“I’ve never read anything by Willa Cather,” Layce said. She sipped her coffee. “Have you?”
We were having iced coffees and a snack in the Barnes and Noble café. I didn’t answer right away because my mouth was full of spinach and feta filled pretzel. My grandfather taught me never to eat with my mouth full. He did so by poking me with a fork. A lesson well learned.
“I had a Willa Cather stage. I’ve read them all.”
Layce slurped her macchiato and eyed me over the rim.
“What?” I said, swallowing a piece of pretzel.
“Who has a Willa Cather stage? You’ve really read them all?”
“Of course, I read My Antonia, Song of the Lark, Death comes to the Archbishop, O Pioneers, the Professor’s House…”
“I got it.” She sighed heavily.
“Song of the Lark was my favorite,” I added. “It’s about an artist following her dream…”
“Please, not a book synopsis.” She slurped her ice macchiato.
“Didn’t you have a certain author period where you read everything by that author?”
“Yes, but it wasn’t Willa Cather.”
“She’s like an American classic.” I shoved another piece of spinach and feta pretzel into my mouth.
“I had a classics period. I read all of Proust’s work.”
“Really? I’m impressed. Very few people have actually read him. What did you think about the madeleine? It was such a beautiful metaphor. And Swann was so indicative of social mores at that time in Paris.”
Layce stared at me. “You realize I was kidding, right? Nobody in their right mind actually reads Proust.”
“Well, I didn’t exactly read him. I listened to Swann’s Way on audio tape. It was twenty-one discs long which at 72 minutes a disc amounts to 1512 minutes or 25 and half hours.”
Layce gazed at me in what at first I thought was reverence for my accomplishment.
“There’s something sick and twisted about you,” she said. “Normal people do not do that to themselves. It’s like you’re a reading masochist.”
I poked her with my fork.
“What was that for?”
“I did it for Proust and Willa.” I aimed my fork for another blow.
“Oh, all right, I’ll read Willa Cather but just one book if you promise not to poke me again. “
“Deal. Now which one are you going to read first?”
“How about the Song of the Sparrow?”
I poked her again. “It was a lark not a sparrow.”
“Have you ever noticed that Willa and Proust were never seen together?”
I raised my eyebrows. “So?”
“They’re the same person.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You have spinach in your teeth,” she said.
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