For The First Time In His Life

by | Sarah Day 1 - Group B

For The First Time In His Life

Jay found himself questioning the wisdom of always turning the other cheek, insisting (as Mary would say) on seeing the best in everyone. In that moment he longed to see how it might feel to be rude and judgmental for once. But just the thought of hurting someone’s feelings caused his reflux to rise, his heart to hurt.

So even on that terrible night, when his long-devoted girlfriend said she’d had enough of his fire walking, flame swallowing and other crazy stunts, not to mention how he’d been way too forgiving when some jerk put his hand on her ass at the pub. She’d longed for him set down his chalice of craft IPA and smite that yahoo on his ugly visage, but he’d just lectured him about decency and respect instead.

“Look, babe, your sweetness is part of what I love about you,” she said, tugging a charmingly wayward coil from his ‘fro, “but you always seem to care more about other people’s feelings than mine.”

Though it grieved him, he wasn’t sure he could honestly promise her that he’d change, be the man she wanted him to be. But as he watched his beloved MiMi walk out the door and stride straight-backed down the street, captured in the vivid light of Polaris and the full moon, her linen-cloaked body casting a dramatic shadow, something in him broke. For many minutes he lay paralyzed on the splintery floor, weeping into the warm, wooly coat of his Jack Russell, Muttonchop, until she shook herself free of him with an irritated bleat.

Startled, he rose to his sore, calloused feet—toughened from his daily, contemplative, barefoot walks through the city. “Fuck it,” he said with uncharacteristic force, causing Muttonchop to jump and stare at him as if there was something she wished she could say. “It’s now or never.” Without bothering to change out of his muslin robe, he struck out into the night in the same direction his beloved had departed, but then veered toward the village where that miserable rogue with his roving hands resided. Guided by the same bold light that had graced Mary moments before, Jay clenched and unclenched his fists, resolved to do the one thing that might bring MiMi back to him. Humility be damned.

16 Comments

  1. Mikki Aronoff

    Kathryn, an amazing take on what “turning the other cheek” can mean and the repercussions of carrying out that practice vs. not. You’ve grounded the story in amazing details throughout. And humor (Muttonchop bleating)! Love the sounds: “veered toward the village”…”where that rogue with his roving hands resided.” And how you keep things in the body, Jay clenching and unclenching his hands in resolve. I really like MiMi and her strength of character. Would she go back to Jay if he punched the guy? You had me wondering at the end whether I really wanted Jay to learn what retribution feels like or not. You leave us with moral questions, and that’s fantastic.

  2. Sarah Freligh

    Kathryn, you heretic you! This is brilliant, sly and smart and just the right touch of irony, everything a satirical piece should be. I love how you’ve resurrected Jesus as “Jay” and made him complex in his conundrum, to turn or not to turn the other cheek. It’s such a good conflict and very . . . human! And those fabulous character details — his daily, barefoot walks, his “chalice of craft IPA” (of course, IPA. All the boys do) and most especially his Jack Russell who is wooly and bleats like a sheep.

    A warning that this will get you arrested in certain counties . . .

    I’m thinking that all this needs is a ticking clock, the sense of “that terrible night” as being a specific time, one that’s recent enough to ignite the fire of conflict that churns within him. It’ll click up the passion, push the tension.

    Great stuff!

  3. Sarah Freligh

    P.S. Forgot to mention the faux biblical prose and how well that’s working, too!

  4. Kathryn Silver-Hajo

    Thanks for your great comments, Sarah! I probably will get arrested–or at least shunned…

    Good suggestion re ramping up the stakes of that ‘terrible night.’ Actually, I might need to play with tenses a bit. I intended that everything be in the past, except with that night being the “present.”

    So glad the details and prose are working well. 🙂

    PS–I am loving this workshop even though I’m pretty behind! Hopefully I can catch up by tomorrow.

  5. Sarah Freligh

    No worries about being behind. I will catch up to you wherever you are.

    I often figure out time stuff that way, too, by playing with verb tenses. Something usually pops. I’m not a very intuitive writer, one who can sit back and understand what’s not working — I tend to get in and muck around and find my way out at some point. Usually.

    • Kathryn Silver-Hajo

      Hah, love this! Mucking around and finding my way out at some point should be my mantra! Will we have through the end of tomorrow to post and comment on Day Two stuff?

  6. Chelsea Stickle

    Omg this is amazing, “She’d longed for him set down his chalice of craft IPA and smite that yahoo on his ugly visage, but he’d just lectured him about decency and respect instead.” That sentence is jam-packed with details that tell me so much about everyone. The humor in this piece is so spot-on. I love it.

    My only suggestion would be to get there faster. Maybe condense the first paragraph into one sentence and then go into the night in question? Or call it “Turning the Other Cheek”?

  7. Kathryn Silver-Hajo

    Thanks so much, Chelsea! I’m so excited to be in workshop with so many wonderful folks again. Yay!

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the story and I really appreciate your suggestions. Will take another look at the first paragraph. And, hmmm, yes, great suggestion re–the title. 🙂

  8. MaxieJane Frazier

    Hi Kathryn, I thought my instant connection of “Jay” to Jesus was because of jellyfish Jesus earlier, but no. Yes, as Sarah said, you’re a heretic! I wonder if you could add some of the tension and pressure if we had a sense that Peter was in this cast of familiar characters and this change of heart could be tied to the age-old story of Jesus’s last night?

    • Kathryn Silver-Hajo

      Hi Maxie–I know right? Two Jesus stories from two Kathryns. Kinda weird or karmic or something! Thanks so much for your suggestions!

  9. Traci Mullins

    Kathryn, the whole idea of Jesus wrestling with a moral conundrum is brilliant. Before he grew up to be the Savior of humankind, he was a puddle on the splintery floor, crying into his bleating Jack Russell. Ha! I love everything about this but wonder if cutting the last two sentences would leave more to the reader’s imagination.

  10. Catherine Parnell

    Kathryn, Your use of language and the manner in which idea is woven in (humility) with action really drives home the idea of taking action when necessary! Blasphemy rocks.

  11. Kathryn Kulpa

    Hi Kathryn,
    My Jellyfish Jesus and your Hipster Jaysus need to have an IPA together! This is such a fun piece, and one of my favorite things is the way you play with language, from the ‘exalted’ to the everyday, as in “smite that yahoo on his ugly visage.” I love the dog’s name and that he bleats! I did get a little confused initially about whether Mary and MiMi were the same person, especially because there’s another Mary in the original story. I also felt left hanging by this sentence in the second graf:

    “So even on that terrible night, when his long-devoted girlfriend said she’d had enough of his fire walking, flame swallowing and other crazy stunts, not to mention how he’d been way too forgiving when some jerk put his hand on her ass at the pub.” My first impression was that “on that terrible night” referred to something in the past. Maybe when we get to this crucial point, the language could become a little more simple and direct, more clearly in the present.

    I also second Chelsea’s suggestion about making “Turning the Other Cheek” the title!

  12. Suzanne van de Velde

    Kathryn — what a fun ride! Jesus with reflux — who knew, although of course now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense, these sensitive types and their tummies. Yet the relief of Pepto Bismol is still centuries away. This wild mix of Polaris, flame swallowing and Muttonchop totally works. That miserable rogue really has it coming to him, but I’m thinking Jay may yet quaver.

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