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Meet Sam, the straitlaced computer-science major from Brigham Young University. And then meet Charly, the sparkling, quick-witted girl who steps into his world and turns it upside down. Their courtship is a never-ending round of ups and downs- literally. On their first date Charly tricks Sam into taking a Ferris wheel ride, then tells the operator they're engaged! All of this seems to be a little more than Sam can cope with. But he gradually comes to appreciate Charly's point of view. From the girl who loves to laugh, he learns to do the same. He finds out for the first time what it's like to be really alive. Charly is a story of joy and spontaneity, learning and loving, and, most of all, growing.
About the Author
Jack Weyland received a bachelor’s degree from Montana State University and a Ph.D. from BYU. He teaches physics at Brigham Young UniversityIdaho, where he is also known for his saxophone playing and wry sense of humor. He and his wife, Sheryl, have five children and live in Rexburg, Idaho.
Charly?” the funeral director asked.
“Yes, Charly,” I answered. “Her given name was Charlene, but she hated it.”
The funeral director paused respectfully, cleared his throat, and politely objected, “Generally we put the given name on the headstone.”
“Then this will be an exception for you, won’t it?” I replied.
It all began six years ago, between my junior and senior years at Brigham Young University. I stayed at home that summer and worked as a computer programmer for an engineering consulting firm in Salt Lake City.
Dad and I had jogged two miles that early June morning and were eating our nut-like cereal on the patio overlooking the city.
“Sam, you remember the new manager I was telling you about,” Dad asked as he downed his vitamin pill, “the one that was transferred from New York? Well, he’s finally found a house and his family moved out here last week. He’s got a daughter your age. Naturally, she doesn’t know anyone in Utah.” He paused, hoping I’d volunteer and not force him to spell it out.
“That’s too bad,” was the best I could do.
“I was wondering if you’d take her out once just as a favor.”
“I’m kind of low on money right now. I’m saving to get my Jeep fixed—I can’t get it out of four-wheel drive.”
“Maybe I could help you out,” Dad said.
“Is this girl LDS?” I asked.
“Sorry—I only date LDS girls.” I was enjoying this. It was the same discussion we’d had in high school, but this time the roles were reversed.
“I’m not asking you to marry her,” Dad pleaded. “Think of it as missionary work.”
“All right,” I reluctantly conceded, “I’ll take her to the Visitors’ Center and then buy her a milk shake.”
“Can’t you do any better than that? She’s the daughter of our regional manager. Why don’t you take her to the country club for dinner? I’ll treat.”
“In my Jeep?” I pressed.
“No, take my car.”
“Good idea, Dad,” I said, basking in my brilliant victory.
The elation was short-lived, however, as the event arranged by the two fathers approached. Somewhere in this city, I thought, a few days before the date, is a girl who was born and raised near New York City, who now is attending Columbia University, majoring, of all things, in philosophy, and I’m going to be stuck with her for one long, dreadful evening. I made a half-hearted attempt to read about the life and works of Immanuel Kant, hoping to use the material as a life raft in a dying conversation.
A few days later, I drove to her house, a cross between a fort and a colonial mansion, designed as nearly as I could tell after the Alamo.
“Sit down,” her father said, ushering me into the living room, which was big enough to house two racquetball courts. “Charlene will be here in a minute. Can I get you anything?”
“No thanks,” I said, feeling a drop of nervous perspiration cascade down the underside of my right arm. “Hot out, isn’t it?”
“If you think this is bad, you should be in Manhattan in the summer.”
A long pause followed while I fantasized about being on the Provo River casting into my favorite fishing hole—or anywhere except here trying to think of something to say to my dad’s boss before taking his philosophical daughter out.
“It’s the humidity,” I finally said.
“Really?” her father answered, getting up, no doubt deciding that if this conversation were to last much longer he would need a drink.
“Sure,” I said.
Just then Charlene’s mother entered the room.
“This is my wife.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” I beamed, standing up in an imitation of Cary Grant from an old movie.
We all sat down.
“Sam was just telling me about humidity.”
“Really?” his wife said from behind her perpetual society smile.
“Yes,” I said. “Have you noticed the difference in humidity between here and New York?”
At that moment Charlene sauntered in. I was impressed. She looked like a model for a diet soft drink commercial. I stood up with an extended hand.
“And this is our daughter Charlene,” her father beamed.
“Charlene, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine, I’m sure,” she said, looking strangely at my outstretched hand. As we shook hands she, still smiling sweetly, dug her fingernails into my palm.
