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?