The story opens with famed (fictional) author Andrea Clement White giving a television interview. She says that to be truly creative, you can't be famous.
The interviewer laughs it off: Andrea Clement White is famous. She's also an amazing writer. She's made bajillions of dollars. Her work has been translated into a dozen languages.
Clement White's ego may be stroked here, but she's also hugely bored. She thinks that an interviewer hasn't asked her an interesting question in years.
Clement White also wonders why, despite the interviewer's compliments, she doesn't really feel very famous.
Despite all the money and awards, Clement White feels empty, like she didn't achieve the thing she really meant to achieve when she started out.
Clement White has a terrible time gauging her achievements based on the work of other famous writers. She just doesn't know what league she belongs in.
After the interview, Clement White heads to a luncheon being given in her honor at the college where she used to teach English. It's ironic, really, because she'd had a hard time with the faculty there.
Clement White remembers how much she hated being kissed by the dean (he was a kisser) and how she would probably have to endure it again today.
Clement White takes along a secretary named Mrs. Hyde. She thinks of Mrs. Hyde as a person who lives only to serve her. She even hates Mr. Hyde because he divides Mrs. Hyde's attention.
Mrs. Hyde now drives Clement White to the luncheon. Clement White also likes Mrs. Hyde because she knows when to be silent—like now, when she's in a bad mood after the TV interview.
Clement White knew the interviewer would be awful, and the interviewer kind of was. While she expects liberal white interviewers to be ignorant of Black history and writing, she had higher hopes here. She thought that perhaps this young Black woman would be better able to put Clement White's work into context—but no chance.
When they arrive, Clement White exits the car with a walking cane (which has an interesting history).
Clement White imagines being witness to the creation of the cane in the 18th century and being present at the death of the cane maker, who had made the cane for his exacting white mistress.
Clement White is greeted by Rudolph Miller, a former colleague, who—it turns out—she hates with the heat of a thousand suns. She doesn't know how she could have stood him all those years.
Clement White has the thought that she could be hideously ugly and they would still be fawning all over her. She would still be famous and a huge hit.
And yet, Clement White still questions whether or not she is a success. There is something about her work and the life she's lived that makes her uneasy.
ClementWhite is annoyed and disgusted with everyone in the room. She feels they're only fussing over her because of her fame. That makes her stab especially hard at the chicken on her dish—which goes "flying" into Mrs. Hyde's lap. Eek.
ButClement White doesn't skip a beat in her internal monologue. She thinks about her husband and about how he loved for her to be an artist—but not if it interfered with her duties as a wife and mother.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Hyde doesn't know what to do with the cooked hen now sitting in her lap. She can't just plonk it back onto Clement White's plate.
Clement White solves the problem. She just reaches into Mrs. Hyde's lap and picks up the chicken. She begins to eat it.
All of this, including any mean-spirited comments that she makes about the people around her, is excusable since Clement White is so famous. And she knows it.
People from the college get up to speak about Clement White, but all she can think of is the hypocrisy of it all.
These are all white people who really don't care about Black people—and who have some truly awful racial beliefs.
The biggest irony? Clement White knows that she's famous in spite of these people—not because they helped and supported her.
Clement White fantasizes about what will happen next. She sees the icky Dean Cooke coming at her with his lips puckered, and she imagines blocking him by hitting him in the crotch with her award.
Clement White is interrupted in her fantasy by a young Black girl taking the stage and singing a slave song.
Clement White is so lifted up by this song that she's able to forget all the stuff she hates about fame and graciously receive her 111th award.