A Night with Jill

April 25, 2013

Slowly digging my way out of my mole-cave and sniffing around for the crocus. Baby steps, man.

This post comes via MamaKat’s Writer’s Workshop: the prompt was, “Write a post inspired by the word ‘Night.'”

It’s an old one, this night I speak of, but no less meaningful.

Mama’s Losin’ It




I went to high school with a red-headed girl named Jill. In short: Jill was odd. Odd enough to attract notice. Odd enough to place her far, far down on the social food chain. On that food chain, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call Jill a paramecium.

Paramecium eat lunch alone. They sit in the library alone. They are the last ones chosen for the flag-football team in Phys. Ed. I’ll stop there–you know who I’m talking about. Every school has paramecium.

It also didn’t help that Jill’s “red” hair was actually bright orange, accompanied by ghostly white skin and a cosmos of freckles. She sported glasses. And braces. And outdated, off-brand athletic shoes.

Jill was in my section of Advanced Biology. One day, when I was out with strep throat, our class chose lab partners for the dreaded Rat Project.

The Rat Project struck fear in the hearts of Advanced Biology students. The Rat Project was a month-long, intensive dissection of a freakishly enormous white rat. Students paired up and were gifted with one, formaldehyde-soaked specimen right after Thanksgiving. And if, by Holiday break, the dissection wasn’t completed, one student in the pair toted that rat home and stuck it in the deep freeze for a few weeks, so it would be fresh for January homework.

Just the idea of shlepping a half dissected rodent, the size of a cat, home…to cram in beside the ice cream and the Stouffer’s dinners? Major squirm factor.

I was home in bed popping antibiotics and swilling tea on rat-partner-picking day. Guess who I ended up with as a partner?

When I learned that I’d be spending a month alone with Jill and a gi-normous, reeking rat, I was less than pleased. I am ashamed to say that I even sulked a little.

What I didn’t know was that being paired with Jill was a happy accident. Turns out, Jill loved dissection. She was good at it, too. She enthusiastically tore into Godzilla (the appropriate moniker for our rat) and had him rationed into tiny, dessicated bits in no time. When Holiday break came around, we bid Godzilla goodbye. No deep freeze for team Dana/Jill.

After the Rat Project, I forgot about Jill. She went back to her own table and her paramecium existence. And then Spring came. In Advanced Biology, spring meant one thing: whitewater rafting trip. A thrilling week of adventure and  hi-jinks down the Yampa/Green rivers.

But I was less that thrilled when the rafting teams were posted–a week in a small raft with Jill and a handful of others, attempting pleasant chit-chat and paddling your arses off? Yick.

The first morning, Jill emerged from her tent slathered, head-to-toe, in a heavy layer of zinc oxide. The snickers and remarks were immediate.

“God, doesn’t she know what normal sunscreen looks like?”

“Who’s Casper?”

“EEK! Bright light! Bright light! Mogwai!”

“Hey, it’s the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man!”

Niiiice. Our raft was an official laughingstock. Jill adjusted her floppy hat and pretended not to hear, paddling with ferocity.

One night during the trip, I couldn’t sleep. In truth, I hadn’t slept much the entire week. The ground was hard and lumpy and the tent smelled funny and the spring nights were shockingly cold. I’m an indoor girl for good reason.

Restless, I grabbed my jacket and headed outside. I wandered along the river for a while, listening to it burble and eddy beside me. When I got to a group of large rocks, I was surprised to see a long-haired figure sitting on the biggest rock. Jill.

“Can’t sleep?” I said.

She shrugged.

“I am so not a camper,” I said. “I hate how lumpy the ground is. My tent smells weird, too, like wet dog or something.”

She didn’t answer.

“Wasn’t that gross today?” I rattled, plopping down on a neighboring rock. “All of those water crickets we ran into? Ewwww.” I shivered. “Those things were freaking huge.”

Pause. “Yeah, that was kinda gross.”

“Jeezus crap, I’m freezing. How long have you been out here?”

“I’m out here every night.”

She pointed skyward. “You can see the stars really well from here.”

“They are pretty. I have no idea what I’m looking at, though.”

“Not even the dippers, there?”


She laughed a little. And then she pointed out each constellation, one by one, patiently guiding me through them and explaining the starscape above our heads.

“That’s cool. You know a lot about stars.”

She shrugged. “My dad bought me a telescope when I was nine.”

We talked about stars and planets and space until, teeth chattering, I headed for the stinky comfort of my tent. “Thanks,” I said, over my shoulder. “For the lesson.”

I’d like to say that Jill and I became friends after that. I’d like to say that for the remainder of my high school year, I smiled at Jill and chatted with her in the hall. I’d like to say that I told everyone in the raft the next morning how much Jill knew about stars. I’d like to say that. But I didn’t do any of those things.

I never bullied Jill, but I bore witness. It’s not something I’m proud of, particularly since I was bullied as a kid and knew the collateral damage. I knew that those who do nothing aren’t much better than the ones hurling insults, are they?

I attended my 10-year high school reluctantly, but one face I was hoping to see was Jill’s. Hoping that she’d listen when I told her I was sorry. That she taught me a lot that night, and stars were the least of it.

Naturally, she did not attend. Why on Earth would she want to walk into a room of old, snarly faces?

Last year, we bought Miss D. a telescope. And I told her about the starry spring night when a freckled girl taught her mother a lesson.

Jill, if you’re out there, I’m sorry.  Because of you, my daughters will know better. I wished it on a star.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison April 25, 2013 at 5:31 am

Oh I so wish Jill could read this!


Abby April 25, 2013 at 5:40 am

Everybody knows a Jill, and while not everyone takes the time to get to know them, those who do usually find out that they’re actually much more than what we fear we could be–especially in high school, when we’re told image is everything. Once we grow up, we realize the Jills are usually those we would now be drawn to, those who value intrinsic qualities over that image.

For me, I think I was somewhere in between–not cool, not an outcast…just Abby. As an adult I’ve figured out that the weirdos are those that I like, those that have the most depth and insight to offer. Maybe it’s the hardship, maybe I’m just one of them. Regardless, the lesson’s been learned. I just wish we could all learn it sooner.

Great post ;)


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:44 am


Of course you like weirdos! That’s why we’re friends! :)


SmithShack71 April 25, 2013 at 6:17 am

Uh, yeah, because the illustrations are so happy. Not disturbing at all. At. All.



SmithShack71 April 25, 2013 at 6:20 am

Total apologies! I thought I was somewhere else for a minute. I’m crazy like that sometimes.

This post… was heart pulling. I was Jill and I knew Jill’s.
I wish she could see this, too.

Again, I’m sorry for the other comment.



SmithShack71 April 25, 2013 at 6:26 am

To further explain, I had just gotten home from taking my son to school, and I was racing around, and you know. The first comment was actually intended for the crazy book gift at mama kats. So, when you see I’ve copied and pasted it over there… yeah.
Ok, I stop now.
Sorry, have a great day!


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:45 am


No worries! I saw that first comment and laughed because I immediately knew what you were talking about! Thanks for coming by!


pamela April 25, 2013 at 7:09 am

Damn. You did it again and made me cry. I agree – we all know a Jill and we all bore witness. I am sorry to my Jill’s too. Thank you for being so honest and so compassionate and such a fanfreakingtastic writer.


May April 25, 2013 at 7:22 am

I suspect part of the reason she ended up assigned to your rafting team was that you were more kind than you give yourself credit for being. But, I do relate to the regret you feel for not being more vocal at the time.


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:47 am


Thanks for the vote of confidence. :) If “tolerating” meant kindness, I sorta qualified. Glad you came by!


Shannon April 25, 2013 at 7:35 am

I have goosebumps. I don’t think there is not a woman out there who didn’t know a Jill, or was a Jill at some point in her life. I’m sorry, too, for the times I bore witness, and even more sorry that I didn’t make a point of really getting to know some of the “Jills” of my past. I have a feeling I really missed out on a lot.


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:48 am


I agree–we did miss out, didn’t we?


Arnebya April 25, 2013 at 9:52 am

I’m with Shannon. We’ve all either been there or known a Jill. I like to imagine that all the girls I saw bullied are now successful, happy women. And yes, I still wonder about a few and hope and wish upon a star that they made it out ok.


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:49 am


I hope that Jill’s a superstar at NASA.


Katybeth April 25, 2013 at 10:55 am

Jill remembers you as the girl who took an interest. Maybe she never saw herself as a victim. Sure seems like she made the most of the opportunities you described. Or maybe she pretended the white rat was one the mean kids….


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:50 am


I laughed at your comment about the rat. Maybe that’s why she cut into Godzilla with such relish!


Tiffany April 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

I think, even though you feel like you didn’t do enough, you learned a valuable lesson to share with your daughters and that’s important too.


Sherri April 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I love this. I think Jill sounds great. I, too, as you said – “bore witness” to many in high school – though, stood up to / made friends with few outside my own comfort zone. I was an odd one myself – an intense involvement in theater and dance gave me equal parts interest in cheerleading and sports AND punk rock clothing and bands at an underground club – so I had “popular” friends – and my comfortable band of misfits as well. I do think it is nice that you and Jill appreciated one another and your respective quirks. Maybe… that is her nice memory of you too :). And, Miss D, you go with that telescope, girl! We fellow stargazers here in PA have one on our deck too. Star dorks unite!


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:51 am


I would have loved you in high school. You sound like a badass!


SuziCate April 25, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Brought tears to my eyes!


Alexandra April 25, 2013 at 6:43 pm

It feels good to make things right.



Tammy April 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Thank you for being willing to share this story.

It’s so easy to blame yourself for not acting while looking back. I think all of us who weren’t part of the cool kids understood the need to keep our heads down and not make waves. I know in high school I also did not have the courage to stand up against the bullies.

Now I’d like to think that I have the strength of character to not let other people’s opinions outweigh doing the right thing.


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:52 am


You’re so right about the “heads down and not make waves.” It seemed so crucial not to make waves back then. I guess learning differently is one of the gifts of growing up.


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me April 25, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Really beautiful. You are the goods, woman. :)


Papa Guy April 25, 2013 at 9:03 pm

all these girls are right ya know….


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes April 26, 2013 at 4:16 am

This was beautifully and brutally honest. And made my heart contract. I hope Jill reads it.


TKW April 26, 2013 at 5:53 am


Probably not, but it felt good to put it out there. xo


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri April 26, 2013 at 9:30 am

Let’s start a Find Jill campaign! I love the honest in your gut storytelling, Kitch.
And I am always fascinated by people in our past and how they influence who we are now and the lessons we want to impart to our children.


Anonymous May 1, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Wow. Just…wow. Thanks for this. I parent a “Jill”. It isn’t easy.


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