The Yoni Dance Book Trilogy
The Ultimate "How to" Book
The Dream Catcher's Dream
Bartleby and I Would Prefer No To
When Giorgio arrived, you were about to tell me something about Bartleby.”
"Yes, of course. Bartleby. Where shall I start?”
"Since life is one big spinning wheel, just start anywhere.”
“Would you like it in character or as a narrative?”
"Oh, in character, by all means.”
Jazbell smiles, sits forward in her chair. She clears her throat and shakes her shoulders. She picks up a spoon and looks at me through it as if it were a spyglass she was looking through. Her mouth wiggles from side to side. She lowers one eyebrow, raises the other and looks at me like I’m a marauding pirate ship approaching from out of the sun.
She begins to speak in the voice of another person. She speaks in a childhood voice and in a style similar to that of Brett Butler in her role as Grace in the TV series, Grace Under Fire.
“My name is Jazbell Scrivener. My momma christened me Henrietta Theodorra Scrivener. I was supposed to be a boy named Henry Theodore Scrivener, after my great grandfather whom momma loved dearly. From as young as I can remember, I’ve hated the name Henrietta. When I was eleven, I heard a recording of Frankie Laine singing, ‘Jezebel’ and that triggered something in me. I immediately decided to call myself Jezebel after the heroine in the song. I soon learned that Jezebel was also the name of a bad character in the Christian Bible so I altered the name to Jazbell.
Shortly after I became Jazbell, my girlfriend, Sarah, and I went to see the film about the battle between Moby Dick, that magnificent white whale, and the obsessed, suicidal maniac of a sea captain.
I hated the film. I thought Melville was a butt-flaming asshole for writing such a story. I told Walter. Walter is a family friend. He is also Mr. Watkins, one of my teachers at school. I told Walter what I thought of Melville. He suggested that I reserve judgment on Melville until I had read his short story called Bartleby the Scrivener.
Since my last name was Scrivener and the story was only a few pages long, I consented to read it. Walter loaned me his own book, and I went home to read ‘another ugly’ Melville story.
I was right. It was another ugly story, and it didn’t change my attitude about Melville one bit, but at the same time, it was a very inspiring story. I was turned off by Bartleby, himself, because he was a real weirdo, but I loved his response when he was asked to do something he didn’t want to do. The story is about a nineteenth-century scribe. A scribe is to a hundred and fifty years ago as a photocopy machine is to today. In those days, if you wanted a copy of a letter or somethin’, you either did it yourself or you hired someone like Bartleby to sit down and hand-write a copy of it for you.
Now Bartleby, he was different from all those other 19th-century, walkin’, breathin’, hand-writin’ photocopy machines. Bartleby would make the best copy any scribe could ever possibly make, absolutely accurate and written with the exquisite skill of a Renaissance artist. His uniqueness of style was that he would wouldn’t do anything else. When asked to do something, no matter how trivial it was, he would simply reply, ‘I would prefer not to.’ When asked to explain his peculiar habit, he would again respond, “I would prefer not to.”
When asked anything that he chose not to do he would simply say, ‘I would prefer not to.’ Never, not once, not for any living being under any circumstances did he ever justify his behavior by giving a reason for his decision. ‘I would prefer not to’ was his sole and single response.
When I’d read only to page eight, I stopped reading because I knew I’d struck pay dirt. Immediately, on the spot, at that very instant, I made a sacred pact with myself to adopt Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to” declaration. Right there, in my own room with Betsy — Betsy’s my favorite doll — as my witness, ‘I-would-prefer-not-to’ moved in with me and became my next of kin. I immediately called Sarah and told her, don’t you expect to ever hear no more polite bullshit stories from this here cookie. Like Bartleby, I simply say, ‘I would prefer not to.’
As soon as I'd finished talking to Sarah, I went back to reading the book. The more I read of Melville’s story, the more I was torn between the Bartleby the weirdo, which I didn’t want anything to do with and his great line, “I would prefer not to.” Then I remembered Walter telling me that when looking for a role model, you just pick the parts you like about the person and forget the rest. That resolved my conflict. I simply rejected Bartleby the weirdo and adopted his saying.
As the last words raised their message off the page into my eyes and on into my brain, I immediately, on the spot, in the passion of the moment, made another decision. Although I call myself Jazbell Scrivener, my full, legal name is Henrietta Theodora Scrivener. I’d already dumped Henrietta, and now was the time to also dump Theodora. I decided, to also change my middle name, to dump “a-d-o-r-a” from Theodora and keep just the T-h-e. Look out world here I come, Jazbell The-e-e-e-e-e. . . Scrivener. (She says “The Scrivener” in the style that Ed McMahon used for many years as he introduced Johnny Carson, “Here’s s s . . . Johnny.”)
