then clicked it through.
“Hello, welcome to Not My Problem,” Victoria said.
“What can we help you with today?” Victoria asked.
“I’m anonymous, right?” The voice was low and husky, almost like he didn’t expect us to change it, so he was changing it himself.
“Yes, you are,” Victoria said. “Do you have a problem you’d like to share?”