Forbid Them Not: The Decent Man and the Girl Next Door

Forbid Them Not: The Decent Man and the Girl Next Door November 2, 2018

Forbid Them Not, pp. 301-309

In the comments last week, Jody was widely excoriated for laying plans to meet with Cooper right after being told by Kadar that she is being watched. Sure, she made the call on a secure line—but really? She thinks she won’t have a tail? She could have a bug in her purse, for all she knows—and Kadar is watching for her to have contact with Cooper especially. So, why do just this?

I’ll tell you this, though—their meeting is going to be a doozy. And lucky you! Their meeting is now! Let’s get started!

Cooper and thought about calling Peter about the evening’s rendezvous but couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Whatever happened to Cooper’s earlier fear that his phone was bugged? Remember him using a pay booth? Only just that once, though. Since then he’s made all his calls in the office. But that’s not why he’s not calling Peter. That’s his conscience speaking.

There was a certain excitement about seeing Jody again, but Cooper felt that he didn’t have any improper motive. I don’t have any motive at all for meeting. It was her idea. He had told this to his conscience about a half-dozen times during the course of the afternoon.

Oh, okay. His conscience is pricking him because Jody is an attractive woman. Not because she’s on the other side of the biggest lawsuit of his career and has already tried to sabotage his case by luring him into her room for sex, which a photographer was waiting to document. (Cooper does know this—he doesn’t have evidence, but Peter said straight-up that this was the only possible explanation for what happened, and Cooper did not disagree or attempt to argue this point.)

The Garvises and Thomases need to fire this guy.

He prayed for protection for about the twelfth time as he existed the freeway and headed south on Route 287. A beautiful little college lay off to his left.

Oh look. Patrick Henry College, which opened in 2000, has a cameo.

Al’s Pizza, by the way, is a real place. It’s in Purcellville, on Main Street. Cooper went in and ordered a large pizza, half Hawaiian, half bacon, mushrooms, and onions. Is he planning to eat the whole thing himself, or assuming Jody will eat whatever he orders? Jody arrives sometime after Cooper.

A taxi pulled up at 7:03. She walked in, not in a fancy dress as he had imagined, but wearing a red T-shirt with a modestly scooped neckline and a pair of jeans. She gave no signs of being an ambassador, other than her purse and belt, which appeared to be expensive Italian later. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail.

Cooper’s self-confidence was crushed. He wanted her to look like the ambassador of the Evil Empire. Then she would be easy to resist. But she looked like the girl next door—provided that her daddy had a little extra money to throw around on leather goods. She was far more beautiful than he had dared to remember.

If your reaction to the above is what in the blazes is this, you’re not alone. It’s actually not that hard to resist having sex with someone you’re not supposed to have sex with—whether because you’re interested in someone else, or because there are big flashing ethical reasons not to do so.

Also, who even says “the girl next door” anymore?? Cooper needs to get ahold of himself.

There was a giggly group of twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls from a softball team who focused on them like a radar. Good looking guy. Great looking woman. And a taxi at Al’s Pizza in Purcellville, which was by far the most titillating thing they had seen in weeks. The girls took an immediate poll as to whether the man would kiss the woman as soon as they saw Cooper get up and head in the direction of the front door. Only three had voted “no kiss.”

A chorus of disappointed “ahs” erupted when Cooper said, “Hi Jody,” and warmly shook her hand.

Okay, so Farris needs to get ahold of himself too, because his writing is ceasing to feel realistic in the slightest. This is not how middle school girls act. If Jody were dressed like a movie star they might react, whispering to each other while trying to figure out who she is and what she’s doing there, but this? No.

“Hello, Cooper,” she replied with an effusive smile. “It’s really good to see you again.”

A whispering campaign erupted among the girls as to whether a delayed kiss counted. Al caught Cooper’s eye and gave him the combination of raised eyebrows and extended lower lip, which is the universal signal between men meaning “nice catch.”

How is this discrete?! Cooper said they shouldn’t meet at that fancy hotel restaurant because she’d be recognized, so he brought her here where he’s known to anyone and everyone. Super. Great idea.

Also, WTF is this face Farris describes?

I tried raising my eyebrows and extending my lower lip, but I looked like a pouty owl. My husband suggested adding a nod, then raised his eyebrows and stuck out his lower lip while nodding, and it almost halfway worked. Whatever this universal signal between men is, Farris murdered it with his description.

And then there’s Jody.

Jody looked at him and with apparent seriousness said, “Ambassadors aren’t allowed to eat pizza off the platter.”

Cooper looked up with concern for his breach of etiquette, but the smile that erupted on her face told him that she was joking.

I still have no idea what makes Jody tick.

And then there’s Cooper.

“Can I pray for the food?” he asked. Jody nodded. “And maybe I can pray for you too.”

“I would like that,” she said softly.

I thought Jody was in a playful, humorous mood. Given her earlier humor, I might have expected her to respond to Cooper’s request to “pray for the food” with “why, is there something wrong with it?” or something along those lines. But no. Instead, we get tempered, feminine Jody, clearly at least somewhat open to religion—which is going to be a problem for Cooper’s self-resolve.

