KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Essay: 996 words

Junk Drawer

by Claude Clayton Smith

Every home has one. No home plans one. We never say, for example, when moving in, “This drawer will be exclusively for junk.” Junk drawers occur of their own volition. Junk drawers are natural. Junk drawers evolve.

Size doesn’t matter. Location is everything. Ours is small, narrow, and handy—to the left of the kitchen sink—while a much larger drawer, beneath a counter which creates the breakfast nook, remains relatively empty. But the junk drawer is always crammed full. It often refuses to open because something is stuck within, and the fact that we wrestle to unstick it suggests that its contents are in some way valuable.

Let me examine our junk drawer, to show you what I mean. I list its contents in the order of discovery:

One battered white plastic shuttlecock, without its pink rubber tip.

One hundred and twelve green paper-coated wire twisties (the kind used for securing plastic garbage bags) attached to one another like strips of licorice.

Thirteen unattached (bent, gnarled, used) green paper-coated wire twisties.

One brand-new eighteen-inch brown shoelace (minus its mate) entwined with one dirty white twenty-seven-inch shoelace (also minus its mate).

One pair of twenty-seven-inch shoelaces for wingtips, in their original cellophane packaging.

Two rolls of Scotch tape in plastic dispensers.

Eight wooden clothes pins (two of the pinch-spring kind, the rest standard).

One unopened cellophane package of iron-on seam tape (three yards, black, one-hundred-percent polyester).

One roll of extremely sticky four-inch-wide white tape (used for a medical problem our three-year-old son had as an infant).

One used stick from a grape Popsicle.

One unopened cellophane package of five Popsicle sticks.

Five rubber bands, one which is a half-inch thick and impossible to stretch; the others are thin, frayed, dirty, and about to snap.

Three clear-plastic two-pronged wall-socket inserts, the kind that keep kids out and electricity in. (Edgewise, they resemble the symbol for pi.)

One American Tourister red-white-and-blue leather baggage tag, bearing my wife’s maiden name and the address in Spain where she lived as a student twelve years ago. The tag needs a key chain to be serviceable (and a change of address).

One metal doorstop, the kind you screw into the baseboard behind a door to prevent its doorknob from gouging the wall.

One empty, prescription vial, the label bearing my wife’s name and dated two years ago.

One set of GM car keys (trunk and ignition) on a small ring attached to a dealer’s tag from another state. (In a recent emergency they fit neither of our cars.)

One black, half-inch rubber washer.

One red rubber washer, about the size of a silver dollar (too big for a faucet, too small for a canning jar.)

One pocketsize pamphlet explaining rules and regulations of the primary school our six-year-old attends.

One plastic toy syringe from a toy doctor kit.

Two unattached jingle bells (one red, one green), the kind that might fit a cat’s collar. (We have no cats.)

One house key on a realtor’s key ring (from our house in another state).

One three-inch eraser in the likeness of Yoda from Star Wars (Yoda is missing his head).

One pink, two-inch, cylindrical, rubber eraser in the shape of a space ship.

One small white golf tee.

One small thimble (won’t fit my fingertips; maybe my wife’s).

One purple plastic #2 refrigerator magnet (minus its magnet).

One Eveready alkaline all-purpose power cell (about the size of your pinky finger).

Fourteen loose buttons of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Twelve small safety pins.

Six rusted paperclips.

Seven thumb tacks (one rusted, one bent, five good).

One stubby pencil for a golfer’s scorecard.

Fourteen knuckle-size chunks of rock candy (or perhaps, extra salt for our grind-your-own salt shaker, a wedding gift from ten years ago).

One cellophane-wrapped thingamabob that looks like a set of ram’s horns made by bending a six-inch iron spike that is pointed on both ends.

One black cap from a magic marker.

One two-inch-square clear-plastic container with a sponge interior, labeled Diamond Needle. The price tag says $4.95. (No diamond needle within.)

A flat cardboard pocket calculator—Metrics Made Easy—bearing the name of the realtor from whom we bought this house.

A thumb-sized toy chair from a Fisher-Price plastic airport set.

One gold loop from a chain that used to suspend a chandelier in our dining room (until, after repeatedly bumping my head, I took the chandelier down).

One cashier’s tape receipt for $32.45, the blue ink blurred so that the name of the store is illegible.

The black cap from a Bic pen.

One instruction booklet for a Timex watch (either the one our six-year old received last Christmas or the one my wife recently bought for herself; my own Timex is fifteen years old).

Three short cylindrical stick pieces from a Tinker Toy set.

One pink flat circular typewriter eraser, the kind with a little green whisk-broom attached.

Two three-inch finishing nails, one coated with rubber putty at the point.

One—but STOP! Here it is, staring me right in the face! And I’ve only pawed my way through half of our junk drawer! Here, suddenly, is an item that reveals the true purpose and meaning of the junk drawer! Here is the pink rubber tip to a white plastic shuttlecock!

Never mind that there’s no Elmer’s Glue in the house with which to attach it to the battered white plastic shuttlecock I found earlier, or that the badminton net lies in the basement tangled about its metal poles in a series of Gordian knots! Never mind that one of the four badminton rackets is missing, two are without strings, the fourth held together by screws and masking tape! Never mind, too, that the slope of our yard prevents a suitable area for badminton! If, at some future picnic, the call goes out for a (battered) shuttlecock, I will know where to look!

In the junk drawer!

That safeguard against entropy, chaos, and certain death.

Claude Clayton Smith
Issue 1, Fall 2014

Professor emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, and the author of a novel, two children’s books, and four books of creative nonfiction. With the late Alexander Vaschenko, he is co-editor/translator of The Way of Kinship: An Anthology of Native Siberian Literature (University of Minnesota, 2010). He holds a DA from Carnegie-Mellon, an MFA in fiction from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, an MAT from Yale, and a BA from Wesleyan (CT).

Smith has published a variety of short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; and four of his plays were selected in competition for full production, one of which went on to Equity performances. His latest book is Ohio Outback: Learning to Love the Great Black Swamp (Kent State University Press, 2010). His books have been translated into French, Danish, Swedish, Russian, and Chinese. He lives with his wife in Madison, Wisconsin.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Kid Up the Street, flash fiction of 508 words in Penduline (Issue 10, September 2013)

Pitching Coach, poem in Baseball Bard: The Poetry of the Game

Interview with Essay Contest Winner Claude Clayton Smith (1694 words) in Iris: A Magazine for Thinking Young Women (4 May 2012), in which he describes “one writer’s tao” in answer to questions about his writing.

The Conium Review by Sherra Wong in New Pages (15 October 2013) opens with a two-paragraph review of Smith’s “novella,” a 3,000-word essay entitled Garbage Cannes [published in Marco Polo Quarterly (Issue 2, Fall 2010)], which won first place in Off-Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema, an anthology from Calavera Press.

Site contains text, proprietary computer code,
and graphic images that are protected by:

⚡   Many thanks for taking time to report broken links to: KYSOWebmaster [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