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Of Cobb Salads, Burnt Cookies, and Radio Shows

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“Caller 72, you’re live on 96.8, the city’s finest radio show for all things trash,” A comedic drumming sound echoes through the cramped corner room of the radio station, “Lay all your deepest and darkest secrets out for the world to hear...all 40 miles of it.”

There’s rustling on the other end of the call, loud, muffled, and horrible. Andrew feels like turning down the volume and switching to the next caller or playing the newest Animal Collective, whatever feels better to his ears. God, he thinks, it sounds like someone’s dying on the other end. Not that Andrew has seen anyone die, but this probably comes close to a murder from Scream. Occasionally, he’d get a few weirdos to call in. Unfortunately, no D’arcy Wretzky or anyone of notoriety, but interesting enough people to get his friends talking at school.

Andrew’s finger hovers over the end call button.

“I love you,” The voice on the other end slurs, “I’ve loved you for-”

“Right…” Andrew interrupts before ending the call and rolling his eyes. He turns to the CD player beside him and pops in Merriweather Post Pavilion.

“Alright enough of that, you’re listening to 96.8, home of love confessions to yours truly. Here’s My Girls…”

---

Trash Hour has been Andrew’s passion project since his sophomore year of high school. It was a project that had been building for years, one that could only be acted upon if Dick from Dick’s Late Night Funny Hour retired. And Dick finally retired, in his own way, by passing away one late Sunday night after a long marathon of M*A*S*H. It only took a few months of prodding Andrew’s Program Director cousin before she finally caved and let him take Dick’s spot. Thankfully, a 35 year old mother of four could take only so many pleading late night calls, and the 11 P.M. - 1 A.M. weekday spot wasn’t exactly popular or sought after (or listened to).

But, that was the least of Andrew’s concerns. There were playlists to make, CDs to burn, soundboards to mess with, and a turntable to learn how to use. Everything had gotten figured out in the end with only a few minor bumps in the road. But, hey, how was Andrew supposed to know almost everything had to be censored on a late night radio show?

Unfortunately, hosting a radio show wasn’t seen as a huge deal by his high school’s population. Sure, his friends tuned in and if he was lucky enough, Andrew’s show was played in the background of late Friday makeout sessions at the local park. At this point, his teachers merely sighed when Andrew rushed another assignment after a late night of hosting. When listing his extracurricular activities with one of the college counselors, the counselor only piped in with an “Oh, that’s interesting” while setting aside a pile of brochures.

Andrew had walked out that day with two recruitment flyers for the military (gross), a pamphlet from the local community college, and a magazine about small liberal arts colleges.

So, yeah, Andrew was no genius in the making, but again that was the least of his worries.

Andrew thought senior year was supposed to be fun, exciting, something at least a little akin to High School Musical 3. For Christ’s sake, he took Culinary Arts (which turned out to be possibly one of the biggest mistakes of his life).

When Andrew thought of Culinary Arts, he thought of baking cookies and taking them to the station for a late night treat. He also thought of pancakes drenched in maple syrup with a side of scrambled eggs.

However, it seemed like his teacher, the infamous Mr. Lombardi, thought of Culinary Arts as less of a breakfast excursion and more of an...art. The first week focused on making salads which, on the surface, seemed easy enough; bowl, lettuce, whatever you can find in the refrigerator, dressing and fork. Yet, after Andrew presented his first salad to his teacher, he is pretty sure his teacher cringed. Deeply.

Later in the week, Andrew fumbled through a cobb salad. Turns out, salads had recipes and specific ingredients and dressings. Apparently, presentation was also important. Everything couldn’t be thrown together. No, everything had to be presented in little lines and the dressing had to be in a little cup. Andrew received a “C-” on his cobb salad because supposedly Hidden Valley ranch wasn’t “comparative” to a homemade dressing.

The next week, Andrew’s Culinary Arts teacher assigned partners and Andrew thought Mr. Lombardi had finally made a good decision. Having a partner in class had gotten Andrew through a year of Chemistry and Biology with flying colors and he wasn’t sure if having a partner in Culinary Arts would go the same way.

Andrew was assigned to be partners with the one and only Will Toledo.

Andrew presumed he could call Will a friend. At one point, the two had been obliged to be friends through a Strokes cover band one of their mutual friends started in middle school. Will was decent at guitar and Andrew was decent at drums (and their friend eerily sounded exactly like Julian Casablancas). The two also had classes together in high school. They exchanged the occasional “Hi, how are you?” or “Do you like Vampire Weekend?” But, beyond knowing Will liked music, Andrew didn’t know a whole lot else about him.

