“A Girl You Couldn’t Hurt” — a short story by Con Chapman

December 9th, 2021



“A Girl You Couldn’t Hurt,” a story by Con Chapman, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 58th Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author.




photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

Thelonious Monk, 1947





A Girl You Couldn’t Hurt

by Con Chapman



…..It was probably Dean who was responsible for him being where he was right now, he thought as he sat across the table from his fiancée listening to her talk about the wedding and the gifts they were registered for and the reception.  He had discovered an album he didn’t approve of – Barbra Streisand – among Dean’s records when he went to stay with him shortly after he got married to a woman from Cleveland.

…..“What…is this?” he had asked, holding it out gingerly at the ends of his fingers as if it were a dead animal hanging by its tail.

…..“That’s hers,” Dean had said, as if it was no big deal.

…..“Good Lord,” he had said.  “If that’s what married life is going to be like…”

…..Dean had just given him the old shit-eating grin, the one he knew so well, the one Dean had pulled off the night a cop had found them stopped along the side of the road and shined his flashlight in the window.

…..“Have you been kids been drinking?” the cop had asked and Dean, without so much as a second’s lag time, had said “Officer – we’re not even twenty-one.”

…..“You take the woman, you get her records,” Dean said now, and he didn’t seem the least bit troubled, the guy he’d shared so many nights with, listening to music in a state of altered consciousness.

…..“You don’t actually…listen to it with her– do you?”

…..“As little as possible, but it’s like buying a car with seat covers that weren’t your first choice.  You don’t even notice after a while.”

…..“Mom said they would buy us four place settings, so we actually only have eight to go to make twelve,” his fiancée said as she scanned their wedding registry checklist.  “Do you think you’ll want to have bigger dinner parties for clients?” she asked, as business-like as a tailor taking his measurements.

…..“I don’t think so,” he said in an indifferent tone that he didn’t have to hide because his fiancée wasn’t paying close attention to him with so many details yet to finalize.

…..“So…you actually married somebody whose tastes you can’t abide?” he had asked Dean back when he was still looking.

…..“I’ve progressed beyond the romantic notion that there’s only one woman for me and I have to keep looking until I find her and if I don’t, I’ll die a lonely and miserable death.”

…..There was an implied criticism in that response, and he had to admit it wasn’t an unfair one.  He’d fallen in love with a girl in high school who would joke with him, complete his sentences, borrow his records and books – a virtual female twin, and he had thought they’d get married and live happily ever after.  Then her father was transferred halfway across the country to Rochester, New York and she started going out with college guys and after a while he knew she was gone.

…..“So…there’s no love involved?” he asked.

…..“Sure I love her, but not the kind of puppy love you and I used to succumb to.  I love her and I want to take care of her and I think she’ll make a great mother, and I let her have her sphere of influence.”

…..“That makes it sound like statesmanship.”

…..“It is, sort of.  She can decorate the house and make whatever she wants for dinner and plan any vacation she wants, and I want to be able to play golf and watch football or whatever and not go to church.”

…..“How’s it working out so far?”

…..“Just fine,” Dean said.  “It’s an economic proposition, too.”

…..“That sounds cold.”

…..“Maybe, but that’s life pal.  When you were picking up skanks at discos…”

…..“Which was never…”

…..“You know what I mean.  Hitting on women at parties with no thought more than twelve hours into the future, it didn’t matter.  If you actually date a woman for awhile with the idea you might want to get married to her you end up knowing where she comes from and who her family is.”

…..“And that overrules your instincts?”

…..“It channels them,” Dean said.

…..“I haven’t found anybody I want to commit to is all,” he said.

…..“You haven’t found a girl you couldn’t hurt is what you mean.”

…..He stopped then and looked at Dean.  “What does that mean?”

…..“Instead of one of these hard-bitten molls you find in a fancy bar on Newbury Street, find a girl so nice you couldn’t hurt her– not in a million years.”

…..“But…if I did, I don’t think I’d be attracted to her.”

…..“Well, that’s your problem,” Dean said.  “Once you get over that hurdle, you’ll be fine.”

…..“My mom is inviting so many people from Ohio, I can’t believe it!” his fiancée said as she ran her finger down the guest list.  “I hope they start early to get their reservations, because the hotels will be booked solid pretty soon.”

