• Otter Views: Life in the Holding Drawer

    Every kitchen has a holding drawer. It’s the one with the stuff you can’t quite throw away but don’t really need, either. Basically, it’s stuff you’d just as soon forget about.

    In the kitchen where I live, the holding drawer right now is a tangle of twine, twist ties, loose batteries, pencil stubs and rubber bands. A souvenir cup holder from Tarpy’s resides there also, along with an “I voted” badge from the last election. On one edge of the pile is a small spray can of WD-40 I always forget is in there.

    We may forget the things in the holding drawer, but they don’t forget us. In fact, they live in a state of high anxiety. Surplus possessions elsewhere in the house may retain enough value to qualify for a garage sale, but denizens of the holding drawer know that option has passed them by.

    Thus, whenever the drawer opens, they fear they’ll slide into view and be exposed for what they really are: junk. To get a sense of what they might feel like, we now take you inside a typical kitchen holding drawer.

    It’s dark and warm in here. The air is rather stuffy and smells faintly of old recipe clippings, but it’s not unpleasant. And the silence is wonderful. You can’t buy peace and quiet like this anymore.

    But wait. What’s that? Oh no, footsteps!

    There is a sudden wrenching motion, then a flare of blinding white light. Is this death. Now huge finger palps grope ruthlessly through past-due bills, loose playing cards, lost door keys, supermarket receipts and hardened tubes of glue. The things in the holding drawer quake in terror.

    A voice booms from above. “Eunice? Have you seen the strapping tape?” There follows more random shuffling, then an ominous pause.

    “Hey, who put this broken protractor in here? This thing is worthless!”

    No time for goodbyes. No memorial service. The finger palls close ruthlessly around the protractor and lift it from view. Everything tumbles forward as the drawer slams back into darkness again. Heavy footfalls creak across the floor. The protractor’s thin, chilling cries recede into the distance.

    “That was close!” a lottery slip flutters. I thought my number was up that time.”

    “Relax,” croaks a rust-frozen tape measure from somewhere deep in the pile. “They’re never gonna look for you. You dunno what fear is ’til you’re the one they’re tryna find. Ain’t that so, Lefty?”

    “Yeah!” snaps a left rubber glove. You pieces of paper got it easy- they don’t look twice at you. But if they spot me, they’re gonna say: ‘Hey! Where’s the other one?’ And that will be it for old Lefty.

    “Oh yeah? If it weren’t for us, you wouldn’t even be old,” scolds a sheaf of warranty forms for bygone kitchen appliances. “We’ve covered you for years, at considerable risk, we might add.

    “What about us?” choruses a bottom-dwelling school of floppy disks. “At least you papers can start a fire. We’re totally useless.”

    And so on. This is a long-running discussion, because the holding drawer functions as a time capsule or “kitchen midden” in which discarded objects form geological layers over time. Things keep going in, but nothing comes out until the drawer won’t close. On those rare occasions when a holding drawer gets re-organized, something of value may even surface.

    On a visit to my late stepmother’s apartment in the desert one year, I was rummaging through her kitchen drawers for a bottle opener. At the very back of her her holding drawer, my hand closed around a zip-lock bag of curious weight and heft. Pulling it free, I found it packed with charm bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings, brooches and other jewelry, all gold.

    “Hey Mom,” I called to the TV room. “What’s this bag full of gold jewelry doing in your utility drawer?”

    “Oh my God!” she cried. “Thank you! Thank you for finding that! I’ve been looking for that for two years! I must have put it in there so it wouldn’t get stolen.”

    “Well, it’s worked so far. You want me to put it back in the drawer?”

    “No, bring it in here. I’ve forgotten what was in there.”

    The pop artist Andy Warhol once said we each get 15 minutes of fame. There may be a corollary that we each get to find a zip lock bag full of gold once in a lifetime. If so, that was my Leprechaun moment. My stepmom was in ill health and low spirits at that time, so I was happy my discovery cheered her.

    The episode also made me curious about what might lie at the bottom of my own utility drawer. I don’t recall stuffing a bag of gold in there, but with holding drawers, you can never be sure.


    posted to Cedar Street Times on June 27, 2014

    Topics: Otter Views


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