“Would you like some sunflower seeds?” she asked, heading for a bowl on the mantel of the fireplace.
“Sam was just explaining about humidity,” her father commented as he got up again to finish mixing a stiff drink to help him through this.
“It must’ve been fascinating,” she said dully, thrusting the bowl of sunflower seeds at me. “Go on, take a big handful.”
Believing it to be some obscure East Coast tradition, I grabbed a bunch of seeds. “There’s a difference in humidity between here and New York.”
“So what?” she asked.
Nervously I cracked a seed between my teeth and picked out the meat with my tongue. I should have wondered why nobody else was having any, but it wasn’t until months later I discovered this was Charly’s way of protesting being forced to go out with a hayseed from Utah.
“I believe I’ll have a drink, too, dear,” her mother said.
“What?” I asked.
“So what if there is a difference in humidity?” Charly pressed.
“That’s why you feel so uncomfortable now,” I answered, then finished off several seeds quickly in succession.
“I don’t feel uncomfortable,” she said.
I looked around for a bowl to put the shells in, didn’t see one, and therefore suavely stored them in my left hand, saving my right hand free in case there was a need to shake hands with anyone else.
“That’s because we’re inside. Wait until later and you’ll feel uncomfortable.”
“You mean when I’m alone with you,” she countered.
“That’s not what I meant.”
By this time I had a pile of saliva-damp shells in my left hand. Her parents stared hypnotically at the shells, waiting to see what I’d do with them. I suppose they thought this to be some obscure western tradition.
I hadn’t read that many etiquette books, but somehow I suspected it wasn’t proper to plop the mess on their marble coffee table.
There was only one thing to do. I popped the shells in my mouth and chewed them up and swallowed.
“All right!” Charlene beamed.
“Well, you kids run along and have a good time,” her father said, standing up quickly to get rid of us.
We drove silently for several blocks.
“How much is your dad paying you for taking me out?” she finally asked.
“I was happy to take you out,” I lied.
“I bet. What would you think about turning off the air conditioner? It’s freezing in here.”
“No, it’s not. Besides, I very seldom get to drive a car with air conditioning. Why don’t you check the blower so it’s not aimed directly at you?”
She sat and glared at the dashboard, rubbing her arms for warmth.
“Tell me, Charlene, how do you find the difference in elevation between here and New York?”
She looked at me as if I were crazy.
“See, we’re higher here,” I babbled away, “and that means the air is thinner, so you have to breathe faster than you did in New York. Have you noticed yourself breathing faster here in Utah?”
She glared icily at me, enjoying my suffering. Finally, after what seemed a year, she said, “Don’t call me Charlene.”
Unable to let disaster alone, I plunged on. “See, if you climbed some of these mountains, you’d find yourself getting tired because the higher you go, the less oxygen there is, and the less oxygen there is, the faster you have to breathe. That’s what I meant about fast breathing.”
She shook her head and mumbled, “How could my own father do this to me?”
I decided to abandon the weather and play my trump card. “What do you think about Immanuel Kant, seventeen twentyfour to eighteen o-four?”
She opened the side window and deliberately adjusted it so the hot outside air was blowing directly on me.
“It’s a waste of gas to have the air conditioning on and the window open.”
“You never told me how much your dad is paying you to take me out.”
“Not enough,” I said, giving up.
She folded her arms and turned away. When I looked at her a few minutes later, there were tears on her face.
“I didn’t mean that—I’m sorry. Look, I’m turning off the air conditioning. Oh, and there’s a Kleenex in the jockey box.”
“And why would I want one?” she challenged.
“Because you’re crying.”
“I’m not crying. My contacts are bothering me.”
“Probably a result of the difference in humidity between here and New York! Anyway, the Kleenex is still in the jockey box.”
“I’ve got my own,” she muttered, rummaging through an old leather bag. Eventually she found one crumpled, previously used tissue, which she smoothed out and used.
“Will you take me home, please?”
Whirling into a shopping center parking lot, I made a Uturn and hurried back toward her house. We drove in silence.
I shut off the motor at her curb. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out.”
“It’s no big thing.”
“No, it’s probably my fault. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t looking forward to this. I figured you’d be rich, spoiled, and boring.”
“You’re not boring.”
“I’d better go in now,” she said, reaching to open the car door. “It’s getting late.”
“It’s only seven o’clock.”
“Well, I have a big day tomorrow. I have to wash my tennis shoes.”
We started for her porch.
“Look, you think it’s easy going out with a girl from New York? My dad and I thought you’d like the country club— especially my dad. I never would’ve taken you there myself. It’s very expensive.”
