What’s In Jenifer’s Bag?
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By Chris Wood
“What to say? What to say?”
“You’re doing it again,” Frank looked up from his notebook, across the table.
“What? Oh, sorry,” Dan realized he was talking out loud again. This annoyed Frank something fierce. “I can’t help it, you know.” Dan was tapping his pen on his notebook: His notebook with nothing written in it.
The two had been in the library for almost an hour, and while Frank had been writing for almost the entire time – minus the interruptions from Dan – Dan had written nothing. Well, nothing except for the title.
“Look, we have an assignment to do here. I don’t have to tell you that there’s also a deadline and that it is more than half of our grade for the class. I don’t have to tell you, because you know,” Frank shook his head. “I’m not flunking because you don’t know, ‘What to say?’”
Dan and Frank had a rather ambitious assignment for a screenwriting class they enrolled in. Both has taken an interest in the class, and being roommates, decided it would be a good idea to work together. They both were movie fanatics so it seemed to make sense.
“It just has to be great, you know.” Dan had a habit of saying, “you know” in the middle or at the closing to most things he said. Frank was the type to take notice of things like that and have them annoy the hell out of him. Really, it drove him crazy. So it was no surprise that after only a few more minutes of Dan’s nervous pen tapping and shifting his weight in his chair, that Frank got up.
“All right, listen,” Frank started, “I’m going back to the apartment to get some work done. Just stay here and try to do the same, all right.” Frank put his notebook in his shoulder bag and zipped it up. He pushed in his chair and left. He was really wound tight. The type that goes nuts if the faucet is dripping cause someone didn’t turn it off all the way.
“Jeeze!” Dan said, sighing and leaning back in his chair. He cracked his neck by turning his head to the side, then turned to the person at the next table. “I wish I didn’t team up with him, you know.”
The girl sitting parallel to Dan looked up with the obvious expression on her face, which stated, “And you are?”
“Oh, sorry. Just that we have this big assignment and…Oh, sorry, my name’s Dan,” Dan offered his hand over to the girl. “Dan Douglas. I’m a junior here.”
The girl shifted her weight slightly in her chair, and sighed. Her hands remained on the table, one hand holding a yellow highlighter. Dan, for being such a friendly and outgoing guy, sure could annoy people pretty fast. He had no concept thinking before speaking. If he was thinking it, you’d be sure to hear it.
“Um,” she hesitated.
“Dan. Right. Dan, I’m kinda studying here, so if you don’t mind,” She raised her eyebrows and turned her head slightly, to bluntly state, “Shut up!”
“What subject?” Dan, ignoring the very, very clear body language, persisted.
“Shh!” A student from another table across the way, demanded. He even put his index finger over his lips when he did it.
“What subject?” Dan whispered. “And what’s your name?”
“I think you should do what your friend told you to do and get some work done…Quietly.” The girl whispered, in the loudest decibel a whisper would allow.
“Oh him, he’s just,” but before Dan could finish, the girl interrupted.
“Yea. Hey, I was just going to say that!”
“Well, then ‘jinks’,” the girl sarcastically responded.
“Actually, ‘jinks’ is when two people actually say the same thing at the same time, you know. I just thought it and you actually said it,” Dan was leaning in towards her as he whispered. Boy, Dan could be annoying, but honest, though.
“Oh God,” the girl looked up at the ceiling. She then placed her highlighter in the center of her book and closed it. “Fine. What are you working on?” The girl brushed back her hair from her face and now turned toward Dan, giving him her full attention. Her hair was a chestnut brown and that’s how she described it to people, and how she’d correct them if they just said, “brown.” The cover of her book said, “Biochemistry.”
“That’s a big book,” Dan began, but finally became savvy to the girl’s, “get to the point” body language, and started explaining, “We’re writing a screenplay.”
“Well, we really wanted to work out scene’s first and then weave them into a story. Something very original, though, you know.”
“What’s written on that page you’re on,” the girl pointed to Dan’s almost empty notebook.
“Hmm? Oh, um it says, ‘The Lion’s Paw’. Good title, no?”
“Don’t titles usually come last?” The girl questioned.
“No, no, you can come up with a title first, I think. You know, like the title is the movie’s concept.”
“What does, ‘The Lion’s Paw’ conceive?”
“Well, nothing, er, the concept of how powerful and dangerous it is, you know. Like, the main character could be a very calculating person. A powerful and dangerous person.” Dan was not used to people asking him questions, so he became flustered, but really, it was just because Dan thought the title sounded cool.
“Right,” the girl humored Dan. “How about using the paw as a way to describe how we all have useful parts to us and useless parts to us. The paw could represent usefulness in a character’s journey. A way for them to get over their arc.”
“Yea, I guess. Hey, you should be a writer. What’s Biochemistry like?” Dan felt more comfortable rifling questions than receiving them.
“Shh!” The student across the way shushed again.
“We’re all writers, Dan. Everyone has a story to tell,” the girl said, whispering.
“So what’s your name, anyway?” Dan liked this girl. She was interesting and spoke so matter-of-fact.
“Dan, I’m a graduate student, okay. I’m revered as snotty and pretentious. I spend most of my time inside books most find boring and I don’t have time to talk about characters, plots, scenes and any other little topic an undergrad feels like talking about.” She opened her book back up and took the cap off her highlighter.
“Oh, sorry. But, you know, you’ve been a great help, you know.” Dan said, shifting his weight back towards his table. “I just talk a lot. It helps me think.” He started tapping his pen on his empty notebook again.
There was only a short silence. Dan was looking down at his empty notebook, thinking about interesting character names like: Alcester, Simone, Clark, or Douglas – like his last name.
“Shoot,” the girl broke the silence looking at her watch. She immediately closed her book and clicked the cap back on her highlighter.
“What’s wrong? I said, ‘Sorry’.” Dan was afraid he’d really upset her. And since he now liked her, he didn’t want that.
“I have to go,” she whispered. She grabbed a large black tote bag with purple handles from below the table and put her Biochemistry book into it, her highlighter and a couple of notebooks she had on the table. She stood up and pushed in the chair behind her.
Dan watched her pass between their tables. She flung the tote bag over her shoulder, and between the two handles was the answer to one of Dan’s many questions. It said, “Jenifer,” in bold purple letters. “One ‘n’ and not two,” Dan thought. He looked back at the empty notebook, minus the “cool” title. He then crossed out, “The Lion’s Paw,” and wrote down, “What’s in Jenifer’s Bag?” “I like it,” He thought.
Dan got up from the table and closed his notebook. He pushed in the chair behind him and began briskly walking out after Jenifer. But, Dan, on his way past, spotted the student who had been shushing him from the get-go. He stopped and leaned over him. “I just have to know how it ends, you know!” Dan shouted. He held out his notebook and patted on its cover with his open hand. The student shook his head and mumbled something to the effect of, “moron,” under his breath. But Dan had already continued walking. Dan was humming the kind of music that’s played at the climax of a movie – the type of music that gives the audience a feeling that the main character is going to achieve his goal. Nervous and uncertain, Dan still hummed. “She’s just so interesting,” Dan thought as he reached the main doors to the library’s exit.