Who the Hell is Clare Erber?

"Did you get your phone message?" Steve asked. Steve is the owner of Aspen Canyon Ranch, a Colorado guest ranch where my friend Reed and I entertain the guests after dinner on Fridays. I had just sat down to a dinner of fresh mountain trout.

"What phone message?" I replied. My mind was trying to figure out who knew that I was at the ranch and would be calling me.

"Some woman named Clare Erber or Eber," Steve replied.

"I don't know any woman named Clare," I remarked. But now my curiosity was aroused, and so was the curiosity of everyone in the dining room who knew me and wanted something to tease me about. Steve's wife, Debby, retrieved the written message and handed it to me with a lecherous grin. The note simply said that Clare Erber had called, that she was a friend of Jim and Cindy, and that she would be in the area tomorrow. She left a phone number where I could reach her.

I'm not accustomed to getting calls from women I know, and here was a total stranger calling me. My defenses were alerted - not because I was in any physical danger from strange women, but because the situation was strange. Who was she? What did she want from me? How did she know I'd be at the ranch? I did know Jim and Cindy, who live in Olathe, Kansas. I had met them at the ranch eight years ago and had stayed at their house a few times on my way back and forth to Colorado from my other home in Pennsylvania. But I had not seen Jim or Cindy for at least five years, and we had not spoken or written for almost four years.

By the time I got home it was too late to call, and I was somewhat relieved. I hate going into any situation blind. Saturday morning I called Jim and Cindy in Kansas to find out something about Clare and why she was calling me. There was no answer. Then I tried the number that Clare had left. There was no answer. I was again relieved. I now had a clear conscious. I had tried to call, and now I tried to put the matter out of my mind.

At noon that Saturday I went back to the ranch to meet my friend John who rode his motorcycle up from Dallas to spend a few days with me. John and I were invited to stay for lunch and, while we were eating, Debby said that Clare had called again. Now the lecherous grins had spread to a few others. I tried to convince everyone that I really didn't know anyone named Clare, but they were all looking at me like a bunch of hungry monkeys convinced that I was hiding a banana in my pocket.

The matter of Clare was quickly overtaken by the events of the day. Getting John and his motorcycle up the 20 miles of mountainous gravel road to my house was more than traumatic for John. Just a week earlier I had dumped my motorcycle in the gravel and torn a ligament in my knee. The hinged knee brace that I was wearing from that accident did not instill confidence in John and was testimony to the risks that he faced.

The Clare matter faded to the background where it occasionally gnawed at my conscious - until Sunday evening when John and I returned from a day of sightseeing. There was a message on my answering machine from Clare. How did she get my home phone number? It was too late to return her call, so I waited until Monday. This time I got to talk to Clare. At least she said she was Clare. She said she was in Colorado Springs until Friday while her son was attending soccer camp, and she was staying at her girlfriend's house. Since her girlfriend was working, Clare thought it would be nice to come visit me. Hmmm.

It was a tempting offer, but I already had company, and John and I had a full schedule planned for the next few days. I would gladly have traded John for a good looking woman, and John, being the understanding male, would gladly have stepped aside for one. However I had no idea if Clare was a good-looking woman or a one-eyed troll with no teeth. Caution comes with age, and I have become very cautious. I explained the situation to Clare as best I could and promised that if John were to leave early, I would call her. At this point I had no idea when John was leaving, but a part of me hoped he would stay until Friday.

John left on Thursday morning and Clare became a small blip on my social graph. I didn't know it at the time, but there were to be more tremors from Clare. A few days after the matter had all but faded from memory, Jim and Cindy located my web site and left a "hello" message in my on-line guest book. I thanked them on my home page, as I do for each person who signs the guest book, and wrote: "Who the hell is Clare Erber?"

A few days later I got an email from Clare with the subject of the e-mail being: "Who the hell is Clare Erber?" She said little to answer the question. I also got another message from Jim and Cindy telling me what a nice person Clare is. I sensed a setup. Jim also informed me that he gave my web site address to the women at his office and that they had found the photo of me naked, on a ladder painting my house. The women now have my bare ass as background for their office computers. I don't mind this, for the photo does make my butt look better than it really is. The company that Jim works for is a bakery that supplies buns for McDonalds, so if my buns can help motivate the women who make buns, then my butt has finally done something worthwhile for society.

By this time Clare had seen my butt and lots of other questionable photos of me, and I still didn't know whether or not she was a one-eyed troll with no teeth. We are E-mailing each other now and I'm trying to figure out a way to politely clear up this question. She did say she was physically fit, but even a one-eyed troll can be fit. She also asked how old I was. I evaded the question because I didn't want to scare her off in case she was really Julia Roberts incognito. Clare, if you are reading this, send me a naked photo of yourself. It's the least you can do.

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