by Jack Weyland
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.
A week later I took Charly fishing at Strawberry Reservoir. We left at four A.M. When we arrived, I rented a boat, rowed to my favorite spot, threw out both anchors, and started to fish.
She curled up in an old army blanket and went to sleep.
By the time she woke up, I had caught four nice trout, the sun had come and driven off the patches of fog from the lake, and ten other boats had joined us.
She studied the people in the boats near us, who were all quietly watching their lines.
Suddenly she stood up, cleared her throat, and with a Kissinger-like accent addressed the other boaters: “I suppose you know why we’ve asked you all here this morning. If it meets with your approval, we’ll dispense with the minutes and proceed.”
The boaters glanced at her with disbelief.
“Because some of you have been putting marshmallows on your hooks, the Utah Fish and Game Department, hereafter referred to as the UFGD, has asked me to speak today. Clinical reports just released indicate that the fish in this lake have fiftythree percent more cavities.”
She paused and then yelled sharply, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?”
She waited for an answer but nobody spoke. Most tried to ignore her, but that was hard to do.
“It means the UFGD must now stand the expense of sending a trout through dental school!”
“Charly?” I said.
“Yes, Utah,” she answered demurely.
“Normally, we don’t talk between boats.”
“So sit down and be quiet.”
She sat down. I baited her hook and threw it out. In a few minutes, her line began to feed out smoothly and steadily. When she set the hook, I could tell it was going to be big. Screaming and giggling, doing an impersonation of Captain Ahab pursuing Moby Dick, she reeled in the line and soon I dipped the net into the water and brought up a four-pound trout.
After I had taken care of the fish, she stood up again. “Do you want to know how I caught this fish? I used peanut butter on the hook. It sticks well, and it does not—does not, I repeat—cause little fish cavities.”
Quickly I pulled in both anchors and began to row away.
“We recommend creamy instead of chunky!” she yelled as her parting shot.
“Sam, where are we going?”
“Is the fishing better where we’re going?”
“Oh, I embarrassed you, is that it? Go ahead and say it.”
“You embarrassed me.”
“You’ve got no sense of fun, do you? Life is for laughing.”
“No, you smile faintly.”
To prove her wrong, I laughed. Even to me, it sounded weird.
“No good. Too forced. It’s not spontaneous.”
“I laugh responsibly.”
“And could you define that for us, Senator?”
“After the work is done, if there’s time left over, then I laugh and have fun.”
“You’ve got it all backwards. You’re supposed to laugh during the work. That’s one of the things that’s wrong with you. You never do anything spontaneous. All the time in your head little gears whirl.”
She dipped a cup into the lake and threw the water at me.
I continued to row, my head dripping water.
“No, Sam, you’re supposed to stop rowing and throw some water on me. It’s what we call a water fight. Can you say that for me, dear? Wa-ter fight. It’s one of those happy, spontaneous things people do in this dull world.”
I continued to row silently.
“Sam, does someone plug you in at night to charge up your battery pack? Did the water damage your memory bank? Sam, speak to me so I’ll know you’re human!”
“The water here is deep. If the boat were to capsize, it’d be dangerous.” I headed the boat toward the dock.
“Why should the boat capsize?” she asked apprehensively.
I kept on rowing.
At the dock, I unloaded the fishing gear and my shoes before heading out a little way from the shore. Then I took my string and measured the depth.
“Why did you put those things on the dock and then come out here?” she asked.
I sat down beside her in the boat. “The water here is only five feet deep,” I said.
“I guess I shouldn’t have dumped water on you. Right?”
“So I’m not spontaneous enough, is that it?”
“Oh, it’s really nothing,” she said meekly.
With a sudden lunge, I pushed her into the lake.
“You dirty rat!” she yelled after she came up again.
“I’m laughing now, Charly. Do you hear me?”
“You … you computer!”
“That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
When I tried to help her into the boat, she rocked it sharply, throwing me also into the water.
