I love my office. Our house is going on 26 so the room where I work doesn’t seem as spacious as it did when new. The once pristine wood surfaces have endured their share of hot coffee rings, cold drink spills, dropped objects, nicks from chairs. Those drawers that promised to hold everything I needed for as long as I lived groan under the weight of folders stuffed with the produce of my mind. On a number of occasions I’ve emptied their contents into cardboard storage boxes to make room for more. A dozen or more of those boxes reside in the archival library at University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. Half a dozen others are on loan to Meyer Library at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield. That much again is stacked in our basement.
I’ve gone through three desk chairs. The most recent and expensive rests rather sheepishly in a corner, banished for the sin of falling apart in the line of duty. I’m sitting now on a wooden chair. I’m sandwiched between the work space where my computer resides and the beautiful desk behind me. Its drawers, too, can hold nothing else until I make myself attend to the problem.
The walls are lined with mementoes of our lives, Sandy’s and mine. Graduation diplomas, awards, photographs, art from various books all give off memories of happy occasions. There I am in 1957, age 20, in a picture of Springfield’s symphony orchestra. I think we were paid $1.25 per rehearsal and $5.00 per concert. A plaque on the wall, from my old staff at Hallmark, thanks me for my leadership and calls me the “Funny but ‘no’ king,” a reference to my reputation for smiling while rejecting writing that didn’t quite get it right. Another says, “In appreciation to Mrs. Harrison for all the time and effort you have spent helping all of us. Love. The class of 1982.” For those of you who don’t know, Sandy was one heck of a high school counselor. I’m certain that Brad Pitt would not be where he is today if he hadn’t had Mrs. Harrison for his counselor for six years.
Here’s a cup from Ruth Culham with eyes and the words, “I see book plots . . . they’re everywhere. It’s filled with pens and pencils. Where on earth do they all come from? A Dan Burr painting from PIRATES, hangs on the wall close enough to reach out and touch. It’s of that wretch who has been put off the ship for breaking rules, marooned to die one way or another. Chris Demarest sent me a poster made from one of the pages he painted in our book, WHEN COWS COME HOME. It hangs beside the marooned pirate just above two framed drawings by Rob Shepperson of the boy who appears in VACATION.
When CAVE DETECTIVES was published, Jeff bought me the short faced bear skull and added the saber tooth cat skull the following year.
Books everywhere. Never where I remember leaving them, but that’s books for you. The shelf above my head that runs the length of the room is divided into three parts. The far left holds a hodgepodge of old novels by Updike, Singer, Nabokov, and collections of short stories by Twain, Eliot, and Poe. To the far right I can crane my neck and spot children’s titles by many old friends: Sandy Asher, Clyde Bulla, Mary Jane Auch, Barbara Robinson . . . The middle section of the shelf is filled with my own work, including some of the anthologies and textbooks I’ve been in.
I’ve managed to hang onto a few relics of my youth, in a time when I caught snakes. I bought the rattlesnake skull but the big one, the python, once bit me on the arm.
Everything in and about this quiet, crowded place, makes me feel comfortable. Even when I’m not working on anything and simply sitting here on this wooden chair looking around or reading a book, I love being here.