Authors: Rachel Wise
In the girls' room, I used the bathroom and washed my hands, then ducked back into a stall to open the letter.
There was no return address, and despite the fact that the note writer was obviously in a real rush, I recognized the handwriting immediately this time.
Dear Knows Zero,
Your advice ruined my life. I hate you.
Tired of EVERYONE
Oh no! I sank down onto the toilet seat, fully clothed, and pressed my forehead against the cool metal of the stall. What now?
RADAR STILL WORKING FOR LAME-O JOURNALIST
That night I watched TV. I couldn't deal with anything else. I
finished my homework, got right in my pjs, and snuggled up on the couch with my mom to
watch some bad reality show. I needed a major distraction. I just pushed everything out
of my mind and forgot about it for a little while. I knew my mom was watching
out of the corners of her eyes, but
she didn't press me, and I didn't offer any information, so we just let
At bedtime I didn't even check my computer.
Well, only for a minute, to see if Michael had e-mailed anything important.
Which he had!
Interview with chef, kitchen staff, Thurs. @ around 3
p.m. R u in?
I replied yes, then went to bed.
My first thought the next morning was that I couldn't wait until
Mr. Trigg came back. Only two more days. I decided then and there that I wouldn't
check the Know-It-All letter box again while he was away, since Tired was sure to have
written me another letter. (At least she wasn't an e-mailer!) I would just let him
handle it when he returned, and if I didn't find an e-mail I liked on the server,
the next column would have to wait.
Being decisive was a good way to start the day. I felt brisk and efficient
while I read my news sites and blogs.
At school I zoomed through my classes, ate a roll and a bag of potato chips
for lunch (giving me more great material for the gross lunch article), and was actually
pleased to spend an hour outdoors
supervising Hailey's love
life since the weather was nice and my homework didn't require a computer. Hailey
had been unable to find out if Amanda was Scott's girlfriend, so we were just
proceeding with our Getting to Know Him plan.
I settled onto the bleachers, the sun warm on my back, and I pulled out my
reading for language arts. The two teams spilled out onto the field, and I saw that
Hailey noticed me, and nodded. I nodded back, feeling more like a spy every minute.
I am not a huge sports fan, so it was kind of boring for me to watch drills,
but I quickly identified Scott and watched him like a hawk in between gulping down
paragraphs of my language arts assignment. At one point the coaches pitted the captains
against each other and the assistant captains against each other (Scott and Hailey were
assistants). I watched her smile at him and say something funny, but he looked nervous
and didn't really react.
Come on, Scott!
I wanted to yell.
Give the girl a break!
After another little while, the teams took a
break and ate
the snacks they'd brought from home. Scott ended up next to Hailey, and she said
something else to him, laughing, and for the second time, he didn't really react.
Ugh! This was so annoying! It was painful to watch, actually. I wanted Hailey to
succeed, and she was certainly trying, but Scott was frozen. Poor Hails. Was he shy? Or
did he just not like her? Hard to tell.
As the practice ended, a few other people appeared on the bleachers. Baseball
practice was up next, and they must've come to watch. I would have liked to stay
myself and watch Michael in those cute little pants of his, but I really didn't
have time. Soccer was wrapping up, and the boys' and girls' teams were doing
a handshake line. As Scott passed Hailey, she smiled and then said something to him.
This time he replied, but then he just smiled quickly and moved past her. It was a
bummer. As he walked off the field, a girl who must've been Amanda Huxtable hopped
off the bleachers and jogged over to him, and the two of them walked away. Okay,
definitely his girlfriend. I decided to take it easy on Hailey.
I clanked my way down the bleachers, like an ill-timed
oaf, stumbling on the last one, and jogged over to Hailey. She was gathering up her
snack pouch and had a defeated air about her.
“Did the boys beat you?” I asked, trying to keep it light.
She looked at me, but didn't say anything.
“How did it go?” I asked, serious now.
“He's not that nice,” she said.
I hadn't prepared what to say. “What do you mean?” I asked,
pretending I couldn't tell that from a mile away.
“I tried to talk to him a little, and he was just
reallyÂ .Â .Â . unfriendly. Like, he didn't smile or really try to
have a conversation or anything. At the end it seemed like he was warming up, but then
Amanda Huxtable was here again.Â .Â .Â .” She gestured in the
direction toward where Scott and the girl had walked. Aha! So I'd been right. Not
that I was glad about it, but still.
Radar Still Working for
“Maybe he's just not Mr. Personality,” I suggested.
“He talks to the boys and jokes around with
them!” She had started trudging up the hill to the front of the school. I
followed, talking all the way.
“Maybe he's just shy around girls!”
“He's not shy around Amanda Huxtable,” she said quietly. She
turned to face me. “Tell me the truth. Will a boy ever like me?”
“Oh, Hailey! Of course! Lots of boys. You will have a lifetime of
admirers, I promise! What about Jeff Perry?” I know he's interested in
Hailey, and if she'd only like him backâIt would be so convenient! We could
double date, if Michael and I ever end up dating! But Hailey is not into him.
“Stop with Jeff Perry!
Okay, I guess
you're right about Scott. I need some time to get to know him. Some time when
Amanda Huxtable isn't around,” she said darkly.
“Yeah, but just play it cool. Don't come on too strong, you know?
He might be kind of shy, so go slow. Pretty soon you'll have him eating out of
“Right,” she said. “As soon as Amanda's out of the
“If she's actually in the picture.”