♦ ♦ ♦
“How much more time are you going to be spending with Charly?” my father asked one morning at breakfast.
“I don’t know. Why?”
“Her father called me into his office yesterday and made it perfectly clear that they don’t want her to become a Mormon.”
“Not much chance of that.”
“Then why is she still taking the discussions?”
“It’s a hobby with her—tripping up the missionaries.”
“Well, her parents are still worried,” he said, reshuffling his newspaper for emphasis. “And there’s another thing.”
“Your mother and I are worried you might be getting interested in her. She’s not a member of the Church, and you know how we feel about the importance of temple marriage.”
“I feel the same way, Dad.”
“Good, then quit seeing her. You’ve done enough fellow-shipping.”
“She’s my friend.”
“There are plenty of good LDS girls in our ward without you chasing her.”
“I’m not chasing her. It’s just that she loves to go fishing.” I realized that wasn’t quite accurate.
“All right, then limit your activities to fishing.”
“Fine,” I agreed nonchalantly as if she didn’t mean anything to me, but at the same time wondering why I hadn’t dated anyone else since I’d met Charly.
That’s why the only activities we shared for the next few weeks were listening to the missionary lessons and going fishing.
Three weeks later we were back on Strawberry Reservoir in a boat. Fishing was slow that day.
“You haven’t said much about the Church since I tried to pray with you.”
“I decided to be fair. We Easterners are noted for our fairness.”
“Yes, I’ve heard about the Salem witch trials,” I countered.
“Not bad, Sam. Stick with me and I’ll make you a wit. You’re halfway there now.” She opened a sack of oranges, tossed one to me, and kept one for herself.
For a few minutes she concentrated on peeling her orange. Then, quietly and soberly, she said, “I’ve read the Book of Mormon.”
“You have?” I said, completely shocked, since around the missionaries she never answered a question seriously. “What do you think about it?”
“You’re not going to make us kneel in prayer in this boat, are you?” she gently teased.
“No, just tell me how you feel about the Book of Mormon.”
For a long, serious time, she studied the ripples in the water. And then she began. “Humor ‘em all along, I said. Take the lessons, go to church, and then when summer’s over, leave ‘em laughing. After all, it’s just a part of the Utah tour.
“I grew up in New York. As a child my parents made sure I was exposed to culture and reason—the Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I know opera arias the way you know cowboy songs.” She paused. “Do you know what I’m saying?”
“No, what are you saying?”
“I’m an intellectual! I’m not one of your sweet farm girls— there’s nothing sweet about me. And then you come to me with your ‘two-and-a-half-minute talks.’ Why not three minutes, for crying out loud! Sam, I was all set up to spend the rest of my life laughing at the world. There was so much to ridicule, so many balloons to pop. It’d take a lifetime.”
“Don’t give me a dissertation, Charly. What about the Book of Mormon?”
That’s when the tears began to flow.
“It’s true. Of all the rotten luck, it’s true.”
“What is?” I asked.
“The whole thing—the plates, the angels, all of it.” She continued to cry.
“You mean you believe it?”
“Sure, don’t you?”
I ate my orange and wondered what I was supposed to say.
“Then why are you crying?”
“Don’t you see? When fall comes and I go back to school and my friends come up and ask, ‘Did the Mormons get you?’ what do I say?”
“Bear your testimony.”
“They’ll think I’m a fool.”
“What are you interested in? Truth or pretense?”
“You’re asking me that? That’s the same question I’ve been using as a weapon against the world up to now. Don’t you see? I’ve been hoisted up on my own petard.”
“That can be painful,” I replied, touching my kneecap. “I hurt my petard once playing baseball.”
“Sam, Sam, Sam,” she said, tears still streaming down her face, but a slight smile creeping out, “what have we done to each other?”
♦ ♦ ♦
To say that the announcement of her impending baptism brought everlasting joy and happiness would be wrong. Her parents were furious, and since my dad worked for her father, my parents were unhappy too.
