Read A 52-Hertz Whale Online

Authors: Bill Sommer

A 52-Hertz Whale (16 page)

When it seemed things couldn't get any worse, they did. The hipster jumped out from behind his iPhone and headed straight for Coxson. The hipster might have hit Coxson or slapped him, I'm not sure which. In like two seconds, Dobson was on the scene and the hipster was being removed from the school and everyone was being herded out of the hall fire drill–style. So yeah, my asking was an epic fail.

Your Turnabout invite will fare better. I heard Sam tell Coxson in Bio that you asked him. Coxson cupped his hands on his chest (probably referring to your boobs) and gave Sam a fist bump. Sam said he was going to text you back tonight.



From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 13, 2013 at 4:44 PM
Subject: CHS


There was major action today at CHS. An unauthorized male entered the building for a second time this week. I escorted him out only yesterday for videotaping students without consent, and after the word-smacking I gave him I can't believe the guy had the stones to come back again. But it was him alright, wearing the same silver ring (jewelry on men often an indicator of instability, as you know) and a different badly-wrinkled shirt. Anyway, when the alert came through on my walkie about an altercation in the hall, my first thought was, “Fuck T-bird and his early retirement package. Jackass is probably snoozing in his hammock right now.” But the job don't care what Kirk Dobson thinks. The job just is.

When I get on the scene, I see the intruder's about to take out that little prick Charlie Coxson. Remember him? Drew a two-foot dick on the faculty bathroom door in permanent marker? I kind of wanted to let him get his teeth kicked in, but not enough to risk my pension over it. Plus, Tedoni was waiting for me to do something hero-like. I couldn't remember a thing from that Taser training I told you about a few months back, and I couldn't figure out how to get the damn safety off, so I said screw it, and just went hands-on. Later Tedoni reminds me that they don't like us to touch anyone anymore because of lawsuits. I say if someone is going to sue me for doing my job let 'em. I miss you, T-bird, 'cause we could laugh about this shit. You got out of here just in time. This place is going to hell in a handbasket. Did I tell you onion rings are gluten-free now?

Later old man,


From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 13, 2013 at 11:59 PM
Subject: RE: Hola

Jimmy Jam,

Just got back to Sash's house from police station. Neck sore from Dobson's Vulcan death grip. Typing with left hand only because icing right one which sore from where chopped Charlie. Couldn't stand way he laughed at you. Cruelty in eyes. No empathy or recognition that your feelings matter. Plus, prank in general was messed up. One thing to be plain mean to someone, another to use deepest longings to taunt person. If someone made me think Corinne wanted me back when really didn't, would freak. Plus, brought back memories of bad times in high school with own version of Coxson. In fact had more Coxsons than friends.

Anyway, was about punch him when realized was about assault high school student, after lying way into school pretending be legal guardian of made-up 15 y.o. cousin.

After getting kicked out previous day.

Am 23 years old.

Above series of realizations, plus fact actually hurting him would only make him folk hero around school, plus fact he's kind of big and no guarantee could beat him in fight, interrupted muscle movements involved with punching. Instinct to do something had already been engaged, though, so punch morphed into strange karate chop–type movement. Know nothing about karate. Landed first shot on top of head. Shooting pain through hand indicated karate not learnable by watching movies. Pretty sure hurt self worse than Coxson. Pretty sure Coxson wiped cheek because was confused at not feeling any pain, like guy in movie who thinks has been shot but gun had blanks. Pretty sure getting dragged out by Dobson was best thing this point because have no idea what would have done next.

Explained everything to Mr. Tedoni while waiting for police. Nice guy for principal. Agreed not press charges long as never saw my face at school again. Still had go downtown because of prior arrest (will tell you later). Paid fine. Sash not happy to interrupt date come get me.

Feeling very sad as result all of above. About entire life. Ruined relationship with girl of dreams. Got fired from only job could get anywhere near industry want to work in. Screwing up pipe-dream documentary. Thought could help you. Sorry couldn't. Wasn't good at high school first time. Still not good.

