The second week of the improvisation class Jodie and Juliet learned the second rule of improvisation: Listen carefully to the other actor or actors. Mr. Fincher was careful to take the actor component out of the rule and have the students apply it to real people for the exercise. Mr. Fincher had the students sit down across from each other and have a general conversation. The difference in the conversation was that they were required to listen to each other in a way they hadn't listened before. "Instead of thinking about what you want to say, listen carefully to the other person, respond to them, really listen to what they have to say," Mr. Fincher told them. "Start with small words and gradually work your way into a short conversation." Juliet sat across from Jodie and stared directly into her eyes.
"Hi." Juliet began.
"Hello." Jodie responded.
"You're Jodie McDermott." Juliet said after a short pause.
"Juliet. I don't remember your last name," she responded jokingly.
"Norman. Like in, Norman, is that you?" Juliet said.
"What?" Jodie questioned.
"Nevermind. Joke." Said Juliet. Jodie looked at her friend pensively.
"Sad, isn't it?" Jodie changed the subject.
"What's sad?" replied Juliet.
"It's sad that youth is wasted on the young", said Jodie.
"George Bernard Shaw," responded Juliet.
"Bingo," said Jodie.
"Aren't we smart today," responded Juliet.
"Okay, said Mr. Fincher. Everyone close your eyes and have the conversation again. What does the other person's voice sound like? Is it low? Is it fast or slow? Does it comfort? Does it make you feel anything?"
The class repeated the exercise. Jodie decided during the exercise that Juliet's voice sounded beautiful, almost serene. There was something entirely sincere in her words and delivery. She didn't want to say this to Juliet, but she did think what a wonderful friend she had in Juliet, that Juliet's voice was a voice that would always be truthful to her, something that she craved. Everyone in her life had been less than truthful, teachers, parents, other friends, even her older brother had learned to lie from her father, who lived in another state.
When Juliet listened to her Jodie's voice, she thought it sounded very direct, as if she needed to get out something important, as if she needed to say everything that was inside her all at once. Jodie was slightly stung when Juliet shared this with the class, but it was the truth. Jodie kept so much of her personal angst inside of her, but she was looking for a way to get it out. For the two weeks after Charlie Foster's funeral and her new friendship with Juliet, she was troubled about what had happened. Even though it was her that called 9-1-1, neither her and Juliet had been questioned by the police. They had not been involved in the game, but they were close enough to see what happened when Charlie grabbed Mike and was pushed into the water. They both assumed that the truth had come out from the other kids, only to find out later that the story had changed to Charlie falling into the river by himself. They also both assumed that since Mike Berry had not been at school, that he was still recovering from the awful truth of what had happened. It was in these thoughts that she remembered Mr. Fincher's first rule of improvisation: Find the truth in the given circumstance. This rule was a beacon of light for Jodie, she thought about it day and night for several days and began to apply it to the whole sections of her life, "Find the truth in the given circumstance," she kept saying to herself. Okay, she thought, (What's wrong with this picture?) Her and Juliet had talked about it when the truth of the situation had come out, but it seemed to bother her more than Juliet who thought the truth would come out in its own time. "Let it go," she had said to her friend. But Jodie could not let it go. Third rule of improvisation: Develop a relationship with the other characters.
Mr. Fincher could not have known that his rules were taking hold in a very unexpected way. That sometimes, like the proverb says, apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in the right circumstance. The fact was that Mr. Fincher had walked into the perfect storm, a storm that a teacher both dreams about and dreads. Jodie and Juliet were about to take this new found wisdom and put it to the test.
After Jeff was able to get back in the water, he began to log as many hours in the pool as he could stand. He started swimming before school, after school, and even sometimes on the weekends. Before the Charlie accident, he would swim without any real thoughts, which was one of the reasons he liked to swim. He had read in a Zen book that Mr. Harper had given him, that swimming was one of those sports where you could empty your head, which was a really great thing to do with your mind. When his head was empty, he could swim for miles. However, now, his head was full of thoughts as he swam, especially in the first mile. If he could swim long enough and far enough, he could still get that Zen feeling of emptiness, but it was much harder to achieve. He would think of things he had never thought of before, like how strange it was to be a human being on a planet in the universe. At least once during the swim, he would think about that day he almost had Charlie's wrist.
Although Charlie and he had developed a relationship, it was always in the confines of the English class. If they saw each other in the hallways at school, sometimes there would be a simple acknowledgement with a nod of the head, but never were words spoken between them. However, in the English class, the words came out of both of them generously. Charlie was smart, in fact, Charlie had given Jeff books that began to really open up his life. Charlie and he had talked for several classes after Charlie had given him 'A Farewell to Arms' by Ernest Hemingway. They talked about the war, the morality of it, and they both decided that they would never fight in a war even though Jeff had once thought of joining the Army to see the world. Charlie was the first one who had taught Jeff what a metaphor really was even though Jeff could site the definition of the word from memory. Outside of class though, it sometimes bothered Jeff that he would rarely even acknowledge Charlie. In fact, he would sometimes go out of his way to keep from running into him. This didn't seem to bother Charlie, he never mentioned it in class. He just accepted it.
The day that Charlie fell into the river, Jeff and some of his friends where near the big tree, close enough for him to see the game of Marco Polo that was going on. He thought it was odd that Charlie was playing this game with such a popular crowd, especially Mike Berry and Kyle Smith. Although Jeff knew Mike and Kyle on a friendly basis through sports, it was not his group of people. At one point, he and Kyle Smith had started to become friends, but he found Kyle to be mean spirited and arrogant. Perhaps it was because he was always boasting about Mike Berry's exploits on the football field and how he had schooled Mike on the art of football. After the accident, Kyle had also said some things about the accident that he found just plain stupid, and had called Kyle on it one day afterwards at the picnic tables at school. Without Mike to be there to defend him, Kyle had just kicked one of the benches and quickly left.
When Mike had put the hat on Charlie's head and pulled it down, Jeff could feel his whole body tense up, as though it knew somehow what was about to happen. Ten seconds later, it did. Jeff knew that Charlie had never set foot or hand into a swimming pool, and also knew how devastatingly fast the water was running that day. When Charlie fell in, he did not hesitate. His mind was completely focused on the task of bringing Charlie out of the water. "CHARLIE, you stupid idiot!" He had yelled, right before he dove straight into the current. When he had found Charlie, hanging from the root of a bush beneath the bank, he had one split second to grab his wrist, which he did to no avail. At least five or six times a day, this thought would come to him, (that he had failed Charlie and that Charlie had everything to live for.)
Who could have known how the ensuing weeks would bring the people on the bank that day together. In the highly complicated social interaction in a high school of over twelve hundred students, no one could have predicted the miraculous gathering of the ones who were there that day. It was gradual, but not slow, as they were all somehow drawn to each other by the death of one of themselves, even though it was Charlie Foster, a kid that no one even knew or cared about. Or, as Trish so succinctly put it, "A kid who had bad acne, low self-esteem, and had probably never had one friend in his miserable life." Perhaps it was the awful truth of knowing that something was horribly unresolved, or perhaps it was fate, or the unbearable thought in each one of them that something had to be said between them. It wasn't a conscious decision according to Nancy, rather it was an act of God. (She said this because she didn't really even believe in God). It started in the park behind the school, where Nancy and Debbie went to smoke joints and ditch, where Jana went to lay in the sun, where Jeff went one day to run when the pool was closed, and where Kyle somehow landed. It was Jodie and Juliet who would bring the new game into the mix, and it would be a dangerous one.