Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Desk of One's Own

Growing up I shared a desk with my sister that my mother refinished and painted to match our bedroom décor. We used it for everything but its intended purpose, homework. It held a round psychedelic orbed makeup mirror and the bottom drawer was large enough to file record albums upright if kept open. Many a toe was stubbed on that drawer, ours and our mother’s. Being a scribe all my life, I always wrote sprawled out on my bed but noticed one day, a friend’s writing desk. A single mother like me, she used a small kitchen table and with the back leaf down and a chair pulled close, her makeshift desk was charming with baskets for organizing and a Mason jar of wildflowers. I began to want with a focused passion, a real desk of my own.

I imagined all the pretty boxes of notecards I would keep in the top drawer, the special place I would have to record things in my daughter’s baby book, and the ample pigeon holes that I would fill with bills and receipts. It would be the headquarters for my life, a place to each lunch and work.  I decided on a secretary style that would be both feminine and functional and I wanted one with a shell motif carved into the front if possible. These dreams and imaginings led me to the ancient family furniture store in my town.

I was warned that the owner was gruff and disagreeable but since I believe in “entertaining angels unaware”, I stopped by the store one rainy afternoon where I soon found a lovely secretary in burnished oak abounding with ladylikeness and shell motifs. Each piece, the desk part and the mirrored shelf above, was $1000, I was told by the crusty owner who was living up to his reputation.  I feebly explained I was a writer and could only afford the writing part of the desk. His eyes narrowed as he bellowed, “Look Kid, what the hell am I going to do with a desk shelf and no desk?!” A silence ensued and his glare challenged me for an answer. He muttered as he pulled a sawed off pencil from the top of his ear and a yellowed receipt pad from his pocket. Faintly, I dared, “May I have it on timed payments?” More cold silence and then with disbelief and a shaking head, “Kid, KID, you’re killing me! KILLING me!” as he scribbled, “TERMS - Base Only - $50 a month until PAID IN FULL. NO DELIVERY UNTIL!” and double underlined his words emphatically.  I would not have expected to have the desk before paying for it but explaining would have meant more time in this odious man’s presence. I could have believed that the adorable baby on my hip softened  him into selling me half a desk, but I know in my heart it was his considerably nicer wife who called out from the payment office, “Oh let her have it, Frank!” I caught her wink as I headed out the store and back into the dark afternoon.

My payments rolled along for over a year until I received an unexpected bonus at work and sent a final larger payment to the furniture store. A phone call later, I had a delivery date. My daughter and I were both excited when the white truck pulled up outside our apartment which had a perfect nook for the desk. My lovely secretary was brought in and just as I began to retrieve those pretty notecard boxes I had been squirreling away, the truck driver banged on the door again. Bewildered, I noticed a folded note taped to the side of the mirrored shelf he had on his trolley. The scrawled words read, “Kid, desktop is GRATIS...write a book about me sometime”. I haven’t written his book, but I think I told his story.

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
~New Testament, Hebrews 13:2
Credit:  A Girl Writing," Henriette Browne (1829-1901)


  1. Love it! You touched his heart in a good way.

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!! This story is adorable and I loved every second of it. Such a marvelous character, your Frank! Simply loved this tale of your writer's beginnings! xoxo Kay