Periodically, people I know see me on TV and call me up in surprise – “Joanell! I just saw you on KQED!”
KQED invited me to be part of a “commercial” years ago, and apparently it is still running. I receive no residuals. Just the feeling I might be helping a station I consider a treasure.
I listen to KQED when I drive because I am in love with stories. I collect them, like other people collect baseball cards or Italian glass baubles. I keep them in an enormous mental storage area. I’m a bit of a hoarder actually, when it comes to stories.
Hearing people’s stories from around the world – not reading them or watching them on the news but really hearing them – that is the power of radio.
As I listen, my mind fills up with images. A reporter with a British accent interviews a mother in a refugee camp in Budapest, and my mind sees the woman, dragging a small child with one hand, on line for food, a loose wrap on her shoulders. During a report about a Jewish Grandmother whose mind has reverted to Polish, due to her current state of early dementia, I picture wrinkled lips pronouncing familiar but forgotten words. Like tasting childhood candies.
Radio allows my imagination to meet the facts, and embark from there. My typical consciousness, as I listen, hovers somewhere in between reality and fantasy. To the point that I am always surprised, when my car turns into my driveway, to be home. I tend to have travelled to another continent during the commute.
Yesterday I listened to a news story about a female Japanese assemblywoman, Ayaka Shiomura, who was heckled by her colleagues as she tried to lobby for better care and services for women. That story is true, which I found frustrating. Actually, appalling. The reporter played a tape from the assembly, of the men yelling out while Shiomura tried to speak. The hecklers suggested she should get on with getting pregnant already, and questioned her ability to conceive.
One of the politicians has publicly apologized, but it was more than one person heckling. An entire political community sat by without standing up against this public misogynistic bullying.
This morning I had the challenge of writing a 500 word story. It isn’t easy, writing less, when you want to say more. The story I wrote, Heckler, was inspired by KQED’s account.
To be clear, my very short story is fiction. But the bizarre incident is real. Links to the KQED coverage is below, as well as Heckler.
As always, I welcome your feedback, comments, thoughts and stories. Whether they are ‘real’ or not.
When my father is accused of heckling on the British Radio station, I run to my laptop to Google the English word “heckle”. Did it mean he had sex with someone other than my mother? Or steal money from the government?
My mother is crying as she packs our lunches. My older sister, Hatsu, says she is embarrassed to go to school.
Heckle – to interrupt a public speaker with rude or impertinent comments.
I feel relieved. He did not cheat on our mother.
“Why do you tell us we can be anything we want to be if we study hard?” Hatsu demands. “What’s the point, if you just want women to stay home and have babies?”
My sister has a fire inside her. Beneath her white blouse, and her secret sexy bra, deep inside her heart, Hatsu burns. If she had been heckled on the Assembly floor, she would not have cried. She would have set the floor on fire with her words.
My father is a brusque, stubborn, and sometimes angry man.
But is he a heckler? He always says it is an honor to be in the Assembly. Everyone should serve Japan in some way.
“Why did you heckle her?” I whisper. No-one hears me.
In the picture online, the woman politician looks like she could sell my mother lipstick at the make-up counter. Pretty, and fashionable. She looks very female to me. She could wear the same delicate bra as Hatsu.
Can a pretty woman make laws?
The mirror in the hallway reflects my image as I walk by. My full lips curve up on the edges. My sister is brave, but I am pretty.
My father makes the laws in the house when he is home. But he is usually out, and then my mother makes the laws, or even Hatsu, with her bad temper.
I never make the laws.
I make figure eights with ice skates. My English is better than Hatsu’s and I have the highest math score in the class. When everyone runs for the door at the end of the day, I stay behind, for a few minutes, to tidy my desk and to stay with the teacher.
“Emiko,” Teacher says, “You are my best student. Your mind is sharp and quick like a stream, when others are stuck in the mud. You must go to college, Emiko. And do something wonderful with your life.”
I imagine her words fit inside a pearl, and I wear the pearl around my neck, always remembering that I am a brilliant stream, running over the landscape of Japan.
“What did you say to her?” My sister shouts at my father before we leave for school. “Were you the one who told her to go have a baby instead of being in the Assembly?”
“Enough!” My father yells at her. “I am not going to listen to this in my home.”
“Sorry.” Hatsu’s voice is heavy with sarcasm. “Was I heckling you?”
PRI Story Link: