Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Answers"

Dear Reader,

This week I thought I'd let you see a little bit of the other things I like to write, and by that I mean fiction. This story is the result of an assignment in my creative writing class where I was asked to create a story entirely in dialogue about a person who tries to convince another not to get married. I started out doing something completely different, but I was walking to work one day and passed a bus stop, and the story just smacked me in the face so hard that I knew I had to write it down so I could get it out of my head. I've never done a story quite like this before, and it's actually my first attempt at Mormon fiction. So here it goes . . .

Answers

“Hey there, Elder. Oh, don’t hide your name tag. Missionaries only do that when they’re about to do something shameful.”

“Oh.”

“And I just have to say that when you’re sitting at the bus stop alone on a Saturday morning, there’s no one around who doesn’t know what you’re up to already.”

“Who are you again?”

“Don’t you remember me? I was the one who broke up your Jell-o shot party last week.”

“So you work in the cafeteria.”

“Don’t look at me like that; I’m not the one running away from the MTC.”

“At least I don’t have food all over me.”

“Hey, you forget that I’ve just spent all morning washing your dishes. You’ve obviously got a lot to learn . . . who is she?”

“Who is who?”

“The girl you’re running back to. Who is she?”

“How do you know that there’s a girl?”

“You don’t look mad enough to be doing it for a good reason.”

“Excuse me? What’s a good reason?”

“If the Church wasn’t true. That’s a good reason. It’s the only good reason. But it is, and you know it, so it has to be a girl.”

“How do you know that I know?”

“You’re conflicted. You’ve got that look in your eyes that says that you’re trying to decide if you should do what you want to do or what you know is right.”

“How can you come and sit down next to me and just say stuff like that? You work in a cafeteria.”

“Is that all you see when you look at me? Pity that you looketh on the outside of a girl. If you must know, I’m a BYU student, in the honors program as a matter of fact, and I’m a good three years older than you, so you ought to respect your elders.”

“You’re judging me by what you see.”

“No, if I was doing that, seeing a handsome young man in a business suit waiting for the bus with that black tag, I wouldn’t think that you were what you are.”

“And what’s that?”

“Selfish.”

“Thanks.”

“The only reason people ever do the wrong thing is that they’re selfish. You know, putting themselves before the Lord?”

“I’m not doing this for me, not that it’s any of your business.”

“Oh, don’t lie to yourself. It’s not really for her and you know it.”

“What exactly do I know?”

“Well, I’m sure that you’re sitting there telling yourself that if you’re not there she’ll fall to pieces and apostatize or something, but you’re just trying to convince yourself because deep down you know that you are supposed to be on the other side of that fence.”

“Your knowledge of my inner thoughts are quite astounding, Sister.”

“You mean is. My knowledge is quite astounding.”

“Great, now you’re correcting my grammar, too. When it this bus going to get here?”

“Oh, not for another five minutes at least, and by the way, I’m a college student. I can’t help but correct you.”

“But the sign says that it comes at the half hour.”

“In the two years I’ve worked here, the bus has never been less than five minutes late. Looks like you’re stuck with me just a little longer.”

“Great.”

“Of course, there’s always time to go back.”

“No.”

“I won’t tell anyone.”

“Somehow, I find that hard to believe.”

“Okay, now you’re projecting your own guilt onto me. It’s just not healthy.”’

“What did you say you were studying at BYU?”

“I didn’t, but it’s psychology.”

“Figures.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“So you were going to tell me about this girl you’re in love with.”

“I’m going to marry her.”

“When, tomorrow?”

“Maybe.”’

“Is she a member or not a member or what?”

“Like I said, it’s none of your business. But she’s taking the discussions.”

“Ah, the plot thickens. You’ve got an investigator at home and you think that you not serving a mission will help her join the church and marry you.”

“Well, yes.”

“Like I said, you’re deceiving yourself.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“The thing she really needs right now is an example. She’s looking at you as a guy who’s willing to sacrifice something, and maybe she’s wondering if the thing you’re sacrificing for is worth it. How are you going to show her that it is by going home?”

“She won’t see it that way.”

“You’re a missionary. The moment you put on the name tag people are always watching you. Like the other day with the Jell-o shots. You might have thought that it was pretty amusing, but what you didn’t know is that there’s a guy on our crew who’s from Nigeria. He’d never even heard of the Church before he came here. But we’d been talking to him about things and he seemed interested, but when he saw you and your buddies acting like a bunch of monkeys, he refused to let us contact the Provo missionaries.”

“So it’s all my fault then, huh?”

“Well, let’s just say that you tarnished a reputation that is important for missionaries to have. You thought you were safe. You think that all of your hours of studying and rule-abiding mean that it’s okay to be a little rebellious in the cafeteria. Well, you’re still the Lord’s servant, even when you’re eating, and people are still watching.”

“What do you even know about serving a mission? Have you served one?”

“Well, no, but . . .”

“Then you know nothing.”

“I know that you are supposed to be on a mission right now. The Church is true, right?”

“Well, I guess.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Elder. You know that you know. Now, if the Church is true, then the prophets are prophets, right?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Then if the prophets are prophets, you should do what they tell you to do. And they’re telling you to go on a mission right now. It’s the whole Nephi principle. You follow the commandments, and things work out.”

“You make it sound so simple.”

“That’s because it is simple, Elder. Most things are.”

“My situation isn’t.”

“Yes it is. You have been commanded to do something, and you’re afraid to do it, so you create this entire scenario about how your girl back home will fall away if you’re not within five feet of her. Seems pretty simple to me.”

“You don’t even know her.”

“I know that she’s not good for you.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Because she’s leading you away from the truth. Or at least, you’re making her do that. There’s a time and a place, and your place isn’t at this bus stop or back home. It’s here. I’ve seen people like you before. Are you willing to live the rest of your life knowing that you were so close to having the best two years of your life and that you threw it all away? What will your girl think of you? What will you think of yourself?”

“Why am I even talking to you? I don’t even know you and you sit down next to me and start insulting me?”

“If you don’t like me, you can leave. The thing is that the only place to go is back to the MTC. Your choice.”

“Or you could leave.”

“Not gonna happen.”

“Figures.”

“You really think that you have to be there for her to be baptized, huh? Don’t you have any faith in her agency?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s supposed to mean that we were sent here on Earth to make our own choices. If you’re in love with this girl, you must trust her, right? If you trust her, you should trust her to make her own decisions like she’s supposed to.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Yes it is. In fact, if she doesn’t make this decision on her own, how can you know she’s doing it for herself and not for you?”

“I’ll just know.”
“How?”

“Just drop it, okay?”

“What the . . . oh, I see that look in your eyes. You’re trying to hide something from me, but you’re not doing a very good job.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“By the way you’ve been talking, you must think you’re the dumbest guy on the whole planet. You’re not sure about the Church or the prophets or anything, and you’re just so dense that you can’t even get what I’m implying when we both know that I’m being exceedingly blunt. You have to realize that we’re both seeing the same thing here, it’s just that I’m blanking on this one thing that’s in your eyes, what is it? Oh, I know. She’s the one, isn’t she?”

“Is this bus coming or what?”

“Don’t change the subject; she’s been writing you, hasn’t she? She’s been saying stuff like she can’t understand the gospel the way the Elders are explaining it, and it was so much better when you were there. And then she said that you had this special spirit that made her want to learn more about the Gospel, but these new guys just aren’t doing it for her.”

“No she didn’t.”

“Well, she’s lying.”

“How do you even know that?”

“Ha! Got you. She really did say that, didn’t she?”

“Well, not in those words, but . . .”

“She’s manipulating you.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because the Spirit is the same no matter where you go. The Church is, too. If the missionaries are bringing her the same Spirit she felt around you, wouldn’t that just make her testimony stronger?”

“I guess.”

“So don’t you think that this whole ‘come home and save my soul’ business sounds just a little fishy?”

“You don’t even know her.”

“You’re right; I don’t.”

“Finally, I’m right about something.”

“But I know people, and I know people who try to get missionaries to come home. If she really loved and respected you, she’d respect what you were doing for your beliefs, especially if she’s experimenting on the Word herself. She’s manipulating you.”

“You already said that.”

“Well, I’ll say it until you’ll listen.”

“I am listening. At this point, it’s not much of a choice.”

“Maybe you’re hearing me, but I don’t think you’re listening. You’re not even listening to yourself. You’ve got a girlfriend who’s steering you away from what you know is right and you’re so confused you don’t know what to do with yourself. Well, I’ll tell you what to do. You just go back. I won’t tell anyone, and for all they know you went to see the nurse or something.”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“Well, I’m sure you can think of something. Your district president is the only one who needs to know the truth.”

“The last time I talked to him, he was talking to me about the Jell-o thing. You reported it to him.”

“Well, first of all, that’s the rules, and second, it wasn’t me, it was my supervisor.”

“Same thing.”

“Well, you can’t blame me for all your problems.”

“That seems evident.”

“Look, there’s the bus coming right now, have you made your choice or not?”

“I think I’d stay here just so I don’t have to listen to you anymore.”

“Well, it’s a start. Are you going to admit to yourself that serving a mission is the right thing or are you going to go off like a coward and hate yourself for the rest of your life?”

“You know you’re incredibly over dramatic?”

“Well, I am a theater minor.”

“Ahhh.”

“Well, the bus is here, and I’ve got to read a chapter on Alzheimer’s by four, so I leave you to make your choice.”

“Fine by me.”

“You gonna stay there?”

“I’m not going on that bus with you, that’s for sure.”

“Well, I hope I see you tomorrow at lunch, Elder. Tomorrow’s pizza.”

“Okay, see you, Sister.”


In the end, I honestly don't think it's the best piece of writing I've done, but I was really aiming for non-cheesy, and I think I managed. Mostly, I think it just means a lot to me personally, because the bus is always late, and the missionaries do have Jell-o shot contests, and my Nigerian co-workers were taken aback. But I think that there's probably a little more to it, maybe something that can be changed and shaped into a better story in the future. After all, writing is never finished; it's just abandoned.

Regards, best wishes, and dialogue,

-Cecily Jane

3 comments:

lina said...

That was really fun. I think I'll send it to Shaun, I'm sure he'd enjoy it.

lina said...

so shaun liked the story, he said it was especially interesting because his comps girlfriend had just gotten baptized.

Cecily Jane said...

That's really cool! I'm glad that you both enjoyed the story.