My future writing desk was standing next to a tall blue-grey hutch at the bottom of an endless gravel and dirt driveway.
Somewhere between Rome and New Sharon on Route 27 outside of Augusta, I had whizzed around a curve, past the used furniture, and hit the breaks to rubberneck like a cartoon character. I almost gave myself whiplash and made a mental note to call the chiropractor.
Already late for a visit with Number One and to tend to business in Farmington, it had to be divine intervention that placed the furniture there. That, and a guy named Buzzy who lived at the other end of the long driveway. I would learn that Buzzy was as special as the pieces I would later get from him.
Finding the right desk had become a quest.
After many years, I was moving my writing from the communal breakfast counter to an alcove in my room. I didn’t want anything urban chic or minimalist industrial; it had to be warm, inviting, and feel like best-selling books might be written on it. Or, at least where bills could be paid, quiet Skype meetings might be conducted, and FAFSA applications would be stressed over.
Times were changing for my little family and a desk, the right desk, became important.
The Big House on Mount Deepwood (named for its steep driveway) was a large Cape with dormers over the eastern-facing upstairs windows. The master bedroom had been decorated with 1980s Laura Ashley English floral wallpaper. When my old brass bed and Bubbie’s rocker moved in, the room felt like it belonged in a B&B I once visited in Vermont.
No one else shared my Better Homes & Gardens decorating vision, but the window alcove inspired me as much as anything else in the house. Great things could be done in that cranny.
Attached to the blue-grey hutch was a cardboard note with a phone number to call Buzzy if interested. First-come, first-serve, cash only the note said, but no price was listed. After texting Number One that I’d be even later, I called Buzzy.
No one answered, so I left a message and gave the desk another going over. It was beautiful, and no doubt finer than anything I’d seen. Two flat drawers were dovetailed, there was a small row of cubbies on the top, and the color was a dark honey pine. It had tapered legs and was sturdy as well as pretty.
Buzzy arrived a few minutes later in a big truck, introduced himself, and blurted out the price of the desk. I wilted; he didn’t look like the kind of guy who was open to dickering and even though I was a server at the time, I didn’t have that kind of cash on me. As it was, my trip to Farmington was to do battle with the college financial aid department.
Armed with folders of statements and other evidence as to why my needs met my daughter’s shining merits, I suddenly felt foolish. Yes, a desk is a piece of furniture and I wanted a nice one, but was it necessary when the kitchen counter was available?
Buzzy took a look at my old CR-V and commented on the plates. “From Maine, huh?” he said. “I’m hoping the desk stays local and doesn’t go to a college kid from somewhere else. It was my wife’s and she was fond of it. Had it when we married but I just don’t need it anymore. And that blue thing was in the kitchen with plates and glasses in it. It’s got to go.”
Sensing a sadness that was none of my business, I told Buzzy I really wanted the desk, but didn’t have the money or a way to transport it right away. I needed to measure it, find somebody to help me get it to Portland, pull the cash together, and come back. Then I told him it was for my own room.
“I’ve been looking for a special desk to write on, just for me, and I think this is perfect. It’s so pretty, but …,” I said, stopping short as another driver pulled up to look at the goods.
“This stuff is sold,” Buzzy shouted.
“Tell you what,” he said, returning to me. “I’ll bring the stuff to Portland next week and you can pay me then. But you got to take the other one, too; I’ll give it to you for free.” Making it sound like the most normal transaction ever, we swapped information and he loaded the furniture into the back of his truck.
That desk fit perfectly in the wallpapered alcove at the Big House, as if it were made for that very spot. But not as well as the blue-grey hutch in my kitchen. The old one with plates and glasses.
Natalie Ladd is a Portland restaurant veteran, freelance writer, and connoisseur of all things Bruce Springsteen. She loves Boston sports, chewy red wine and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. She can be reached at [email protected].