Happiness: How to Find It — The Lost Intro

by

Fel­low Curios­i­ty Quills ship­mates Sharon Bayliss and Court­ney Young are host­ing a Buc­ca­neer Blogfest!  I decid­ed to set sail with the mot­ley crew for the next cou­ple of weeks and share some fun, excit­ing things about my upcom­ing nov­el Hap­pi­ness: How to Find it.  The nov­el is going to be seri­al­ized on Curios­i­ty Quills.  Start­ing Thurs­day, July 26th, each week you’ll be able to read a chap­ter.  I know that wait­ing each week for your romance fix is not fun, but it is free and there are no com­mer­cials.

The buc­ca­neer prompt today invit­ed writ­ers to share a para­graph from their nov­el.   I’m going to do one bet­ter and share the lost intro­duc­tion to Hap­pi­ness, which was con­ceived on a drunk­en whim one night for an online con­test that I lost.  This tongue-in-cheek chap­ter didn’t sur­vive the edit­ing process, but I thought I would share it for a lim­it­ed time.  Think of it like a DVD extra!

*****

I’m going to warn you up front.  This isn’t art.  It’s a love sto­ry.  I don’t have any­thing pro­found to say and you prob­a­bly won’t leave with any new insights on the world or human con­di­tion.   If this nov­el were a food, it would be can­dy.   How­ev­er, what fun would life be with­out can­dy?  I usu­al­ly write not-so-fun things, such as sto­ries about mis­er­able peo­ple doing mis­er­able things to oth­er mis­er­able peo­ple – awful, ugly sto­ries that give us all a rea­son to per­pet­u­ate that cher­ished human tra­di­tion of book burn­ing.

Not this time.

I’m call­ing it Hap­pi­ness: How to Find it which is also the title of anoth­er book pub­lished by the Watch­tow­er Bible and Tract Soci­ety of New York in 1980.   I’m told that you can’t copy­right a title.  If I’m wrong I’m sure I’ll be hear­ing from the Watch­tow­er lawyers.

One sec­ond while I answer that phone.

 

Where was I?

Ah yes, Hap­pi­ness.

I’m going to try real­ly hard this time to write about sun­shine and rain­bows and ros­es.  Speak­ing of which, this nov­el is about a coun­try girl from rur­al Mis­souri named Rose Gluck.  I want you to pic­ture her now.  Look at Rose in the dri­ver seat of a 1983 Pon­ti­ac Safari sta­tion wag­on, one of those big brutes that you don’t see any­more – the car, not the girl.  I could tell you that her hair is brown and her eyes are blue, but what would that real­ly tell you?  Would it make a dif­fer­ence if her eyes were brown?   How­ev­er, here is some­thing that does mat­ter; she is a mousy lit­tle thing in a flo­ral print dress.  Just look at her: so inno­cent, so clue­less.   She is that girl.  I’m sure you’ve run across her before, the girl that makes no last­ing impres­sion on you. Some­one men­tions her name and you say, “Oh, she’s sweet.”

She is the brown haired, blue-eyed, mousy blank slate sweet thing in a flo­ral print dress that no one real­ly knows or cares that much about.  I mean if right now she were to dri­ve that sta­tion wag­on right off the road and crash into a tree, her funer­al would be packed with hun­dreds of peo­ple shak­ing their hun­dreds of heads, say­ing, “What a tragedy; such a sweet girl.” Then they would look for the fin­ger sand­wich­es and talk more pas­sion­ate­ly about the weath­er.

Speak­ing of which, it’s a glo­ri­ous ear­ly sum­mer day when the sun is shin­ing so bright­ly that you are hap­py to be alive.  It’s the kind of day that made pagans wor­ship the sun and the rest of us want to join in.  Rose loves it too.  She is dri­ving that beast of a vehi­cle, sun shin­ing on her face, and smil­ing sweet­ly like that girl always does.

Why should we even pay atten­tion to her?  Maybe for the same rea­son we watch the chim­panzees at the zoo.  Year after year, they do the same thing and we smile the same smile.  Every­one needs to smile, noth­ing wrong with that.  Or maybe it is for the same rea­son that we watch the train wrecks on real­i­ty tele­vi­sion: so we can encour­age our­selves with smug supe­ri­or­i­ty; my life may be rub­bish, but at least I’m not that girl. How­ev­er, maybe she’ll sur­prise us; maybe we’ll find some­thing in her.  Just maybe we’ll find that under that sweet, Chris­t­ian, coun­try girl exte­ri­or that she is a homi­ci­dal killing machine.  Not like­ly, but you nev­er know with that girl.

