Evolution of a Desk : a graphic novelette

This is really just a story with a few pictures, but graphic novelette sounded so much grander.

Candice was an aspiring author with a jovial disposition, supportive family, and writing habits of an irregular nature. One morning she woke up feeling fresh and full of hope, and thought to herself, perhaps I should tidy my work space today and provide my story a calm environment in which to grow.  

She walked into her office and stood, hands on her hips like the champion of cleanliness she was about to become, and made a heroic statement.

"I shall clean my desk and office," she said.

Her eyes took on a valiant gleam as they passed over the dimensions of her adversarial foe. The small room, which since the beginning of her novel writing had mysteriously become the hub of the entire home, would not get the better of her today. For today was a day for victory!

No, nothing could discourage Candice from her goal of ultimate spotlessness, not the toys on the floor; not the unmade guest bed; not the fifty glass votives that her husband had unpacked and left on the bed because he "needed the box"; not the stacks of papers rising higher than a congressional health care bill; not the duffle bag full of unpacked clothes from Christmas; not the piles of laundry both dirty and clean; not the  dirty dishes sitting on the printer cart; not the trash, over flowing with paper, that must be dragged down the stairs...

"I shall clean my desk!" she cried and let her eyes wander no further than the confines of the small wood and glass desk.  

The muscle under her eye twitched once. Like a pro, she gave it a decisive jab with her index finger, and it was still. She went to work.

Fifteen minutes later she splayed her hands on the cool surface of the clean desktop which was held up by strangely fawn looking wooden legs. Her breath was coming slow and steady. The serenity of her bubble of cleanliness worked its magic, and her imagination was freed. She sighed and closed her eyes. Her characters were there, vivid in her mind. They made jokes and did heroic deeds at her command. She laughed out loud. For the first time in many a week it was an actual sound and not an acronym on a computer. It felt good to be living in the real world again, just her and her make believe friends.

The scene was set in her mind and at her desk. It was time to write. She focused on her computer screen through her one good eye and ignored the throbbing from the one she had blackened.

"Better black than twitchy." The motto was as familiar to her as the back of her twitch-poking finger.

Her hands poised above her keyboard.  They flexed and stretched preparing for the marathon of brilliance that was about to be channeled through them.   But something was amiss.  The exertions of her ten minute cleaning had left her throat parched like the desserts of the Sahara after a millennial drought.

"Water," she choked through her nearly cracked lips.  "These working conditions are insupportable.  I must have a cold drink.  Then the proverbial creative juices will flow in vats, when I am no longer dehydrated."

She walked down the stairs, getting in her exercise quota for the day, and searched for her lucky green cup.  It lay in the sink under the cutting board used to prepare the chicken for the previous evening’s meal (another heroic achievement).  She smiled.  Then she frowned.  Was it too dirty to use?  People always talked about Salmonella like it was bad thing.  Perhaps a blue cup could be lucky today.  Yes! A blue cup for a new luck!

Back at her desk the great American novel beckoned to her from the depths of the blinking cursor.  She would answer its call.  But wait, there was a noise.  A grumbling that couldn't be ignored.  Clearly all the cleaning and exercise had awakened a monster within her.  One that needed oatmeal.

She walked back down the stairs. 

 "At least I won't have to work out tomorrow," she said, ever the positive Pollyanna. 

Preparing the instant oatmeal took precious minutes off her writing schedule.  Perhaps she should just write the good American novel, she thought.  Clearly the GREAT American novel required more time than her tight schedule allowed her.

On the way back to her den of sanity and cleanliness she passed her ipod.  The battery was dead.  Her heart skipped a beat as she realized how narrowly a tragedy had been avoided.  The ipod needed to be charged and ready in case of a writing block emergency.  How could she have started such a strenuous endeavor as writing the good American novel without her writer's first aid kit?  She wondered what else she had forgotten.

Her phone! It was impossible to seek emergency validation without it.  The internet was just too slow.

Now she was ready to sit and work at her nice, clean desk, as soon as she grabbed her notebook off the night stand and reviewed the midnight inspiration that had struck right before she’d fallen asleep.  Putting the notebook next to her bed had been a stroke of genius.  Now she would never again wake up and mourn the loss of a cleaver phrase or description of the variety that could only be thought up when her brain was too relaxed to hold it back. 

She looked at the writing, ready to be amazed by her own intellect.  What would it say?  A single word sprawled three lines.  AUM.

AUM?  What could it mean?  A name perhaps, or a place.  A sound that would be bellowed by her hero at just the right moment.  Maybe it was an abbreviation.  What could it stand for?  She pounded her fist on the notebook.  Only something life-changingly brilliant could be this vague and forgettable.  In desperation she typed it into her MS Word sidebar. A definition popped up.  Success!

AUM- Another spelling of OM. Indian Religion Buddhism.

Could that be it, she wondered?  Was she going to write about a monk?  Maybe her next scene would take place in a monastery. She would have remembered that, wouldn’t she?  In a final desperate attempt to trigger some sort of memory she opened Firefox and Googled the word.  First result, Auburn University Montgomery—no.  American Utility Management—no. Hindu symbol of absolute—no,no,no!!

Wait…American Utility Management.  It all clicked into place.