…..He looked at her, her head focused on the tasks before her, and he thought to himself that Dean’s advice had turned out to be good.  He had found a girl who he could tell would be a great mother, who came from a solid family.  They shared some interests but each had a zone that didn’t overlap with anything in the other’s life.  And she was so nice, so sweet, he couldn’t imagine hurting her in a million years.

…..The waiter appeared to take their order, and she pushed aside her lists long enough to look at the menu and select the veal marsala.  He ordered fish– something that was definitely not something she favored – and they returned to their former positions; a tableau with her poring over her papers while he looked off into the distance, distracted but not unhappy, content to let her put together the beginnings of their nest.

…..“That music’s annoying,” she said.  “When the waiter comes back could you ask him to turn it down, please?”

…..“Sure,” he said.  It must have been like a high-pitched noise that dogs could hear but humans couldn’t, he thought.  He hadn’t even noticed the music over the din of the restaurant, but she had.  He concentrated a bit–the music sounded familiar but between the clinking of the glasses as the bartender put them into the dishwasher and the guy on his right who was droning on and on to his wife about how he was no slouch in the intellect department, he couldn’t identify it.

…..“It’s very jarring,” she said.  “How many people are you inviting again?”

…..“I don’t know, I guess…I counted eight the other day.”

…..“Well, give me your list– we may have to do a little pruning if mom keeps sending me names.”

…..He heard a saxophone which cut through the noise in a way that the piano hadn’t, and he recognized that the music was a Thelonious Monk album.

…..“That’s okay – I doubt they’ll all make it.  It’s a long way for them to come,” he said.

…..“Good.  I mean – not good that they can’t come, good that it frees up more places for mom.”

…..He’d only had a few Monk albums in his life, but his roommate in Chicago had had a few, so he tried to recall which one was being played.

…..“Hel-lo?” his fiancée said.  “Are you listening to me?”

…..“Sorry, I was…listening…looking for the waiter.”

…..“Did you ever get in touch with that band leader?”

…..“I did – he says they’re available.”

…..“Can they play our song?” she said, and as she did she looked up at him and smiled, and extended her hand across the table for him to grasp.

…..“I doubt it– they’re more a swing group,” he said, taking her hand.  “So your parents’ friends can dance,” he lied.  He had picked the band precisely because he knew they would not know any current songs, and could be relied on not to give in to requests to play loud, fast rock numbers as the evening wore on.

…..“Well, they can practice between now and then, right?”


…..“Anyway, that’s your job.  I have a fitting with the bridesmaids this Saturday.”  Her voice trailed off and he started to concentrate on the music again.  It wasn’t from the big collection of classic jazz he’d bought, so it must have been the album with the crazy picture of Monk on the cover, with a machine gun over his shoulder, and a tied-up Gestapo officer and a striking female resistance fighter in the background standing next to – a cow.

…..“What’s so funny?” she asked.


…..“You laughed.”

…..“I was thinking of an old album cover I used to have.”

…..She looked at him as if he’d said he’d seen a squirrel loose in the restaurant.

…..“The things you think of sometimes,” she said, as moved her Cross pen – a trinket from some deal she’d been involved in – down her bridesmaids’ grid.  “Cynthia’s boyfriend just got hair plugs,” she said with an expression of obvious distaste.  “I hope the swelling’s gone down by the time we need him for the pictures.”

…..The thought of the album brought back to mind a night when he’d gone to a Frank Zappa concert in Chicago with some guys in his dorm, and all of a sudden an Asian woman had plunked herself down next to him and said simply “Hi.”

…..“Hi,” he said, and she proceeded to pepper him with questions about the band as if he were a reporter from Rolling Stone or something.  He knew a little, but not much, but she didn’t seem to care; a good-looking woman attracted to him for no good reason at all – this was apparently what he was missing staying on campus studying all the time.

…..“We’re using Thurston’s for the flowers – they’re my favorite,” his fiancée said.

…..“What’s the difference – aren’t all flowers the same?”

…..She arched an eyebrow to convey her disappointment in his naivete.  “There’s all the difference in the world between one florist and another.”

…..“Well I don’t know that kind of stuff,” he said, a little miffed.  “There’s no need to snap at me.”

…..“I wasn’t snapping, I was just stating a fact.”

…..The Asian woman had sat next to him through the whole concert, then had asked where he lived.  He was a little embarrassed to tell her that he was still in a dorm, not an apartment, but she had said “Can I go see it?”  One of the other guys in the group gave him a look of congratulation, and the two of them walked to the train together, as a couple, with her arm hooked into his.