I can say this; Rose has secrets. That girl always did whether you knew it or not. Secrets that she would be mor­ti­fied if oth­ers knew about.  Secrets that I will be expos­ing lat­er, not just because I’m a writer and writ­ers are jerks, but because I want you to know that that girl is not who you think she is.  She is a quirky, inter­est­ing, beau­ti­ful per­son and if she dri­ves her car off the road and crash­es it into a tree, god­dammit I want you to care.  (I allowed myself one swear word for this nov­el and it pains me that I used it so ear­ly.)

The year is 1991. Rose is nine­teen years old and is one of Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es.  The nineties were not a ter­ri­ble time to be one of Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es.  I should know; I was one back then.   I had great Jehovah’s Wit­ness friends and went to great Jehovah’s Wit­ness par­ties.  Poor Rose has nei­ther.   Rose has no friends with the excep­tion of the two elder­ly women in that sta­tion wag­on with her – one of which is her grand­moth­er so it bare­ly counts.  The oth­er is Vio­la White­cell, her grandmother’s life­long pio­neer part­ner.   As for par­ties, Rose did go to a Pam­pered Chef par­ty once, but couldn’t buy any­thing because she is poor.  She did win an egg sep­a­ra­tor and that was a high point in her life so far.  Trust me, by the time we are done that egg sep­a­ra­tor is going to be a dis­tant mem­o­ry.

Now we are going to jump across the coun­try to the East Coast where a twen­ty-five year old man is say­ing good­bye to his par­ents.  This is Wyatt True and he is every­thing that Rose is not with the sin­gu­lar excep­tion that he is also one of Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es.  Oth­er­wise he is suave and dash­ing and debonair and every­thing you want a lead­ing man to be.  Hey, he’s every­thing I’d want to be if I could rewrite myself.

I’m telling you about Wyatt now because I don’t want you think­ing that every guy that Rose comes across over the next few pages is the guy she’ll spend the rest of the nov­el pin­ing after.  Wyatt is that guy.  He’s the guy that Rose will want. He is the guy that every girl wants.  What this means is that if Rose is going to get a guy like Wyatt True she is going to have to try extra hard or pray for a Deus Ex Machi­na to make it hap­pen.  As for that, I’m not going to give her one so she is going to have to man up and find out what guys like Wyatt like.

She doesn’t know it yet, but Wyatt likes pret­ty girls.  Rose’s grand­moth­er, the pudgy, dowdy woman next to her always tells Rose that she is pret­ty, but I’m telling you the woman is not to be trust­ed.  One she’s a grand­moth­er and two she is a liar.   For exam­ple she calls her Rose and that isn’t even the girl’s real name.  “Rose” doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll find out lat­er.  You’ll want to stick around for that.

This nov­el is about two Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es falling in love.   If you are not famil­iar with Jehovah’s Wit­ness rela­tion­ships there are some ground rules.  The edi­tor is scream­ing, “show, don’t tell”, but if I showed, this nov­el would be way too long and you wouldn’t read it.  Trust me.  I already wrote that book.  These are the rules:

1.)   Jehovah’s Wit­ness rela­tion­ships devel­op slow­ly.   

How slow?  Slow­er then Rose is dri­ving down that Mis­souri grav­el road right now look­ing for the house of a young man she hopes to con­vert.  The car is crawl­ing and despite the fact that a box tur­tle out­side is keep­ing pace, her grand­moth­er is still yelling.  “Slow down!”

Rose only recent­ly learned how to dri­ve.  It was only after her grandmother’s eye sight real­ly start­ed to go and she ran over someone’s dog out in field ser­vice, that she decid­ed she would allow Rose to learn.  Now Rose does the dri­ving.  This is done under the ever vig­i­lant watch of the near­ly blind grand­moth­er who back­seat dri­ves all aspects of Rose’s life, espe­cial­ly when it comes to guys.

2.)   Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es are only allowed to date oth­er Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es.

