Ways to Ask “What?”

by S.C. Torrington on June 17, 2007

DSCN7286“What are you doing?” is a question I’ve heard a ga-zillion times in my life. And since beginning to homeschool we do so many off-the-wall things, I hear it even more. But I gotta tell you; inflection is everything when it comes to the REAL meaning behind that word “What?”

When Morgan says it, his tone has that quick cadence of curiosity. He realizes that even though he doesn’t quite get what it is exactly that I’m “doing,” whatever it is, he’s interested. Because his next question usually is “Can I help?”

When his friend Austin says it, his tone has that nervous blurt of befuddlement. He can see I’m doing something probably not even allowed in his house, leaving him clueless and concerned. Because his next question usually is “Is that safe?”

Now Roberto, Valerie’s older brother (you remember Nails on the Chalkboard Valerie, right?), he’s another story. When Roberto asks, “What are you doing?” his tone inserts a silent “the fuck” right there between “What” and “are.” Doesn’t matter if it’s one of his latchkey lackeys, his own mother or me. You better be ready to justify your existence.

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