Other than he was absolutely awful at cooking.

Who can’t crack an egg?

Mr. Lombardi started the second week out with a quiche. Andrew already knew he was in trouble when he snuck in Pillsbury Pie Crusts instead of making crust from scratch. But when Mr. Lombardi bit into a bite of quiche and chewed thoughtfully on an egg shell he knew he was screwed.

“Aren’t you supposed to be the smart one?” Andrew asked Will, “Aren’t you in the Honor Club or something?”

Will didn’t reply.

(Andrew’s friend later told him the correct name for the club was National Honor Society).

The second round of quiche hadn’t gone much better. Sure, the eggs were fine this time (thanks to Andrew), but the crust was burnt (thanks to Will). Thanks to the local fire department, Mr. Lombardi didn’t have to try their quiche. Out of an ounce of empathy, he gave the two a “D-” and a note saying to meet him after school.

Now, after school activities have consisted of Andrew and Will holed up at a kitchen station for around two hours. Sure, it’s not like Andrew did a lot after school, but he did consider the remedial pastime to be cutting into his pre-show nap hours. Plus, Andrew was pretty sure he was losing brain cells from the things he has had to taste over the past week. The concoctions Will has made are things straight out of that Shel Silverstein poem Andrew’s mom used to torture him about the dirty sink.

---

It took Andrew every fiber of his being not to complain about Culinary Arts on Trash Hour. Not only did complaining about classmates mean the radio station could get sued, it also meant the vibes were off. Nobody wanted to listen to the Smashing Pumpkins in between some guy whining about quiche. Quiche was a topic for the early morning crowd. Plus, Andrew was getting more static filled calls and a piece of him was afraid the caller had simply fallen asleep while waiting.

He was getting boring and there was no place for boring in showbiz (unless you were The View). But, hey, if Andrew played an abnormal amount of songs about food, that was nobody’s business but his own. And, Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America was an absolute banger.

---

“You make William nervous.” Mr. Lombardi commented one day when Andrew stayed behind to clean up after school for extra credit, “Very nervous...I think it’s quite peachy.”

“Why would I make him nervous?” Andrew rolled his eyes and paused his Nine Inch Nails playlist, “We barely say anything to each other anyway. We’re partners by force-”

“By choice,” Mr. Lombardi rolled his eyes and dismissed Andrew as if he didn’t control how the class functions, “I think that’s precisely the problem-”

“There’s no way I can be the reason Will can’t bake chicken,” Andrew crossed his arms, “That should be his mom’s problem.”

“A little misogynist, are we?” Mr. Lombardi shook his head, “Anyway, you don’t understand Mr. Katz.”

“Whatever.”

And with that, Andrew resumed scraping chicken off the bottom of the pan. Misogynist?

Andrew totally respected women.

“I like your little show.”

“Show?” Andrew’s eyebrows wrinkled in concern, “What show?”

“Thrash Hour? Trash Hour? I can’t really tell a difference,” Mr. Lombardi leaned against the back of his desk, “It’s...nice.”

“You listen to Trash Hour?” Andrew asked incredulously.

“Of course. I know more than you think Mr. Katz,” Mr. Lombardi dug around in his desk and pulled out a dingy CD case, “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about your little show,” He forced the CD case into Andrew’s spare hand, “I think you should play this on your show. It’s a demo.”

“Nervous Young Man?” Andrew wrinkled his nose, “What is this?” The CD case consisted of a crudely doodled CD. No credits. No lyrics. Nothing, “Is this yours?”

“Oh, God no,” Mr. Lombardi snorted, “It’s a...colleague’s.”

“Oh...”

“I might give you a few extra points on next week’s assignment if you play it….you know next week is soup week…and soup is an awful terrible thing to burn-”

“I’ll play it tonight.” Andrew sputtered. He looked down at the CD. A clumsily drawn dog stared back at him. Its little beady eyes mocked Andrew.

For some reason, Andrew really hated that feeling.

“Thank you. I’ll be tuning in,” Mr. Lombardi finally said after a few moments of silence. He smiled and the inside of Andrew’s stomach churned, “And, Andrew, you should really pay more attention to your callers.”

And with that, Mr. Lombardi exited the classroom.

Andrew cringed.

Was Mr. Lombardi one of his secret callers?