Rose has now found the house and she is at the door of a young man she pre­vi­ous­ly left a Watch­tow­er mag­a­zine with.  He secret­ly likes her, which is the only rea­son why he took her mag­a­zine last Sat­ur­day.  Seri­ous­ly, do you think that this shaved head teen with a Metal­li­ca t-shirt and a tat­too of a naked Valkyrie rid­ing on a drag­on has any inter­est in a cov­er arti­cle ask­ingWhich Is The Right Reli­gion?  (Spoil­er: Accord­ing to the mag­a­zine, it’s Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es.) Any­way since he is not in her reli­gion, Rose can for­get about him and we can as well.

There is this guy in Rose’s con­gre­ga­tion named Clin­ton Green – we’ll meet him soon.  He’s the son of the Pre­sid­ing Over­seer, which is like the head hon­cho of a con­gre­ga­tion.  Because nei­ther can date out­side of the reli­gion and their coun­try con­gre­ga­tion is tiny their selec­tion is lim­it­ed to each oth­er.  Truth­ful­ly, sideshow Siamese twins have bet­ter options. Now that Rose is out of high school, every­one assumes that she and Clin­ton will mar­ry.  It’s trag­ic. It’s des­tiny.  It’s an impor­tant plot point.

3.)   Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es are not allowed to date “recre­ation­al­ly”.

The only kind of dat­ing that is allowed is in order to find a mar­riage mate. Rose has nev­er dat­ed, recre­ation­al or oth­er­wise.  Despite being near­ly mar­ried to each oth­er, Rose and Clin­ton have nev­er offi­cial­ly dat­ed – they aren’t offi­cial­ly any­thing oth­er than two peo­ple of oppo­site sex­es in the same con­gre­ga­tion of approx­i­mate­ly the same age.   Since the pur­pose of dat­ing is to find out about the oth­er per­son and Rose has known Clin­ton all of her life, they can skip this step and get right to the holy mat­ri­mo­ny.

4.)   Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es can nev­er be alone with the oppo­site sex.

The thing about Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es is that they can’t be trust­ed.  Put two of them in an enclosed room and they won’t be able to keep their hands off each oth­er. They’ll tear into each oth­er quick­er than a cou­ple of Siamese fight­ing fish in a bowl.  So, it’s best to keep them apart unless they are blood rel­a­tives and even then it still may not be safe.  At least that is the religion’s work­ing the­o­ry.

Rose has nev­er been alone with Clin­ton.  Some­times she will go over to the Greens’ house and sit idly by watch­ing Clin­ton play video games and lick Chee­tos dust off of his sausage-sized fin­gers.   They have to keep the liv­ing room door open because, well, you can’t trust the pow­er of hor­mones and the allure of cheese encrust­ed fin­gers.   Which brings us to the next rule:

5.)   Phys­i­cal inti­ma­cy is strict­ly pro­hib­it­ed for unwed Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es.

To put it blunt­ly, this means, no sex. Depend­ing on how strict a con­gre­ga­tion is, hugs, hand hold­ing, or even sit­ting next to some­one of the oppo­site sex may be strict­ly pro­hib­it­ed.  Rose attends the Kent Springs con­gre­ga­tion where you are bare­ly allowed to look at a guy you aren’t mar­ried to.  If you were hop­ing for lots of steamy bodice rip­ping bed­room liaisons, you prob­a­bly should look else­where.  I can promise you gra­tu­itous hand hold­ing, maybe more, we’ll see.

There has nev­er been any phys­i­cal con­tact between Rose and Clin­ton except that he had once asked her to dance at a wed­ding.  This dance main­ly con­sist­ed of them tee­ter­ing awk­ward­ly back and forth and avoid­ing eye con­tact.  They made sure to keep each oth­er at arms length with a min­i­mum eight inch gap between them so as not to bring down the wrath of Clinton’s dad Jasper, who was entrust­ed to over­see Chris­t­ian con­duct at that par­tic­u­lar wed­ding recep­tion.  He need not wor­ry because Rose has nev­er been tempt­ed to engage in phys­i­cal activ­i­ty with Clin­ton, she can bare­ly stand to look at him.  How­ev­er, he’ll want to keep a sharp eye when irre­sistible Wyatt enters the pic­ture.

6.)   Final­ly, the most impor­tant thing, the one thing you must nev­er for­get: nev­er, nev­er feed a Jehovah’s Wit­ness after mid­night.

There are even more rules than this cov­er­ing all aspects of JW life, but these are basic ground rules when it comes to love and rela­tion­ships in this high con­trol group.  How­ev­er, rules are made to be bro­ken and you nev­er know what will hap­pen espe­cial­ly with that girl and that guy.

Rose and her grand­moth­er have now left the tat­tooed met­al head and are dri­ving to their next des­ti­na­tion. Rose has been down every street, rur­al route, and coun­ty road in Kent Springs and the unin­cor­po­rat­ed out­ly­ing area except for Coun­ty Road 9074.   That is the one road her grand­moth­er avoids as if Satan him­self lives down it. Rose is unsure why, but assumes that it has some­thing to do with her moth­er.  Rose nev­er knew her moth­er and her grand­moth­er tries to keep it that way.   She is afraid it would cause trou­ble.

The grand­moth­er believes she messed up rais­ing Rose’s moth­er and is grate­ful for the do-over.  It’s going well for her.  Being one of Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es is like hav­ing your entire life mapped out from infan­cy.  When Rose was old enough to talk her grand­moth­er helped the tod­dler to raise her hand and offer a com­ment at their meet­ing.  Her com­ment was “Jeho­vah” but it came out as “Hebo­ba”.  That was a proud moment fol­lowed by sev­er­al oth­ers.  For exam­ple, when Rose could read she was enrolled in the Theo­crat­ic Min­istry School, a week­ly con­gre­ga­tion­al train­ing sem­i­nar for learn­ing how to preach the good news. Sis­ters in the con­gre­ga­tion would role-play sketch­es with oth­er sis­ters pos­ing as world­ly women they con­tact­ed in the min­istry.  The theme of Rose’s first talk was “Flee from For­ni­ca­tion”.   She was sev­en-years old and did a com­mend­able job describ­ing all of the vari­a­tions of pornea to her straight-faced fifty-five year old assis­tant.  Her grand­moth­er in the audi­ence applaud­ed enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly.  Rose is now nine­teen and is as per­fect a Jehovah’s Wit­ness as they come.   Rose grad­u­at­ed from High School and imme­di­ate­ly signed on to be a pio­neer min­is­ter.  All Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es are required to go door-to-door look­ing for sheep-like-ones, but zeal­ous ones among them pledge nine­ty-hours a month to the activ­i­ty.  This scores them big points with God and most impor­tant­ly the respect of those in their con­gre­ga­tion.  It makes her grand­moth­er hap­py.  But is Rose hap­py?  No one both­ers to ask her.  They just assume because she is smil­ing sweet­ly that she is con­tent.  As long as Rose con­tin­ues to dri­ve down that straight and nar­row road no one will pay her a bit of atten­tion.  How­ev­er, Rose is bored and some­times when she is chauf­feur­ing her grand­moth­er she secret­ly con­sid­ers turn­ing sharply down that road that she is nev­er allowed to trav­el down.  She won­ders if some­where down that unknown path she can find Hap­pi­ness.

¶ Despatched on Monday, July 16th, 2012 at 5:14 pm and sorted in Writing. ¶ { ReTweet }

6 Responses

mikerJuly 17th, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Although I was a JW for years, and years, being a pio­neer liv­ing and think­ing in Span­ish far away from the States…Why I now Rose?, Why she is so famil­iar to me? I have been his friend, his broth­er, his boyfriend…and here we are…reading about this girl that does not know that life is big­ger than a King­dom Hall.
Good story„,thanks.

mik­er

AnthonyJuly 17th, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Ahoy Sharon! I’m a lit­tle late the par­ty, but hap­py to be along for the ride. Thank you for your work in set­ting up this blog hop!

deshipleyJuly 18th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

A very enter­tain­ing intro, me hearty. Will read­ers have the plea­sure of enjoy­ing this humor­ous voice through­out the whole nov­el?

AnthonyJuly 18th, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Thanks for the nice com­ment! There is humor in the sto­ry, but the fin­ished nov­el has more of straight voice. I hope that you’ll still check it out. The first chap­ter goes live on July 26th.

Leave a Reply