I sat sipping some great Ruta Maya medium roast and reflecting on the call I just got from Sparks.
Reporters in my experience are pretty much the same: one of two kinds. Either they’re basically lazy and spend most of their time copying others’ work while adding their byline, or they’re part of a vanishing breed: well-read cynics who’d never intentionally plagiarize on a bet; who do their own digging, and write as much from their own heart and instincts as they do from ‘just the facts, ma’am.’
I’d known Glennis Witherspoon for ten or eleven years. She was one of the latter.
That was what gave me the willies at her request to interview me. Pondering never got me into any trouble. I decided to ponder a bit longer. It didn’t hurt that I had stopped at a new place that just opened, Dough See Dough, on the way in and bought four Boston crèmes. Pondering always goes better with Boston crèmes and fresh java.
Leaning back, I swallowed another mouthful of coffee, munched an oozy bite of delicious pastry, and eyed the stuffed, mounted Great Horned Owl somebody’d left mounted on my office wall when they moved out. Whoever had done the taxidermy was a master; I’ve seen these beautiful birds in the trees once or twice, and this specimen’s black/white/gray/brown/tan plumage had been expertly touched up until the bird seemed alive. I always expected to see the old boy slowly blink and turn his head.
He didn’t. He just sat perched quietly on the piece of sealed tree branch and stared back at me. Lotta help you are, bird. Arlough, whose mind often reminds me of a hummingbird’s sudden flitting, once asked me how I knew it was a male. I was busy doing something else and just answered the first thing that popped into my mind: “Because if it was a female, they’d never have caught it with its mouth closed.” Cracked him up, and after we both stopped snarfling, we agreed it was the best possible answer. We also agreed we’d keep that answer pretty much between us.
I was troubled. Glennis Witherspoon wasn’t someone I considered a pal, but we’d been at least professionally friendly for most of the time since we first met. We didn’t travel in the same social circles.
Mine has always been fairly small and tight. I know and am friends with many, yet am disinclined to spend hours each week attending this or that social function merely to be seen. Worship and church activities, and the occasional concert or movie, and I’m fine.
But I’m no hermit. Glennis has always known where – or at least how – to find me at any point.
So why now? I knew she prided herself on always knowing a little more than anyone else. I knew she’d built her reputation on being forthright and to the point without being brutal. I knew I needed another Boston crème.
Okay, ‘needed’ might be stretching matters. I did enjoy it, though. Sitting for another few seconds, I realized I’d been just delaying getting back to her. If I didn’t, it would only pique her interest. I’d always been taught piquing is wrong.
“Eagle Online, this is Glennis.”
I told her who I was. “Can you help me understand why you’d have any interest in interviewing me? That has to rate right up there with watching a snail clean the inside of an aquarium.” Lighthearted and carefree. That’s me. Just friendly, smiling old Granger.
If she was smiling, it wasn’t in her voice. In fact, she sounded, well, cautious. Respectful. I wasn’t expecting that.
“Frankly, Mr. Granger, I—-”
“— I’ve been hearing different people’s accounts how you’ve helped them. There’ve been seven I can recall offhand, and these are all men and women who impress me. Anyone who could earn their praise would need to be themself an amazing person. Every one of them agree you are that. If you’re willing, I’d like to spend some time with you and better understand why you’re as effective as you are.”
I was quiet. I’ve never done anything for anyone with being noticed in mind. In fact, it bothered me any of the folks I’d encouraged and helped across the years would share their experiences with anyone, let alone a reporter. To a greater or lesser degree, we’d worked our way through some heavy stuff. Still were, off and on, in a few cases. It wasn’t cheap tabloid material, and it made me uneasy to think any of it might be somehow compromised.
“You’ve got me at a disadvantage, Glennis. I’m surprised any of those with whom I’ve interacted would talk openly. I didn’t reach this place of service in my life by being loose-lipped. Therefore, I must decide what to do with all this.” The newshound quietly admitted she’d been doggedly persuasive, saying she’d told them all she wanted was to honor me for years of unsung service.
“I never meant any offense, Granger. I truly am focused on knowing more about the inner you, what makes you so effective.”
Stale Boston crème is underwhelming compared to a fresh one. Nevertheless, a stale Boston crème is better than none at all. Finishing the last bite and washing it down with now-lukewarm coffee, I spent a couple more seconds thinking through all this. As I thought, I scanned again across some song lyrics I’d been writing and rearranging . . .
Well, you’re not supposed to worry
‘bout being in a hurry
To grow to be a BIG, BOLD SAINT
(The Bible says)
To just be good an’ steady
So you’re always good an’ ready
To be everything you AIN’T.
Now, Jesus is Who said it
And I know you’ve probably read it
That we’re all supposed to be GROWIN’
But when somebody dings ya
And their acid gossip wings ya,
Doin’ kind of lags behind the KNOWIN’.
Huh. It was that gossip deal that got my attention. I didn’t – don’t – want to be responsible for any of that.
I’d kept Glennis Witherspoon in suspenders long enough.
“Come by my office Monday morning at 8. I’ll clear my schedule until noon. You can enlighten me further at that time what you have in mind.”
Taken aback, Witherspoon stammered, “Well, I’m set up in my office with every means to record and videota—”
“You won’t be recording or videotaping anything.”
“—ping . . . Why not?”
I told her everything – the entire interview – would be off the record. I mentioned she’d said her purpose was to get to know more about me, and that she needed neither device for that.
“Besides, I want you to see my owl.”
“Your Ow— WHAT?”
“See you Monday morning at 8, Glennis. Bring donuts. I like Boston Crèmes.”
Eagle Online staff later recalled seeing their ace reporter sitting still before her blank computer screen at 5:17 PM. They all agreed they’d never known that to happen in the entire history of ever.
© D. Dean Boone, November 2018