Wish could be more like you. Have purpose, like your whales. At least got some good footage you handing out pamphlets before Coxson mess.

Hope some girl smart enough ask you Turnabout. See you Star Arcade tomorrow at eight.


From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 14, 2013 at 8:27 PM
Subject: One week ago

Dear Me,

Okay, that already sounds dumb. But what am I supposed to write, “Dear Craig”? As if I'm addressing a total stranger? I don't want to write “Dear Diary” either, because that makes it sound like there's somebody named Diary, which would also be stupid. Whatever, the point is, this whole thing is stupid and dumb. And so is Dr. Sizemore. Hey, that's kind of cool to write that since I know he'll never see it. Dr. Sizemore is a skinny balding idiot with creepy amounts of wrist hair that come past his long sleeves. He talks in this quiet, annoying way because he wants to seem “sensitive,” when in fact all he's doing is trying to get me to trust him so that I'll tell him I got molested when I was six or something (in case anyone ever does read this, I wasn't!) and he can brag to his psychologist buddies about how he cured me.

Anyway, this little email diary was his dumb idea, but I promised my parents I'd try it, so here goes. I've got the alert thing set up to send this email to myself a week from today so I will have this record of how I was feeling a week ago. Which now will be in a week from now. It's like I'm in a really stupid time-travel movie or something.

Anyway, what stupid stuff have I been thinking about lately? Oh yeah, Turnabout is next week, and I'm going with Rebecca Vitello. She's cool. We're just friends, so it'll be pretty chill. I'm going to ride with Charlie and Liza and Doyle and Lissa.

Charlie's been kind of annoying me lately. First he was like, “Dude, you're good at Photoshop, you gotta put a blowhole and whale teeth on Turner's class picture.” So I did that, then he's like, “Dude, you're good at research, find out some stuff about whale hunting so I can leave it on the Whale Boy Facebook page.” So I did that. And he never even thanked me. Sometimes I think Charlie lives in a completely Charlie-centric universe and that we're all just floating in orbit around him. Whatever.

I just think it sucks that he doesn't appreciate me. Like I have nothing better to do than look up crap about whales and mess with pictures in Photoshop. Same with my parents. It's like they think it's easy for me to get a 2.9, play on the soccer team, and have a social life. And I have one little anxiety attack, and now I've gotta go see a shrink and write letters to
, which makes it seem like they're trying to make me even

Okay, well, I was supposed to write this thing for at least ten minutes, and I did, so now I'm going to be done with it so I can start my essay on
Invisible Man

Signing off,


From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 14, 2013 at 8:08 AM
Subject: Try Again

Hey Sara,

I'm in first period Italian, and we're supposed to be listening to this audio book on the computer. But I can't stop thinking about yesterday. I saw James Turner on the bus this morning and I smiled. He pretended not to see me. I have to do something about the whole Turnabout mess. Soon.

Anyway, last night, I was going to ask you what to do, but your mom picked up your phone and said you were already asleep. I don't talk to Anna Maria about boy stuff and Mom was busy giving Baby a bath. So I went over to see Nonna. She was asleep on her recliner in front of the TV ( EWTN Global Catholic Network) and some nun was still saying the novena. I felt bad waking her up, but she didn't seem to mind. Nonna made us caffè d'orzo, this decaffeinated drink that Anna Maria calls imitation coffee, but it's really not coffee at all—just steamed milk with roasted barley. I've loved it since I was a little girl and no one makes it like Nonna. So we sat down at her kitchen table. I was about to start talking about James Turner and the Turnabout debacle when I happened to glance at a picture of me, Anna Maria, Mom, and Dad on the fridge from my seventh grade recital, and the next thing I know, I was talking about Albert and crying.