Cooper tells her she has a choice between Hawaiian pizza or bacon, mushrooms, and onions. This is so weird. Usually when you meet someone for dinner, you let them select something from the actual menu. Heck, we met another family for pizza recently, and because we knew we would likely share the pizza between us, we waited for them to get there before ordering. I’m pretty sure that’s normal.

Jody says she’ll start with the worse thing, and tells him that she was in New York City back in May specifically to blackmail him. “Our side plays politics for keeps,” she says.

She paused to gauge his reaction. To her amazement, he seemed unchanged. To his amazement, he was still sitting on the bench across from her.

I am so confused about what this is supposed to mean.

“But obviously, none of that happened. I have assumed your refusal was because of your moral convictions because I didn’t exactly get the impression from you that you think I am ugly.

“You are far from ugly,” he replied.

Farris wants us to believe that Jody didn’t see any ethical problems that might arise from Peter sleeping with her. Look, I would be very upset if I found out that the lawyer defending me in an important lawsuit was sleeping with someone on the other side. I would have some serious questions. Even if there were no ethical lines that might get him in trouble with the bar association—and assuming that is a leap—this would get him in trouble with his clients. But apparently, neither of them care. At all.

Also, Cooper, really?

Jody then tells about the photo of them together in the carriage, which she assures him she knew nothing about. Jody then tells him that she’s there because she wants to help him.

“So why are you trying to help me?”

“I don’t expect you to believe me, but I really care about what happens to you.”

He’s incredulous, and asks why.

“I guess it is just a late blooming sense of decency. Mainly from watching your decency.”

What decency? Cooper is shady as heck!

“You took this case without knowing how you would be paid, out of a sense of decency.”

He’s defending parents’ rights to hit their children, Jody!

Jody is supposed to be a children’s rights activist, and one thing children’s rights activists are in almost universal agreement on is that corporal punishment is harmful and should be discontinued. Jody may have fallen out with Kadar, but why in the world would that make her run into the arms of a man who is defending parents’ rights to use corporal punishment?! None of this makes any sense!

“The restraint you showed in the carriage ride after I kissed you speaks of a man of decency.”

What in the blazes?

“I have been around a lot of men. No one has ever displayed your kind of decency.”

Good god, Jody.

You know what? Here’s the problem: this isn’t Jody. This is Farris. Farris holds outdated, patriarchal, bigoted ideas about what “decency” means, and he assumes that deep down, everyone else holds the same ideas, that they are some sort of universal truth. What he doesn’t realize is that women like Jody typically view men like him as the farthest thing from decent. And that’s why this scene makes no sense.

They begin discussing how to quash Kadar’s photo and make sure it will never see the lite of press. As they discuss this, things are afoot.

Cooper watched three or four girls in red, white, and blue softball uniforms sneaking up the sidewalk outside the building to get a closer look at Purcellville’s mystery romance. “We had better eat some pizza,” Cooper said, breaking the tension as he nodded in the direction of the girls. “The natives are suspicious.”

Then maybe you shouldn’t have brought her to Al’s Pizza!

And here Cooper lies, again. When Jody says they should be safe on the picture front as long as Kadar thinks he’s going to leave the case, she asks him whether anyone knows that he may not be withdrawing from the case after all. This is how he responds:

Cooper thought of the chat room. Everyone of them could be spies. “Notreally,” he replied, with no intention fo telling her about the chat room member who would have appreciated that private joke with no small amount of mirth.

So much for decency.

They pair conclude that they won’t be able to do anything about the photo coming out if the case gets to the Virginia Supreme Court and Cooper is still on it.

“By then I will pray that we will find a way out of this,” he said, “and that we will both do the honorable thing, even if we can’t.”

“Please pray, Cooper. If God shows you a way out of this mess, you may make me a believer in the power of prayer.”

I wish we knew more about Jody’s background.

Jody says she’s going to catch a cab back to her hotel, but Cooper tells her there’s no way to do that in Purcellville. Cooper offers to give Jody a ride back to her hotel, on one condition: “I will not even step one foot outside the car when we get there.” Jody says she understands and that she is “not trying to tempt” him, but I am left once again thinking about how not decent Cooper comes across. He’s like those men who think they are being “decent” when they refuse to meet alone with female colleagues. Um, no.

Farris even makes a big deal out of Cooper driving away “immediately” after Jody gets out of the car.

This whole time, the children never came up. Not the cause, not the children, nothing. This is bizarre. Let’s play the scenario through. Say you are on one side of an important civil rights case. You are not the lawyer, but your work has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for bringing this case. You believe in it wholeheartedly. Then you find out that someone else on your side had crossed some ethical lines in a way that implicate both you and the lead lawyer for the opposition. What do you do?

You’re upset with your colleague for creating in shenanigans. You biggest concern ought to be this: how to ensure that your civil rights efforts move forward and are not instead sabotaged by your colleague’s actions. There is no scenario I can think of in which secretly going to the lead lawyer for the opposition (who is trying to tank your civil rights efforts) and telling him you want to help him makes any sense.

For his part, Cooper is not going to tell anyone about this meeting. He knows now that Jody entrapped him and Kadar has photos, and still he does not tell his clients. Or Peter. Next week, Cooper will face some consequences. Kadar doesn’t just sit on those photos. Instead, she mails them to Rick Thomas.

As you might imagine, that goes well. 

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