The best way to describe my parents is to say that they are the kind of people you find giving workshops at stake leader-ship meetings. Polished, poised, and perfect. My father doesn’t even get messy when he works on the stake welfare farm.
“You’re tearing their family apart,” he accused me one evening.
“Dad, it was entirely her decision—I didn’t talk her into it. She wants to get baptized.”
“Well, her parents aren’t going to allow it.”
“She’s over eighteen.”
“Are you suggesting she disobey her parents?” my mother asked.
“The Church is true, isn’t it?” That stopped Mom for a while—but not Dad.
“Her father thinks, and I tend to agree, that she should give this some time. Maybe a year or two. That way she can make sure it’s what she really wants. She’s very unstable sometimes. Her father told me that last year she refused to eat grapes from California.”
“Maybe,” my mother joined the fight, “you could encourage her to wait a year before she joins the Church. And then I don’t think you should see her for a while.”
“Why shouldn’t I see her?” I asked.
“Because she’s not a member of the Church,” she replied.
I tried to explain to Mom that what she was suggesting was the Mormon equivalent of Catch-22, but since she hadn’t read that book, I didn’t get very far.
I could have argued much more successfully with my parents than I did. In high school, I was a pro at Disagreement. But after two years of being on a mission, and receiving little homey letters from my mother and dictated business letters from my father (he even sent me copies of talks he gave as a high councilor), I’d lost my enjoyment of making them squirm. Besides, after hearing my mother that night in family prayer plead for blessings for me, I decided to at least approach Charly.
“Are you getting baptized just because of me?” I asked her on the phone.
“You mean because of your personal charm and magnetism?” she teased.
“Something like that.”
“My parents have, of course, brought that up, so I’ve thought about it. You’re not too bad-looking, you know. Maybe I’m doing it just to please you. It does please you, doesn’t it?”
“Only if it’s because you believe it.”
“Maybe it is just because of your charisma—except for one thing.”
“It’s hard to see how your charisma could reach out into my room while I read the Book of Mormon. Sam, when I read that book, I have a feeling, I don’t know how to describe it to you, but I feel that it’s true. You want to know something else? I’m praying now, and you know what? Someone’s listening.”
♦ ♦ ♦
When I went the next Saturday to pick her up for afternoon stream fishing, we were confronted by her parents.
“I think it’s ridiculous for my daughter to think about becoming a Mormon, don’t you?” her father opened.
“No, not really.”
“Dad, please, we’ve already gone over this.”
“How could you let yourself be brainwashed into something like this? You know they’ll make you pay ten percent of your income, don’t you?”
“I don’t have an income, but when I do, I’ll pay tithing because I want to, not because anyone’s forcing me.”
“What have you done to my daughter?” her father demanded.
He got me in the middle of my lemonade. The question started me choking. Finally, with red face, I gasped, “I haven’t done anything.”
“He’s right,” Charly smiled. “All we do is go fishing.”
“Look, Charlene has a history of becoming fascinated with things and then losing interest. I’m sure the Mormon church doesn’t want unstable converts, does it?”
“Unstable?” Charly cried out. “Is that what you think I am?”
“What about the harp lessons? You begged us to buy you a harp, you took lessons for six months, and then absolutely refused to touch it again. Are those the workings of a stable person?”
“Daddy, that was in junior high school!”
“Charly, if I may say something,” her mother interrupted, “the Mormons are always saying on TV that the family is important. If that’s true, and if you believe in the Mormon teachings, then you should show it by helping our family stay united and strong.”
“How do I do that?” she asked.
“By not joining the Mormon church.”
Another Catch-22. The discussion ebbed and flowed while I quietly watched, nursing a lemonade made out of real lemons. This was better than a TV soap opera.
An hour later, Charly obtained reluctant permission to be baptized. I’m sure her father figured the whole thing would blow over in a while—just like the harp lessons.
I baptized her the following Saturday. She was beautiful in white. When I dream about her now, I visualize her in white.
Her parents didn’t come.