Nonna looked at me and pulled me to her. She whispered “
tesora mia
,” “my treasure,” and her breath smelled sweet like the anise seeds she likes to chew on sometimes. She hugged me, her housecoat warm from the caffè d'orzo steam. She's strong for such a little lady. Then we sat down and she told me how she spent a good portion of her own life living in the past, pretending that the war never came to Abruzzo and that she never had to leave the mountain town she grew up in to come to America. In her mind, everything in her town stayed the same as before she left. The oldest
in the village still sat on the lip of the fountain in the piazza trading garlic for gossip. The little shrine to the Virgin still occupied the place where a little girl had a vision during a lightning storm. And the chair at her parents' table was still empty, waiting for her return. But then, Nonna went back to visit the town just a few weeks ago for the first time in years. The old signora was dead, an earthquake had destroyed the shrine, and her parents' house was occupied by summer vacationers from Germany. She looked at me and said,
“Hai capito?”
And you know my Italian's not great, but I got it. I understood everything Nonna said.

Love, Soph

From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 14, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Subject: RE: Try again


Got txt frm Sam after dr.'s appt. Time 2 book pedicures!

I know what ur g-ma's saying. I'll never dance the Sugar Plum Fairy, never go 2 Juilliard. Prbly won't go 2 college either. Hurts 2 bad when I type. Every skool paper lokz like bad txt.



From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 14, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Subject: RE: Hola

Dear D-wow,

Did today really happen? Thank goodness the camera was rolling or else I would be left believing it was only my imagination. Did you get the look on my face? (Scratch that, I forgot that I was wearing the yeti costume at the time.) Did you get her on the bike as she turned off of King St. toward Star Arcade? How about the cute way she kind of swung her head from side to side as she pedaled like a little girl with a song stuck in her head?

I have to tell you that I only realized the biker was Sophia Lucca when she got close enough to Star Arcade that I could see the glint of those gold rings she wears. I think I dropped my 30 TOKENS FOR ONE DOLLAR sign. Sophia did some talking. I can't remember much of what she said.

Something about Herman Whaleville. Something about the poster at lunch. Something about handwriting. Something about Coxson. Maybe you've got the transcript?

All I know is that she wants to go to Turnabout with me, and she's going to wear a violet dress and she wants me to wear a violet cummerbund, and instead of a corsage or boutonniere, she's going to buy us matching Save-the-Whales bracelets.

I'm sorry that we didn't get to catch up after the shoot, especially because you seemed kind of down. My mom had pizza in the car and she didn't want it to get cold. But I wanted to tell you some good news in the hopes that it might improve your day. I saw this cool article about a whale named Valentina. This whale was caught in a prohibited shark net off the coast of Mexico in a National Wildlife Refuge. The situation was pretty grim. I mean, dire. And yet, with the help of some awesome, caring people, Valentina managed to get freed. And she lobtailed and breached in thanks. Things could've ended badly for Valentina like they did for Salt. But they didn't, not this time.

If I could lobtail for you, D-Dog, I would. Just saying.


Jiminy Cricket

From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 14, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Subject: Letter

Yo D,

I was getting home from work yesterday, and I see this girl leaning over the windshield of your car and stuffing something under your windshield wipers. I thought you were getting a ticket or something, but this girl wasn't in a uniform.

Turns out it was the infamous Corinne. Wow, man. Now I can see why you've been so hung up on her. She's gorgeous. (A little on the granola side for my taste, but that's just splitting hairs. I mean, the tits . . .) She was leaving a letter for you, but I told her you were out of town and that I'd give it to you when you got back. See you in a couple days.

From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 15, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Subject: RE: Letter


Dude, no! Overnight it! Wait, no. Forget it. I give you permission to open it. Just call me and read it out loud! Holy crap this is amazing! Fingers shaking. Can't believe I just admitted that. But I don't care! Wooo! Call me ASAP! In fact, call me ESTP (Even Sooner Than Possible)! Just make it happen!


From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: March 15, 2013 at 12:31 AM
Subject: All about Turnabout

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