P roduction fever is raging.

Drama run-through on stage NOW, the intercom overhead crackles as Mrs. Lehman is wrapping up Parshah class.

She snaps her fingers, flick, but it’s rather futile because the intercom buzzes to life again, two staccato messages; musical practice after school; tickets for the show being sold in the cafeteria during lunch.

All around the classroom, girls reach for their bags of costumes. Mrs. Lehman snaps her fingers again but much more weakly, throws us an indulgent smile that says show time, but not again, and closes the Chumash with a little air-kiss.

The classroom empties with her, girls scooting off with those ubiquitous garbage bags, screaming, singing, rushing.

Which leaves me at my desk to my apple and my science report.

I’m wild about whales now. I’ve read a whole lot about them in the Encyclopaedia Britannica — how important sound vibrations are, how they essentially communicate in song. Now I’ve got to organize all those marvelous bits of information into a speech I can actually deliver to the class. I take out my notebook and try to decipher my own handwriting.

In the distance I hear music and voices and the rush-rush-rush of hundreds of excited girls. The sounds are muted, like I am a world away from the happy hullabaloo.

In the hushed calm of the classroom, the door burst opens.

Tehilla and her ferocious tape measure. Cornered, is my first wild thought.

I hold my science notebook up in surrender; feeble armor.

The sounds of ripping tape and crinkling paper.

I put my book down with a self-conscious giggle. It is Mrs. Marcus, and she’s affixing a note to the whiteboard.

“Naomi, what are you doing here?” she asks.

“I’m working on my report,” I say, in the most casual tone I can muster.

“Aren’t you in the production?”

“I was,” I say cryptically.

Her eyebrows form a worried V, but she just says, “Hmm.”

I am waiting for her to launch into a tirade about why I’m not where I’m supposed to be, how being here won’t do anything for my social prospects, but she’s still looking at me, her eyebrows like the drawing of a bird now, eyes thoughtful, kind.

She’s nice, I know she is; she was volunteering at the Early Years, and she’s a scientist, a woman after my own heart. But still, this is nothing short of awkward.

I look past her to the sign she’s affixed to the whiteboard.

If anyone needs any resources for their report, come see me in the science lab.

“I do,” I say

“What?” she asks.

“Resources,” I say, “I want to hear the song, the song of the whales. See, I’ve read up about it a lot, but I’d love to hear it for real.”

“That’s wonderful, Naomi, why don’t you come to the lab and I can try to find you a recording?”

Oh, to hear them, those magical sounds I’ve been reading about. I smile and scrape back my chair.

But someone else is in the room now, too. A girl from the other ninth grade.

“Naomi Heller, I’ve been looking all over for you! Mrs. Lehman is calling for you and Shiri Diamant right now.”
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 672)