One man’s trash is another man’s office.

This is the way Einstein's office looked on he day he died.
This is the way Einstein’s office looked on he day he died.

LINDA LOOKED askance at my office.

I had chills.

Heart raced.

My pulse tried to crawl out of my throat.

I swallowed hard.

It left anyway.

That’s a deadly word.

Askance is.

I’ve been married a long time.

I know.

It has a blade.

It has a long blade.

It has a long, sharp blade.

And Linda keeps it sharpened.

She has used askance to cut off conversations, cut off gossip, cut off rumors, and cut more than one person down to size.

I’ve been re-sized on several occasions.

Now she was looking with askance at my office.

“It’s cluttered,” she said.

Linda gets right to the point.

“It’s trashy,” she said.

She was looking at my desk.

“All you’ve got are piles of paper,” she said.

The askance in her eyes hardened.

“How do you ever find anything?” she asked.

“I’m writing,” I said.


“I know what’s in every pile,” I said.

“You should move,” she said.


“The dump comes to mind.”

I waited for her to smile.

She didn’t.

I looked for the twinkle in her eye.

Twinkle had packed up and gone.

“What are you writing?” she asked.

“A novel.”

“Must be a trashy novel,” she said.

I flinched.

“Einstein had a cluttered desk,” I said.

It wasn’t much of a defense.

It was all I had.

“Einstein can afford to.”

“How’s that?”

“He’s dead.”

That’s when it hit me.

Askance has its own theory of relativity.

A man’s constant misery and sorrow is in direct proportion to the number of pages of scrap paper he has scattered on his desk.

Mine has no end.

Either pages.

Or misery.

Sorrow is optional.

Linda did find some trashy parts in my Little Lies. She decided her opinion about my office was justified.


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  • Mine needs clearing, too, but when the energy comes for its few hours every day I don’t waste it on cleaning. Energy’s for writing.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Alicia, it’s all right if your desk is cluttered as long as your mind isn’t.

  • April Coker

    Ha! Love it, Caleb! Don’t mess with a former high school principal who is also your wife! Askance: 1+ Trashy office: 0. My condolences. . .

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Send Band-Aids. Askance cuts deep.

  • Roger Summers

    “Out of clutter, find simplicity.”
    ― Albert Einstein

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I’m looking for it now.

  • Don Newbury

    Misery loves company….

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I’m glad to be your company, Don.

  • Trashy is a good thing, at least in my office it is. I’m looking askance, in case you didn’t notice.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Bert, never trust a man with a clean desk. He’s not doing a damn thing other than cleaning his desk.

  • Jiji

    John’s desk is trashy all the time. But I think he spends most of his time at his desk napping. The easiest solution is to close the door. Then I can look askance at the litter box and all the litter Isis and Taliban have kicked all over the floor.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      You ladies with askance looks are America’s deadliest assassins.

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