Maybe also, 10 Things I Hate About You

by | Jonathan Cardew - February Day 2

Holly leaned me against the cold industrial refrigerator in the just off-stage closet that seconded as a cafeteria bookstore, we worked together all year. Last day of school. In part, because I was senseless, her move on me felt like an act to be cruel…to be kind. She smirked, then winked, her eyes fixed on my mouth, closed the door and put out the light. I barely got a hey off my lips when her kiss was on me. Soft and warm and yet…I imagined her eyes closed but couldn’t say in all that dark. Her left-hand pinned to my chest. That night, at her boyfriend’s party, she said of me for the room to hear, he’s a faggot, I can’t stand him. The last time I saw her was a church on Sunday. Made a point to sit behind her. The priest said to us, Lord, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. God, world without end. She would not turn around.

12 Comments

  1. David O'Connor

    Rogan, love how this is set up, and after the kiss, this line works so well: That night, at her boyfriend’s party, she said of me for the room to hear, he’s a faggot, I can’t stand him. The last time I saw her was a church on Sunday.–it’s got that mad conflict, that negative capability, which every scene should. Although that last line works at a cap, I think there is more to mine here, and can’t wait to read it. Some finely tuned prose here, thanks!

  2. Len Kuntz

    Hey Rogan,

    This takes a cruel, and painful, twist that I didn’t see coming. I read it through several times. There’s a real strength here, a familiar destructiveness we’ve all endured at one time or another, and the fact that this scene takes place during adolescence, and further plays out in humiliating fashion in front of friends, gives it even more power. It’s really striking, and hit a chord with me.

  3. Jonathan Cardew

    Rogan,

    This central, violent act is astonishing! The wet warm kiss and the comment into a social space, an awful outing. This is riveting.

    I love the movement in this piece. The “in media res” at the opening brings us to the crucial moment straight away, but you also (in a sentence!) establish place (cafeteria) and backstory (we worked all last year). That forward momentum continues apace with a mix of short sentences and action sequence sentences: “Last day of school” and “She smirked, then winked, her eyes fixed on my mouth, closed the door and put out the light.” This is sharp, simple, evocative.

    Then the plot! We move from off-stage closet to party to church. I love that we end up in a church–God’s wrath awaits us! That she is sitting in the church and that the MC chooses to sit behind her is a brilliant move. We are both repelled and drawn to our bullies.

    I absolutely love this! I especially love “Soft and warm and yet…”–so pivotal.

    HOW ABOUTS:

    1. Structure. I think you already have a very tight structure–a single block of paragraph with three scene shifts. That being said, there are always different structural possibilities. Could you break this into separate lines? Could you start in the church? I’d love for you to take some time to play with this and see what else happens.

    2. God more? I love the priest’s words in this piece. Especially, “a world without end.” That’s quite a momentous phrase, tying into the idea that being bullied can have no end (even after the bullying). I wonder if you could braid the sermon into the narrative? We’re sitting in the pews but we’re also going into the closet and into the party and back again?

    3. If you do stick with this original form (which you definitely could/should do), I would revise “…an act to be cruel…to be kind.” Can you say this without saying it?

    Gosh, what a special piece! This could go far and wide, but I wonder if you couldn’t pare this down a touch and submit it to 100 Word Story? Would be an amazing 100-worder!

    Thanks for sharing, Rogan.

    –Jonathan

  4. Francine Witte

    So much happens here in this very compact space. I love the movement of it. And him hearing what she says in church really ups the drama. Well done.

  5. Al Kratz

    This is intense. Love it how it is, but for me I wonder about even a slight less compression to help with some of the logistics of where they are at in these different points. 3 settings, the bookstore, the party, and the church. We move through those so fast just wondering about the transitions between them and if expanding gives any different/stronger bearing for the reader to catch up or go with.

  6. Jennifer Todhunter

    wow, what a ride – the movement in this piece is fantastic, and i love how you jerk us between cold and warm, cruel and kind, and that final image is so purposeful and illustrates exactly the sort of person holly is and how sometimes all we want is connection inspite of it coming from the wrong person. great stuff here, rogan.

  7. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Rough little snapshot where the reader is led to believe it’s a coming-of-age/first kiss tale, only take a turn for the awful and unfortunate. And what a powerful final visual of her not turning around. So much happens in so little without feeling forced or busy. Wow.

  8. Kristin Bonilla

    This is one of those stories that I can’t read fast enough because I have to knoooow what is going to happen. I love that the stakes are high from the very start (the stakes are always high at that age) and I have no idea how to read Holly. She smirks and she winks. She could be a hero or a villain. And what a villain. Love where this one lands at the end.

  9. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Rogan, Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to be Kind.” I also had a high school incident. I was in a band, and friends had come to our gig at the Farm Restaurant. And prior to, all sitting & drinking at a big circular table, a former girlfriend, Anne, said loud enough for the entire place to hear, “SO, WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE A FAGGOT, BOB?”
    I suppose many people have lived a version of this damning discrimination or other. Needless to say, I felt your piece so closely, that I’m unsure if I can suggest anything. It’s powerful, and a testimony to how important these stories truly still are.

  10. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Rogan, Love the set up with the cold, industrial refrigerator, and that the narrator had worked with this woman for a year, the way the narrator is caught off balance as Holly moves in to what from the beginning felt intentionally cruel. (And this way being kind– leaves us room to flesh out additional cruelty in our imagination). And this party-girl’s attempt at public shaming (shameless) is sadly such a familiar character that I think any sensitive person who has grown up in America must recognize. I love that you brought in Church and peace to nail home the rigid hypocrisy of it all.

  11. Wilson Koewing

    Rogan,

    I love how this plays with our expectations. Here you think it’s going to be about young love, but then BAM, the boyfriend/faggot twist. Loved it. I also really thought the ending was strong

    Wilson

  12. Georgiana Nelsen

    Rogan,
    Love reading your words again. I spent enough time in churches to know that the only response after “world without end” is a choral Amen…. “so be it” they say is it’s modern translation, and hell yes, he sat behind her and she never turned around. Bullies and cowards are why so many of us have left organized churches!
    Brilliant, as always.
    G

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest