Writer’s Corner: ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Plain Jane’
The Writer’s Corner features poetry, essays, short stories, satire and various fiction and non-fiction from SCAD Atlanta students. To submit your own work for the Writer’s Corner, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Extraordinary Adventures of Plain Jane” by Lisa Shore
“If you can, hold on.”
“All These Things That I’ve Done,” The Killers
She saw the red and blue flashing lights of the fire emergency vehicles. Jane wished she could keep walking, keep listening to episode seven of “Serial” on her iPhone — just keep doing anything other than what was she knew she was about to do. But if she didn’t act, the headache will become unbearable. So, she ducked under the bright-yellow caution tape that separated the spectators from the scene — or, in the event the boy on the ledge jumps to his death, the blood spatter — and took the emergency exit stairs to the roof.
“If you come any closer, I’ll jump!” the boy said, balancing on the edge of his high-rise apartment building.
“Relax,” Jane said, still catching her breath. “I just hauled ass up eighteen flights of stairs, I couldn’t move even if I wanted to.”
You see, while Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound, and Spider-Man could swing through the city by shooting webs out his palms — and don’t get her started on Wonder Woman’s invisible jet — Jane had to get where she needed to be on her own two feet.
Low-key from every angle, her pale skin set off her dark shoulder-length hair, which she swept out of her eyes with a black bobby pin. Her jeans were well worn, with the fabric across both knees beginning to thin and separate. Jane bought the shirt she wore, a vintage 1978 Bruce Springsteen concert t-shirt, with the money she saved from last summer’s babysitting jobs. And then there was her mode of transportation: a pair of black Converse high-tops, whose right sole she was currently inspecting due to a suspicious and noxious odor.
“This is so messed up,” he said looking at the crowd.
“I know, so gross. Who takes their dog on the fire escape to poop?”
“Are you lost?” he yelled in her direction.
“Physically or metaphorically?” she said.
“Get out of here! This isn’t a show!”
“I know,” Jane said. She rubbed her temples and grimaced in pain, her head now throbbing.
Jane couldn’t fully comprehend her congenital response to the chronically depressed and terminally hopeless. She didn’t understand why the ones who couldn’t see their way out of the darkness needed her to see the light. Or how it came to be that she knew what to say, how to fix the situation. At sixteen, Jane wasn’t much different than the people she was sent to save—those who twisted and turned through the uncomfortable transition from child to adult.
“Wait—did my Mom send you?” the boy sounded half-way hopeful.
“No,” she said, “I’ve never met your mom.” Jane never lied.
“Stupid me. Of course not. Of all the mothers a kid could get, I got that pitiful one.”
Distracted, Jane looked away from the boy and up towards the sky, holding her finger to her lips like she was instructing something invisible to be quiet.
She turned back to him and said, “Look, Steven, if you want to jump, by all means, be my guest. But before you do, I need to tell you three things. Number one, no one actually jumps to their death. You’ll pass out from the velocity of falling well before you hit the ground—won’t feel a thing. Point being, it’s high drama but zero cool factor. Number two, the day will come when you realize that moms and dads are just people, and people can only do the best they know how to do. That’s when your anger will turn to empathy. Number three…”
“Stop!” Steven shouted. “Don’t say anything else! How do you know my name? Are you some kind of deranged suicidal teenager stalker?”
“Make that four things,” she said.
“Huh?” he said.
“Number three: I’m the one whose being stalked,” she said.
“Let’s put it this way, think of me less like Jennifer Jason Leigh in ‘Single White Female’ and more along the lines of a Whoopie Goldberg-type in ‘Ghost.’”
“You’re so f*****g weird,” he said.
“Do we understand each other?”
“I guess,” he said.
“Good. Now, listen closely. I know your dad died and your mom checked out and you now have to take care of your brother, and, come on, you’re just a kid yourself.”
“I just want to die. I want to start all over,” he said.
“No one, no matter how charmed an existence you believe they lead, escapes being a teenager,” she said.
“It sucks,” he said.
“Tell me about it. I have an oral presentation in American History tomorrow and the biggest zit in world history just declared my nose a sanctuary city.”
‘I don’t see anything,” he said.
“I’d walk over and show you, but you said you’d jump if I did.”
“It’s fine,” Steven said. “You can show me.”
Jane walked to where Steven stood, entering his space calm and gentle
“See?” she said.
“Oh yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark,” he said. “I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to talk me out of killing myself by changing the subject!” Steven lurched towards the street.
“Wait,” she pleaded. “What about James? He’s just a little boy. What will happen to him?”
“How do you know my brother’s name? How do you know about my family?” he shouted. “Stop messing with me!”
“Your Dad is the one who sent me.”
Steven froze and looked at.
“Your Dad didn’t have a choice whether to live or die—but you do.”
His eyes filled with tears.
“Number four,” Jane said. “Your dad loves you and he’s proud of you. Whatever you decide to do, he wants you to understand that you are understood.”
Steven suddenly felt light, like something heavy had been lifted off his chest. He closed his eyes, leaned over, letting go of years of anger and grief and fell into the safety of Jane’s arms.
“Sorry, I called you weird,” he said looking up at her.
“I’ve been called worse. Now go to your brother. He needs you to show him how a real adult deals with adversity,” Jane said, feeling her headache now melting away.
“Thank you, um—” Steven stammered. “What did you say your name was again?” he asked.
“I didn’t. But it’s Jane.”
“Just plain ole’ Jane.”