…..When they got to his room they listened to music for awhile; he didn’t want to put on rock because he figured they were going to have sex, so he put on the only piano album he had, the Monk album.

…..“This is nice,” she’d said as she lay back on his bed, opening her arms to him in invitation.

…..“Are we going to write our own vows?” his fiancée asked.  Her expression conveyed the sense that she really didn’t want to be forced to be creative.

…..“Keep it simple,” he had said, biting on the word “stupid” since he knew she’d take it the wrong way if he joked and she hadn’t heard the expression before.

…..They’d proceeded from making out to sex faster than he thought possible, and when they were through he rolled over and found himself still erect several minutes later.  He had developed blue balls, possibly because he hadn’t had sex for a long time.  He got up to flip the record over and came back to bed.

…..“Uh, I guess we can do it again if you want to,” he’d said.

…..“I’m ready if you are,” the Asian woman had said.

…..“Can you talk to your friends beforehand and persuade them to dress appropriately?” his fiancée asked with a tone that he understood meant she was deadly serious.

“Sure,” he said.  “Sure,” but he was thinking of something else.






Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award by Hot Club de France.  His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor and various literary magazines.  His book on jazz of the Southwest, Kansas City Jazz: A Little Evil Will Do You Good, will be published in 2022.



Listen to Thelonious Monk play “Thelonious,” from the 1968 album Underground, with Charlie Rouse (tenor sax); Larry Gales (bass); and Ben Riley (drums) [Columbia]



Click here to read “Mouth Organ,” by Emily Jon Tobias, the winning story in the 58th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest


Click here for information about the upcoming Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest


Click here to read the 2019 Jerry Jazz Musician interview with Con Chapman about his book, Rabbit’s Blues:  The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges




Share this:

One comments on ““A Girl You Couldn’t Hurt” — a short story by Con Chapman”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
On turning 70, and contemplating the future of Jerry Jazz Musician...

The Sunday Poem

photo via RawPixel
"23 Poets remember their father…"

This space on Sunday is generally reserved for a single poet to read one of their works, but this week’s issue -Father’s Day – features 23 poets who weigh in on the complexity of their relationship with their father, revealing love, warmth, regret, sorrow – and in many cases a strong connection to a common love of music.

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem


Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.


The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the 60’s Girl Groups...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Book Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Jon Tobias’ MONARCH: Stories, and a reflection on our friendship

In Memoriam

photo via Wikimedia Commons
A few words about Willie Mays...Thoughts about the impact Willie Mays had on baseball, and on my life.


photo of Archie Shepp by Giovanni Piesco
The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Archie Shepp...photos of the legendary saxophonist (and his rhythm section for the evening), taken at Amsterdam's Bimhuis on May 13, 2001.


The cover to Joni Mitchell's 1976 album Hejira [Asylum]; photo by Norman Seeff
“Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada” – a poem (for Joni Mitchell) by Juan Mobili

Click here to read more poetry published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Calling All Poets!

News about a Jerry Jazz Musician printed jazz poetry anthology, and information about submitting your poetry for consideration

Short Fiction

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician


photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”


Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...an extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.


Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – Vol. 2: “Fathers in Jazz Fiction”...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them.  In this second edition featuring excerpts from his book, Rife writes about four novels/short stories that include stories involving relationships between fathers and children.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

In Memoriam

Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Remembering Joe Pass: Versatile Jazz Guitar Virtuoso” – by Kenneth Parsons...On the 30th anniversary of the guitarist Joe Pass’ death, Kenneth Parsons reminds readers of his brilliant career

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician


painting by Vaino Kunnas
Jazz…in eight poems...A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

Jazz History Quiz #172

photo of Teddy Wilson by William Gottlieb
Teddy Wilson once said this about a fellow jazz pianist:

“That man had the most phenomenal musical gifts I’ve ever heard. He was miraculous. It’s like someone hitting a home run every time he picks up a bat. We became such fast friends that I was allowed to interrupt him anytime he was playing at the house parties in Toledo we used to make every night. When I asked him, he would stop and replay a passage very slowly, showing me the fingering on some of those runs of his. You just couldn’t figure them out by ear at the tempo he played them.”

Who is the pianist he is describing?


photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

A new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive