Shrinking Violet
don't have to 97
    see to feel it. I whip out my iPod and let the sounds of Grade May pump through my veins. I wonder how Beethoven composed music deaf. How did he feel the beat? My sneakers move to the rhythm as I make my way down Marlin Avenue. I picture myself in a music video, gliding down the street, surrounded by fancy cars. I move, one foot at a time. One beat at a time. Until I see the bus pull up and I'm still about one hundred feet away. This time I have to motor faster than the beat or I can kiss getting to the station on time good-bye. My foot hits the last step as the door hisses to a close. I slide my bus pass through the turnstile and slowly catch my breath.

chapter ELEVEN
    Pop-Tart doesn't disappoint. She's at the front desk in a skintight Lycra tee with the word Huh? stretched across her breasts. She's moving her hands back and forth at a rapid pace like she's directing airport traffic. If only the person on the other line could see her now. Of course, if it's a guy, he'd be frothing at the mouth.
    She finishes her call and waves to me. "Sorry, they didn't understand my directions.
    What's up?" she says slowly as she elaborately mouths the words, her lips stretched wide.
    "Nothing." I sign in with her fluffy purple pen. Definitely not radio station issued.
    "You read lips?" Pop-Tart asks. "No." I squeeze past her.
    "Oh, sorry," she says. "I don't know sign language." I turn around to face her. "Me neither."
    "Okay." She tilts her head to the side. Her big clunky hoop earrings swing back and forth like pendulums. "This is going to be hard."
    The phone rings and she breathes a sigh of relief. Wouldn't want her to think too long; her lightbulb might burn out.
    Jason's walking out the door when I reach the on-air studio. "Red Bull run."
    I just nod. Does this poor guy do anything else besides play fetch for Derek?
    I slide my book bag off my shoulder and lean against the wall. Derek's bound to turn around soon. I stare at my raw cuticles in the meantime. I could definitely use a cleanup.
    Next time Mom's on the attack, I'll let her fix up my nails.
    Derek rolls his chair back. "Oh, I didn't see you there. You're like a cat. You just slink right in."
    He's staring at me like he's waiting for an answer, but I don't have one.
    "You like cats?" he purrs.
    Ew. That is so nasty.
    I nod.
    "Bet you're a real kitty cat in . ." He wheels his chair closer to me. "Wait, are you eighteen?"
    "Yes," I mutter.
    "Still. I better stay away." He stretches his legs out in front of him. "You have one?"
    I grit my teeth and try to spray some venom on him. "One what?"
    "Mom's allergic."

    "Me, too. I knew your mom and I had something in common. She's a cougar." He laughs.
    Ugh, if he were my stepdad, I'd slit my wrists.
    The song "Doomed Tuesday" is fading out, so Derek quickly turns back to the console.
    He slides down the tune just in time and brings up an old Thwart song. This one's before the band went mainstream, when they still had a lot of grunge to their sound. They had a different bassist back then who was known for performing amazing impromptu solos at many live venues.
    "Old Thwart." Derek points to the console.
    "With Al Montana," I say.
    "I'm impressed. "Derek picks up the playlist and runs his finger down the paper. "I'm doing a flashback hour."
    "How far back?" I ask.
    "Just this decade. What do you want to hear? Maybe we have it?"
    "Juice Box or Mintpaste."
    "So you're a post-punker?" He winks.
    What the hell's that?
    When I don't reply, Derek reads my face, "People that like artsy, alternative bands."
    He grabs the mike before I can respond and the on-air light goes on. "Dynamite Derek here on 92.7 WEMD, The SLAM, giving you a taste of the good old stuff with a miniflashback. Started off the hour with back-to-back Fizzle songs from when they shook the house, had some PIN in there with Heart and No Soul and Thwart with
    "Rocked Out" when Al Montana was still with the band. Got an intern in

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