My friend, Jeffrey’s dad is a lawyer and also the local judge, so I went straight over to Jeffrey’s figuring I’d do it up right and legally change my name right on the spot. He wasn’t at all helpful, so I decided to just go home and do it myself. I wrote a letter and sent it off to the president -- I mean the president of these here United States. I told him who I was. I told him that Henrietta Theodora Scrivener had shed her skin and out has popped Jazbell The-e-e-e-e-e . . . Scrivener.
Although I had already laid ‘I-would-prefer-not-to’ on Jeffrey’s dad, I really consummated my commitment to Bartleby’s tagline that very evening with momma at dinner. Over the next couple of months, I nearly drove momma crazy with Bartleby’s words. But, while momma was havin’ a fit that was severe enough to tie two titties together, I was in hog heaven. I was havin’ a ball with Bartleby.
I became as stubborn as a cross between a mule and my two-year-old brother. Nothin’ and I mean nothin’, got past ‘I would prefer not to.’ I even wrote a note and secretly posted it on the school bulletin board: ‘When Jazbell digs in her heels, you’d better get a hundred healthy horses and two bulldozers before you try to move her.’
About a month and a half later, I was shit-shocked surprised ‘cause I actually got a letter back from the White House. The President had even personally signed it himself. The letter said thank you for informing me of your new name. Please understand that you may use any name you choose as long as you are not intent on committing fraud. If you choose to legally change your name, you will need to file papers with the local court, and, because you are under the age of eighteen, you will also need to have your parents’ written permission.
Well, I figured I had "a snowball's chance in hell" of getting momma’s permission, and I'd found Jeffery’s dad was about as helpful as a pimple on the ass of progress, so I just decided to let it ride till I turned eighteen. I don’t do no fraud stuff anyway, so who cares. I am Jazbell The-e-e-e-e-e Scrivener and them that don’t like it can just go piss into the wind.”
Jazbell is quiet for a moment. She takes a deep breath and then sits back in her chair. “That’s it,” she says. Her voice has changed and I’m, once again, sitting across the table looking at an incredibly fascinating, adult woman.
“Thank you for sharing that with me. You obviously enjoy it, and you do it so well. Are you an actress?”
“Heavens, no. I just like to play.”
“What happened to the letter?”
“I still have it in a box with my old pictures.”
“Were you really like that at age eleven?”
“Pretty much, yes. Because telling tales is so much fun, I usually add a little poetic license when I tell that story.”
“Like I didn’t know what fraud meant when I got the letter. I had to look it up in the dictionary.”
“As a writer of human interest stories, I’d welcome the opportunity to write a story around that theme. Would you consent to co-creating a magazine article with me about you and Bartleby?”
Jazbell smiles broadly and says, “It would be my pleasure.” At the time, little did I know that her smile was for much more than the writing of a magazine article.
Jazbell continues, “Well, as long as we are talking about names, I may as well share with you that I am commonly referred to by still another name.”
“And what name might that be?” I ask.
“My friends often call me Jazz.”
“May I ask how that came to be?”
“Certainly, you may ask, and in this case, I do choose to tell you.”
“Good,” I say, “I’m listening.”“My long-time friend, Sarah, had a little
brother who, when he was learning to talk, couldn’t say Jazbell. He called me Jazz. Both Sarah and my other best friend Karen, thought that was a very fitting name for me so they, also, started to call me Jazz.
"I liked the name, I’m comfortable with its implications, I even encouraged its use, and so now I have three names. Legally I’m still Henrietta, professionally I’m Jazbell, and personally, I am Jazz. You may call me either Jazbell or Jazz; however, if you ever choose to call me Henrietta, you’d better be standing a long ways away.”
“Why is that?” I ask.
She wiggles in her seat, hunches her back, raises her shoulders, squints her eyes, and speaks with the same childhood voice she just used in her Bartleby story. “’Cause if you do, I’ll just knock your block off with a big stick.”
She sits up straight again and smiles. I look at her and say, “Thank you, Jazzy lady named Jazbell. I choose to keep my head on my shoulders, so I shall refrain from any references to that henceforth ‘unmentionable’ name.”
We eat our breakfast together and talk about several things. Jazbell seems quite interested in my occupation as a reporter and writer. To my surprise and delight, she even asks to accompany me on one of my story searches, so, before we part company, we exchange phone numbers and agree to meet again here at Giorgio’s in exactly two weeks.
Let me step beyond our second meeting for a moment and tell that as I get to know Jazbell, or Jazz as I frequently call her, I witness her telling numerous stories. In telling a story, any story, she has this incredible knack of stepping into and becoming the characters she talks about. It’s as if these other people were suddenly telling their own story. And the next thing you know, Jazbell becomes her present-day self again. She’s a joy to listen to, and her incredible deliverance never ceases to amaze me. It soon becomes apparent why her friends call her Jazz.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the leading lady of this tale, I’d like you to meet another unusual character who at first seemed inconsequential, but as it turned out, will later play an important role in our story.
The Yoni Dance Book Trilogy
The Dream Catcher's Dream
Bartleby and I Would Prefer No To
Copyright © 2016 -- Robert E. Coté -- The Life Center
<> <> <> <> <>