West Custer County Library, 10:30 Saturday morning, January 23rd. Clara and I were about to launch our first book event together, our first time to talk publicly about the project we’d been working on for several years—the book that had brought my seemingly endless questions to Clara. The one that moved her to name me the Queen of Questions and caused her to exclaim, “Oh, no!” when I’d call to ask her just a few more things.
I was nervous. Not because of all the people crowding into the room. They looked friendly enough, and some I knew well. I didn’t have stage fright. I’d done book talks many times. No, the source of my disquiet was far more intimidating than a mere audience or the fact that I was to speak publicly. The source of my unease was, in fact, the smiling, hugging, handshaking woman who stood beside me. It was Clara herself.
A few days earlier I’d called her to see if we could get together to plan our presentation. She said, “I already have a plan.”
Her words, surprising as they were, seemed innocent enough, but her tone was not. It made me squirm. Clara was up to mischief.
We did meet beforehand; we did talk about the event; and we decided on a loose plan, but agreed mostly to play it by ear. Through other friends, Clara heard there would be many questions, but thankfully this time not from me.
So there we were, at the library, with a full house, ready to roll. After library director Amy Moulton introduced us, I was to make brief introductory remarks and read a passage from the book’s introduction. Then ask for early questions.
All of this was going to plan. I was reading. The audience was listening. But from here, then from there in the group, a giggle erupted, a chortle began bubbling, next a guffaw exploded. But the passage I was reading wasn’t funny. At least I’d never thought of it as funny.
I turned to look at Clara. She sat quietly, brimming with practiced nonchalance. She looked far too innocent. Now wary, I turned back to read. I hadn’t opened my mouth again before the whole audience tittered. I knew I was outmatched. Finishing the page as quickly as I could, I asked for questions.
There were many, and Clara fielded them admirably. At one point early on she turned to me and said, “You don’t know EVERYTHING about me!”
I could only fire back, “That’s obvious. I’ve already learned a whole lot you didn’t tell me!”
By the time we finished, I discovered even more, including the cause of those giggles and laughter—Clara making faces and literally behind my back! But that and getting to hear all the other information the questions brought suited me just fine.
For some time, I’d wanted to write a blog because I couldn’t possibly get all the stories I already had into one book. That morning brought more. So, Clara, fair warning, here come whole new lines of inquiry. Yep, more questions. Thank you.