Jerks by Karen Shepard

misissippi review karen shepard story jerks

“The man I love now wants to know if I’ve ever gone out with someone as smart as I am. He’s tired of having me run down old boyfriends. Or he wants to hear more.

“We’ve gotten a whole weekend together; we’ve spent most of it in bed, and we’ve been going over the other men. The army from my past.”

And so begins the short story, Jerks, by Karen Shepard published in 1995 in the Mississippi Review and which I first read on the internet in maybe 1996 or thereabouts (yes, the relatively early mainstream internet had good things). This is a short story that, for various reasons, I’ve come back to time and again on the internet. In it, there are parts that have, in turns, struck me – parts about cool breezes, about liking/admiring, about being stuck speechless, and about passion versus feeling settled. If you have time to read it and enjoy short stories, you might give it a try.

Jerks is, in some ways, a Broken Flowers before there was a Broken Flowers except without Bill Murray or the whole “teach me about myself” thing going on. The voice here is a woman who is learning about herself, I think, through sharing her past – but who isn’t look for the answers to come from anyone else. If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts and more about where it takes you.

[Mississippi Review]

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at