So begins F. Scott Fitzgerald's 24 page story, "The Jelly-Bean". I was immediately captivated by the language and tone, but also slightly confused. Thankfully, Fitzgerald provided the answer to my question just two paragraphs later:
"Jelly-bean is the name throughout the undissolved Confederacy for one who spends his life conjugating the verb to idle in the first person singular - I am idling, I have idled, I will idle.The first chapter introduces Jim Powell. He never liked parties much, was mostly scared of girls, and, at twenty-one, has returned from the war (he served in a navy-yard in Brooklyn) to live above Tilly's Garage, where he occasionally works. He also happens to be a champion crap-shooter.
The second chapter is written mostly in dialogue. An old friend invites Jim to a party at the country club. On impulse he accepts, but feels woefully out of place.
So ten o'clock found the Jelly-bean with his legs crossed and his arms conservatively folded, trying to look casually at home and politely uninterested in the dancers. At heart he was torn between overwhelming self-consciousness and an intense curiosity as to all that went on around him.At the party, Jim is dazzled by the popular Nancy Lamar, also reputed to be a fine crap-shooter, but one who often gets into trouble after too much "good old corn". Remember, this is during prohibition.
An after hours crap shoot follows the dance. Jim watches as Nancy has an amazing winning streak, however her luck turns as the alcohol flows. He steps in to "save" her, and is rewarded. As morning breaks, Fitzgerald writes poetically of Jim's change in attitude, his desire to better himself, and finally, a realization.
In this heat nothing mattered. All life was weather, a waiting through the hot where events had no significance for the cool that was soft and caressing like a woman's hand on a tired forehead.This story originally appeared in The Metropolitan periodical, and was included in Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age in 1922. This is a wonderful story, and I look forward to reading more from the collection. You can read "The Jelly-Bean" here.
Short Story Monday is hosted by John Mutford at The Book Mine Set.