“The gas bill,” she exclaimed and pounded her palm against her forehead.  It was late and she’d almost forgotten to pay it again.  

She grabbed for her check book and scribbled out the necessary letters and numbers, congratulating herself on another catastrophe narrowly avoided in the dead of winter. Little did she know what lay ahead...For all of her heroics had eaten up the morning hours, the time of good cartoons. And just below her the four-year-old had become bored…

The demands and requests began:

“I’m hungry, so very really, hungry.”

"I miss Louie.  He misses me too.  He’s my own special dog that misses me.  Mommy, will you please find a picture of him?”

“I have a tummy ache in my head.  I need a dinosaur vitamin.”

“I cut my hair like daddy’s.”

“I’m hungry, hungry, HUNGRY!”

Perhaps today was not the day for even the good American novel.  Candice knew she needed to be sensible.  What could her brain realistically accomplish after half a day of heroics and disaster avoidance?  A chapter, no.  A poem, maybe a haiku. She laid her head down on the desk.  The surface was soft, almost squishy.  Inspiration struck swift and strong, like an arachnophobic woman with a fly swatter killing spiders in the jungle.  When motivation had fled there was really only one answer.  She had to find a way to get it back.  She had to clear the chaos.  The answer was staring her right in the face.   

She stood, hands on her hips like the champion of cleanliness she was about to become, and made a heroic statement.

"I shall clean my desk and office," she said.


  1. LOL! I love it.

    If you start at the top and scroll down really fast, the pictures are almost cartoon-like.

    Fun! :-)

  2. "It felt good to be living in the real world again, just her and her make believe friends."

    Best. Line. Ever.

    I love you, Candi. You are freaking hilarious. :) Thanks for making me smile.

  3. "Better black than twitchy." I love this line! I have actually been on the computer so long that my left eye has started twitching. Drove me crazy!

  4. A title idea (a postmodern take on that Greek guy Sisyphus, the one with the rock): "The Myth of Sissy Fuss, tidy writer mom".

    Seriously, though, you could totally sell this story to one of the many creative mom e-zines out there. Great stuff.

  5. Story of my life. Isn't that the way it goes with kids?

  6. This was fun! I smiled when I read dinosaur vitamin, so cute.

  7. Isn't that the truth. Mine was clean yesterday and now it looks eerily familiar to your pictures.

  8. Thanks for starting my day (Jared's blog) and ending my day (your blog) with laughter!! Especially, since everything in between felt a bit like your desk looks:) Love ya!

  9. Shannon,
    Maybe i should print them and make a flip book. ;)

    I have to admit I chuckled a bit when writing that line. Then I thought about how pathetically true to reality it is for me.

    I hate the eye twitches. Though,I must admit I've never actually given myself a black eye just to stop them. :)

    You're very clever! I've decided that being a parent in general is all about doing the same task over and over and over and over again.

    Yes! I think my response to Laurel applies here too!

    My little boy does make me smile and laugh on a constant basis. And he really believes dinosaur vitamins will cure anything. It's the only "medicine" he will willingly take.

    Every day I have to re-clean my desk. I'm 100 percent serious about my office being the hub of the house now.

    Jared is WAY funnier than me. Your "office" is a bit more stressful than mine. I'm glad I could help you smile at the end of the day.

  10. Candice that was hilarious and so true. Your desk looked clean to me before you started though. I shudder at the thought of anyone seeing the state my desk is in.
    I loved this line - Only something life-changingly brilliant could be this vague and forgettable.

  11. Yes, it was just as funny reading it the second time. Although I must say, having you read it to me while trying to control your laughter was maybe a little bit more fun. :) I love the line: Like the champion of cleanliness she was about to become.

    I constantly pronounce myself as the champion of cleanliness. I think if we are this proud of ourselves for cleaning, it must mean we don't do it often enough. :)

  12. I want to hear you read it out loud, too! I think you are a genius, and this was just overflowing with your cleverness. It was a perfectly formed novelette. I loved it.

  13. Oh and my son also thinks that gummy vitamins are the perfect remedy to all real, but mostly make believe, ailments.

  14. Ha! You're so clever, Candice. :) You should try to get this published in a mom's magazine or something.

    And I agree with Jessie, I think this would be awesome read aloud by you, beatnik style with a bongo drum. :)

  15. Late to the party, but I just wanted to add my congrats on a very clever piece!

  16. Mary,
    That drawing really doesn't do the mess justice. I was just to lazy to keep adding all the things that really clutter it up. :)

    I should know that I can never read my own stuff, but I take comfort in the fact that you can't either!

    Ah, you're too kind. Trust me, it's better when I don't read it out loud. I get so nervous I can't stop giggling at my own random silliness. And I have to say the vitamins are an awesome placebo!

    Yes! Beatnik style all the way. Oh wait, there's only one problem. I canNOT keep a straight face to save my life!

    Thank you so much! When I wrote it I mostly just though it was silly!

  17. I agree, it was like a flip book :) You've won the Happy award over on my blog: http://www.tianalei.com/

  18. You crack me up!!! I love this story! It rocks!!!!

    (And er, your song brought me to tears!)


  19. Okay, I am totally in love with this post. And I agree with Jenn that you line about rejoining reality just you and your imaginary friends is pure genius.

    Thank you.... I can completely relate to this.