“Right. Anyway, we've been talking about me all the time, and I
don't even know what's going on with you. Anything up in the world of
tabloid journalism?” We were out on the street now, walking slowly to Buttermilk
Lane. The late afternoon sunlight fell in long shafts between the trees, and there were
little mounds of dry leaves scattered everywhere.
“Oh, nothing.” I waved my hand in dismissal. It wasn't like
I could tell her.
Oh yeah, I'm being stalked by a crazy
person who I gave bad advice to, under the guise of an anonymous column that you
don't know I write.
Instead I said, “Working on the lunch
article, which I need to interview you for when we get home. In love with Mikey as
usual. Hating Allie as usual. All status quo.” I crossed my toes as I lied to my
Hailey squinted at me, but I kept my face neutral. Luckily she was not a news
hound like Allie. She let it go.
Antennae Broken, Friend
Misses Signals for Help.
At home we raided my kitchen and made a huge (junky) snack
and then I interviewed Hailey.
“Okay, tell me what you think about the cafeteria food,” I began,
my pen poised above my trusty notebook on the kitchen table.
Hailey looked at the ceiling while she thought.
“WellÂ .Â .Â . there's not a lot I like to eat. Most days, I
usually find just one little thing.”
I pressed on. “Okay, like, what kinds of things do you like, when they
“Um, riceÂ .Â .Â . with butter and salt. Rice Krispies
Treats. JELL-O. Glazed doughnuts. French bread pizzasÂ .Â .Â . That's
kind of it.”
“Wow,” I said. Journalists aren't supposed to make value
judgments about what their subjects tell them, usually, but it was hard to restrain
myself. “Aren't you worried about cholesterol?” I teased.
Hailey's mom was always yelling about not getting high cholesterol. Hailey made a
face. “Seriously, though. If you could improve the food, what would you ask
for?” I said.
“Easy!” said Hailey. “Either better, recognizable food, like
the kind my mom would buy in the
store, or something like Pizza Hut
“O-kayÂ .Â .Â .” I was getting it all down.
“Interesting. Not sure others would say the same, but okay. And if you had one
piece of advice for the chef, what would it be?”
Hailey laughed. “Go home!”
“I don't know if we can print that.”
“Is that it?”
“For now. I might call you to follow up with a few more questions, once
we have our thesis.”
We went up to my room to do our language arts homework (Hailey always likes my
help because she's dyslexic and she hates reading), and I left all my newspaper
cares behind for a while.
We spent some time on Buddybook after we finished, and we found a treasure
trove of Scott Parker photos from soccer on Jeff's sports page. I was happy for
Hailey. It was fun to have a crush. It gave you focus. You just had to remember to keep
everything in perspective. Unlike poor, crazy Tired, who was now actually really
JOURNALISTS AT WAR!
It was Thursday, the day of our interview with the kitchen staff.
Michael and I didn't have a lot of prep work to do for this one because the
questions were kind of simple. We were going to ask the cafeteria people point-blank why
the food had to be so gross, and they were going to tell us. That was pretty much
Michael and I met in the hall at 2:50 p.m. as planned. He looked adorable in a
white polo shirt and jeansâfresh and clean and classic. I had dressed up a little
tooâin a long hippie skirt and a pink T-shirt, with a scarf and dangly
earringsâand the first thing Michael said was, “You look nice!”
I know I blushed, and I wasn't sure how to respond
because it caught me off guard. I'm so used to him teasing me that my first
instinct was to say something sarcastic back.
“Just say thanks, Pasty,” he said, and the nickname allowed me to
whomp him gently with my messenger bag and then the tension was broken. However, I made
a mental note to make a bigger effort more often when choosing my clothes (or ask Allie
for help) and also to try to pay him compliments too. Plus, it felt good to be on the
I changed the subject. “So we're just going to go with the flow,
right? Keep it loose and see what they say?”
Michael nodded. “I don't have an agenda. We'll probably have
to do a follow-up once we have our thesis, anyway.”
I nodded, and we entered the cafeteria. Sitting at a far table were three
grown-ups, each dressed in kitchen whites and each holding a cup of coffee or tea. I
recognized them all but realized with a pang of guilt that after more than a year at
school, I didn't know any of their names.
Michael strode ahead confidently, and when he reached them, he introduced
himself and shook hands all around. I followed suit, feeling shy. There was one man and
two women. I wondered which one was the chef, but didn't have to wonder long.
“Mary couldn't be here. She says sorry. She had to go to a meeting
with the superintendent of schools,” said one of the ladies whose name was Marcy.
She had a raspy voice and thick blond hair in a braid and covered by a black hairnet.
She looked about the age of a lot of moms.
“The meetings never end! I would not want that job,” said the
other woman, Carmen, who was younger. Her hair was short, dark, and curly, but matted
down under the hairnet. I wondered why they kept the nets on when they weren't in
“Pay's better,” said the guy, who had a big blond mustache
and also a long blond braid of hair under his hairnet. His name was Bob, and he had
tattoos up his arms and a little on his
neck. He looked like he
should be driving a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
I could tell that Michael felt things drifting out of our control. He cleared
his throat. “Thanks for meeting us today. We are doing an article for the
Cherry Valley Voice
lunches.Â .Â .Â .”
?” asked Carmen.
“UhÂ .Â .Â . the school newspaper?” said Michael, and
we looked at each other. We were both surprised she didn't know. She must've
Carmen nodded, and Michael continued. “We want to learn a little about
how you guys decide what to make and why it'sÂ .Â .Â .” Now that
we were face to face with these people who worked hard to feed us every day, it was
difficult to be aggressive.