Memoir in Woodgrain

Memoir in Woodgrain

by Gregory Von Dare

Old desk in a second-hand store beckons to me. It is dented and chipped, slightly warped, worn smooth and shiny on top from much human contact. No one can tell me who owned it, where it came from. Like a book in a foreign language, the desk has stories to tell but they are hidden, encoded in wood and varnish. Too subtle for a quick glance.

Desks like this one were made of real wood, not sawdust pressed into boards by giant dusty machines somewhere in China. They were crafted from walnut, cherry and teak. The trees held a story of where they had grown, soaking in moisture and rustling in the breeze, bending their stout limbs under the force of a heavy downpour or monsoon. Each ring in the woodgrain marks another year of life; some good some bad.

This old desk is constructed from dense boards of oak, the hardest of hardwoods, the monarch of trees. Squirrels and birds once frolicked ebulliently in its branches, feasted on the acorns it supplied. Until one day a team of men cut it down, perhaps with a long saw that rasped back and forth as the lumberjacks pushed it through the trunk, reducing nature’s pillar to a fallen resource, a commodity, an object no longer alive. They didn’t think of themselves as murderers, but harvesters.

Did you pass your days in a small, windowless garret or in a big loft, with light streaming in and the clamor of a large city outside? There aren’t many clues here in this resale store, among all the slack and worn clothes, the chipped plates, the odd colored glass from a passed generation.

I open the center drawer and a whiff of cedar drifts out like an escaping djinn. There are blobby ink stains in the bottom of the drawer; at the back, a tarnished penny caught in a crack. Also some yellowed confetti, where a punch has pierced bond paper. Made three perfect holes so that pages may be snapped into a folder; or fixed with brass brads, binding a manuscript that was sent to an agent who reads it while eating a hot pastrami sandwich on rye—with extra pickle.

A side drawer hints at floral perfume. Was this once a woman’s desk? Perhaps, a woman hoping to get respect for her talent as she pecked-out romantic novels, or a busy mother raising children on her own against all odds. It might have been a complacent housewife, paying her bills every month and keeping scent hidden in a drawer against the days her lover came to call. It might have witnessed shouted quarrels, tears and apologies. Or it might have seen a wife, a brilliant and beloved woman, die in the prime of life and the husband—shocked, shattered and nearly mad with grief—exiled her possessions, too bereft and wounded to behold them any more.

This battered old desk might have stood at the center of a political movement, a nest of radicals, certain they could and would change the world, only to disband six months later when the money ran out, or the police arrested their leaders on false and ridiculous charges. A desk like this one would have served many owners, lived many lives.

I take out my wallet. I want this old desk. Want to add my story to its anthology of love and loss.

Von dare

Gregory Von Dare is a writer and dramatist specializing in forward-leaning theatre and fiction, often with a humorous or ironic twist. He attended Chicago City College and the University of Illinois. While living in Los Angeles, he worked for Universal Studios, Disney, Armed Forces Radio and Fox Sports. He was dramaturg and head of the Directors Wing for the Classical Theatre Lab in L.A. Recently, his fiction appeared on the Soft Cartel, Out of the Gutter, 50 Word Stories, Rejected Manuscripts and Horror Tree websites. Greg is an Affiliate Member of Mystery Writers of America and a member of the Playwrights Workshop at Theatre of Western Springs. He now lives outside Chicago where certain people will never find him.

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There is Movement of the Mind, And There is Sound, by Joseph Bouthiette Jr.


For Aleathia Drehmer

EXHIBIT A: In Face [Self, Fulfilling] In Ass

I. Cursory_55”to work”//
Scene: Defeat

The protagonist is described by means of the film, the moon, and the calls he wishes to cross the border. As I understand it, besides the eyes of his will and the color of his skin, there is nothing else to leak.


II. Depthless_55”world challenge”//
Scene: The Challenges of Space

I want to be the invisible layer that gives quiet to the cats. The protagonist may well deal with my sound. This is perfect, though initially it may have been longer.


III. Farcical_55”united against the law”//
Scene: Illegal Alien

The marquess may solve many summer problems of the protagonist. This is an unacceptable waste. I cannot remember much of luxury or the wet areas. A million physical injuries close with a moral.

EXHIBIT B: The Sickness of Prophecies In Us

IV. Inconsiderable_55”antibodies”//
Scene: Disgust

The color of strength. Dry as the highway shot with oil. The protagonist gives to himself the gift of the poor and the needy. I have taken his looks. He feels. His body feels.


V. Meaningless_55”I am pregnant”//
Scene: Absinthe

And on his head is a beautiful temple held by a small rope. There is an honesty to the work. The flaming glass of perfect beauty. I will show the protection of insanity.


VI. Paltry_55”a road”//
Scene: Obsessions

There are scrolls in the library. The second storey is dry and possesses many documents. It lies in the sunshine, with a warm flexibility in the heart and body.

EXHIBIT C: [Up] Evil Health All Confabulations [Down]

VII. Shallow_55”the queen”//
Scene: Queen of the Bees

He insulates young animals. His foot will not move without first being cut. The garlic opens, shy. The protagonist is beautiful and natural, and I am discarding water.


VIII. Trifling_55”drama”//
Scene: A Wet Dream

The color of bones in hands. There are many things between here and there, foot and food.


IX. Vain_55”order of the office”//
Scene: The Horde

An albatross is replaced with support of the faithful. The protagonist dreams in his sleep. There are radiant eyes, faces that break, lips that enter. The protagonist and I strive to pass away.


Joseph Bouthiette Jr. is the main brain behind Carrion Blue 555, Scrimshaw Obscura, Molten Molecular Minutiae, and Red Slur Records. His fiction and poetry have appeared in print and online in Lost Signals, Strange Behaviors, Hellscape, Obscurum, and Durable Goods, among others. He is an avid tabletop gamer and most definitely a cat person.