“Listening to you talk about humidity and watching old golfers slap each other on the back? No thanks.”
“Believe me, it’s not my idea of fun either,” I said.
We stood at her door, staring at each other.
“What is your idea of fun?” she asked.
We stood and talked about things we had always wanted to do but never could find anyone to do them with. A few minutes later we drove to a park and blew all my dad’s money on a roll of tickets to the Ferris wheel.
“What’s your name?” Charly asked the tall, white-haired attendant as he helped us into the Ferris wheel car.
“Mr. Raferty, I’d like you to meet my fiancé. He’s just proposed, and you’re the first one we’ve told.”
“She’s just kidding,” I explained. “Actually, we’ve only just met.”
Apparently Mr. Raferty was hard of hearing. “Congratulations, kids.”
“Why, thank you,” she smiled. “Sam and I want to ride your Ferris wheel for a long, long time. You understand, don’t you?”
“Sure, I’m not that old,” he said with a wink.
We rode and talked. Up over the trees, the laughing children, the crying children, the picnicking families, the merrygo-round, and then back to earth and Mr. Raferty, who gave us a smile as often as he could.
“Are you a Mormon, Sam?”
“Well, is there some way I could learn about Mormons this summer while I’m here?”
“I think I could arrange that,” I said.
The missionary discussion, held a week later, had gone well, I thought. The missionaries had left after the cake and ice cream. Charly and I walked in the backyard looking at the garden.
“Well, what do you think about what we talked about tonight?”
“What are those?” she asked.
We walked between the rows of the garden. I don’t think she had ever seen such a large family plot.
She always kept a few vegetables ahead of me.
“Charly, what about the discussion?”
“What do you do with all this stuff?”
“We can it.”
“Doesn’t my dad pay your father enough?”
“What about the discussion?”
“I don’t believe a word of it. And these?”
“Garden beans. Why don’t you believe it?”
“The whole thing is ridiculous. Prophets, angels, apostles, books of gold. The hardest thing to understand is why you believe it. I mean, you look like an intelligent person.”
“Is that right?”
“Of course, looks can be deceiving.”
We’d come to the raspberries. I picked a few for us. “You know, it’d help if you were a little more humble. That’s the trouble with you Easterners—you all think you know everything.”
“Columbia’s taught me to use logic and reason. You should try it sometime.” She popped a handful of raspberries in her mouth. “These’d be terrific with ice cream.”
“There’s nothing wrong with logic and reason, but to know for sure if this is true, you also need to pray about it.”
“I know what this is—corn. Right?”
She knelt down and touched a little corn plant. “Pray to what?”
“I haven’t made up my mind yet about Him or Her or It.”
“It’s a Him.”
“Why does it have to be a Him?”
“I don’t know why. It just is.”
“How come you’re all so positive about this? It just drives me up the wall. Where in Utah can I find some old-fashioned doubt and uncertainty?”
“I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Savior has restored his church back on earth.”
“You can’t know that for sure.”
“I know it.”
“You believe it, but you can’t know it. There’s nothing in this world you can really know.”
“If you pray about this and continue to study, God will manifest to you that it’s true. And then you’ll know.”
She patted the top of another corn plant. “Do you know the Indians called this maize?”
“Look, we can pray again about this if you want. I know a place behind the lilacs where it’s secluded.” I pulled her to the little “lilac room” where I had played fort as a boy. I remembered it as a big room, but that had been when I was eight years old. It had shrunk since then.
“It may be a little crowded,” I confessed as we looked at the one-foot opening through the bush.
“Are you kidding? I’m not going in there.”
“All right, let’s try behind that peach tree.” I dragged her to another spot, but just as we got there, our neighbor started his lawn mower a few feet beyond us on his side of the fence, giving us both the idea that this wasn’t going to work out. Secluded spots are hard to come by these days.
“Do you want to say the prayer?” I yelled above the roar of the lawn mower.
“Not on your life!” she yelled back.
I knelt down. “Kneel down, okay?”
Just then the mower stopped, which was even worse, as I imagined our neighbor peering through the fence at us.
“If this ruins my nylons, you’re in big trouble,” she warned as she knelt down.
“Now fold your arms and close your eyes and I’ll say the prayer.”
After four words I could tell she was getting up again. I opened my eyes and looked up. She was just standing there, looking at me strangely.
“Sam, you’re definitely crazy,” she calmly said before turning to walk to the house.
On her way, she grabbed a handful of raspberries.
“‘By their fruits ye shall know them!’“ I called to her.
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