Ask Me No Questions

my step-sister & my cousin in front of my stuff (but we're 14)
my step-sister & my cousin in front of my stuff (but we're 14)

Every day was a surprise. On that afternoon, I saw my things laid out in a straight line in the carport. I was 9 and just coming home from school. I adjusted the book bag on my shoulder.

Whatever the reason my step-mother had for pulling toys from my room, I wasn’t going to like it. Fisher Price toys, stuffed animals, paper dolls and all the clothes I’d made for them, puzzles, records, and other odds and ends.

I decided the reaction I’d get for asking why wasn’t worth the risk. Questions got two replies in our house–screaming insults or no reply at all. And she’d go through her plan no matter what I said.

The kitchen door opened and my step-mother came out wiping her hands on a dish towel. I try to gauge her mood. I try to guess the greeting and tone of voice I needed to use to start the rest of the afternoon. But I waited too long.

“Don’t look at me like that,” she said.

I make sure I don’t look at my things. “Hi,” I said.

“You don’t need all this junk,” she said. She pointed at the nearest bucket with the hand holding the dish towel. The bucket held my paper dolls. “You got too much junk in that room. You don’t hardly play with most of it. And you’re too old for paper dolls.”

I worried that she was right, but I loved paper dolls. I kept them in a bucket my dad had brought home from the hospital where he worked in the kitchens. He was always bringing home buckets that had contained cole slaw, apple sauce, or green beans.

“My sister’s coming,” my step-mother said. “I’m giving this stuff to her kids. They could use it.”

I nodded. Silence, I decided, was the best reply. I was right and she let me go back to my room.

Writers and artists are supposed to ask questions, but how do you face the replies? Do you like my work? Would read my story? What’s wrong with my writing? Will you represent me? Will you buy something I created? There’s that expression–ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. By the end of high school I preferred–ask me no questions and I’ll tell you nothing you don’t want to hear.

Are these questions easy for you? What questions are hard for you to ask? And what do you do when you hear what you don’t want to? What happens if you do hear what you hope for?

4 thoughts on “Ask Me No Questions

  1. I like your work; I’d read your stories; and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your writing.

    I do think there was something wrong with your step-mother. It’s just not right that, by the age of nine, you had advanced defensive skills in non-verbal communication. Makes me want to send you a bucket of paper dolls. Maybe you’d play with them, maybe they’d end up in Words Are Art, maybe they’d just stay in a bucket, but they’d be yours to do with as you will.

    As for me… I don’t like asking for help. I get nauseous and jittery when the words “could you please if it’s not too much trouble…?” start to form in my mind. When I hear what I don’t want to hear I usually start thinking about how to circumvent the opponent and do it myself. I’m kind of a butt that way. 🙂

  2. Amazing story, like others you post here. Like Sophie, my first impulse was to get you a bucket of paper dolls. (When you finally “break out” and people learn of this, you’ll probably need to add onto your home just to hold all the buckets. Heh — some problem. right?)

    Workshops aside (and I haven’t been in one for years, anyway), I pretty much never ask anyone anything at all about my writing. Don’t ask them to read it. (You can see this becomes a problem in “marketing” it.) Once they’ve read it, I don’t ask them for feedback. I’ve always assumed this was because I was “too nice” and/or too confident to put anyone on the spot — to put anyone out — but now you’ve got me wondering if maybe I’m just afraid of the answers.

  3. Sophie, I’m capable of the same thing. And usually when I had to ask my dad for something, I went something like, “So, Dad, I was wondering that if you don’t mind and of course if it isn’t possible that’s okay, but I was hoping that if it were possible that maybe you could you know let me have well, maybe…” You get the idea.

    rowena, all that good stuff on your blog and you’re still not listening to it? You’re missing out.

    JES, don’t wonder about it too much. Just ask next time. And yeah, sometimes I think of getting more paper dolls–just for fun. Though I doubt I’d keep them in a bucket.

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