Dexter and The Desk of Doom

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them

Dexter and The Desk of Doom

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10

Dexter always considered himself a nice enough fellow.  He was pleasant to folks at work, tried to control his temper with customers, and generally didn’t destroy anything within his reach.  All in all, his was a quiet and well-mannered existence.  Little did he know, it would be a simple desk would task him and his patience.

Looking back on the event, Dexter could have said it was Nikki’s fault.  Nikki worked with Dexter and she had a certain effect on him.  Nikki was a very remarkable woman.  She was older, naturally kind, and quite lovely.  There were plenty of women around that had a nice smile, average height, and dressed in a professional, but not off-putting manner.  Though somehow, Nikki pulled it off better than others.  Dexter had befriended Nikki around work and the two made a habit of going for coffee whenever their schedules allowed it.  Most days Dexter just enjoyed her company.  However, there were days when she would laugh just so at one of his jokes when I wanted very much to impress her.  He didn’t want to rush things; theirs seemed to be a workplace friendship.

The desk changed all that.  Nikki had just moved into a new place.  Dexter had secretly hoped that she would ask him to help move so they could at least have some time together without a time clock ticking away.  She hadn’t, but now she had a task just for him.  She had gone shopping at a store and purchased a few things.  Nikki asked if he wouldn’t mind coming over and helping her with some assembling.  Dexter brightened at the opportunity to assist this lovely woman.  They made plans to build and have some dinner at Nikki’s place on Friday night.  “This’ll be fun”, Dexter offered. 

A few days later, work had been finished for the week and Dexter had driven Nikki home.  It had been a rather agreeable commute.  The cars themselves had been rude and plentiful, but that just gave the two more time to talk.  Nikki regaled Dexter with memories of summers in Louisiana as a small kid while Dexter discussed the bike trip across country that had gone horribly wrong.  Soon enough, they were in Nikki’s fifth floor apartment.  She excused herself to change out of her work clothes while Dexter was shown her office.

The box looked entirely harmless.  There was no indication from its rather bland white-cardboard exterior that any trouble would be had.  The only markings on the box were a glued-on piece of paper that showed a simple desk standing peacefully in a model room; flowers and a few perfectly organized notebooks lay about.  The box promised nothing but tranquility. 

Dexter took off his jacket, tossed it in the corner, and laid the box on the floor.  He took out his car key and sawed through the plastic band that held the box closed.  He lifted the lid, tossed it across the room, and was introduced to the pieces of wood that aspired to be a household decoration.  It all looked simple enough.  There were three large planks of wood, a few shorter pieces for the shelves, and a rather unimpressive bag of screws and a few quickly-fabricated, single-use tools.

Nikki reappeared, wearing jeans and a college sweatshirt.  She asked if he needed her help and Dexter confidently replied that he should be okay.  Nikki apparently expected this response for she told him she had started some water boiling and she was going to get dinner started.  He nodded, assured her he would ask for help if the situation demanded it, and then watched her leave the room.  With a sigh, he returned to the task at hand.

At the onset, the task proceeded as planned.  The right desk leg inserted neatly into the top right side main plank exactly as the instructions had stated.  Dexter took a handful of screws and tightened them.  Then he went to work putting the left desk leg in.  Again, everything proceeded fine.  As Dexter started to put the tracks for the sliding keyboard shelf in, the complications set in.

 Dexter stood the desk up and found that the two legs alone didn’t provide much in the way of stability.  However he was sore from sitting in the same position and thought the desk would hold shape long enough for him to screw in the metal tracks.  The cracking sounds that started to come from the right desk leg proved him wrong.  He heard the screws trying to pull free and quickly set the desk flat on the floor.  He looked at the damage, decided it wasn’t considerable, and then went back to work.

The sliding tray was a snug fit, to put it mildly.  When he looked back at the instructions, Dexter found he was supposed to assemble the tracks before he put the second leg on.  He rolled his eyes, annoyed at the inconvenience, and took the left leg off.  After a few minutes of putting the tracks on and adding the supports for future shelves, Dexter reattached the left leg.  Nikki returned and asked how it was going.  She saw the pile of wood taking on a three-dimensional shape and congratulated him on his progress.  Dexter admitted that there had been a surprise or two, but it was coming along.  Nikki went back to the kitchen to stir the pasta.

Adding the sliding tray to the desk filled Dexter with confidence and he felt sure that the desk would stand on its own much better this time.  He lifted the desk so that its legs stood on the floor.  Suddenly, the left leg started to excuse itself.  Dexter rushed to lay the desk back on the carpet, but the leg was too fast for him.  It gave the same cracking noise as before, but this time from another screw.  Once again flat on the floor, Dexter discovered what had gone wrong.  When he had put the leg back on, he had accidently used one of the shorter screws instead of the long ones and the leg had pulled it loose.  He replaced the screw with the right size one, reassessed the damage, and continued on. 

Had the desk been a one layer piece of furniture, things would have ended well enough.  The desk would not have been perfect, but it would have functioned.  However, much to Dexter’s chagrin, there was a second level.  There was to be a shelf that allowed for compartments along one side and over the top of a computer monitor.  Nikki came in and asked how much longer he needed since dinner was ready.  Dexter, beginning to feel frustrated, was conflicted.  He could probably use a break, and he certainly didn’t want to keep Nikki waiting, but he knew if he stopped he would never want to return.  He knew it was especially true with Nikki as his conversation partner.  “Would you mind if I took just a little more time with this?”

After Nikki had excused herself to go pay some bills, Dexter shifted up a gear.  He looked at the instructions with fierce intent.  He laid out all the pieces that he would need for the second phase of his mission.  He stayed kneeling over his work on the floor, determined not to assemble the two pieces until he was sure that the top shelves were all combined and stable.  Twenty minutes later, everything had gone according to plan.  To be safe, and since it was her furniture that he was building, Dexter called in Nikki for a little help.  She hurried in, happy to be of some assistance.  The two of them pushed the pieces together and got ready to affix the top shelves to the lower half.  It was then that Dexter realized that he couldn’t get to the screw holes with the top shelf fully assembled.  He would either have to undo the top part entirely, or take off the legs and the sliding shelf for a third time. 

Dexter felt his vein pop out of his forehead.  Whenever he had a customer that overly irked him, underwent long periods of exercise, or had to talk to his brother on the phone, the vein appeared over his right eye and shot up to his scalp.  The vein was in full bloom.  He decided that the main plank and its legs had suffered enough, so with a quick swear word he started to take apart the top section. 

“Do you want to take a break?”  Nikki’s voice was calm and understanding, but Dexter didn’t respond.  She reached over and put her hand on his shoulder.  Surprised at the soft touch, Dexter stopped and looked at her.  “Dexter, it’s fine.” she commented.  “It’ll be fine.”  Dexter sighed, felt his jaw unclench, and relaxed.  The hand on his shoulder made him want to work harder, but less frantically this time.  He nodded to Nikki, gave a small smile, and turned back to the desk.

In no time at all, the two had finished the desk.  Dexter had some scrap pieces of wood in his car and he offered to go down and use them to reinforce the lower pieces.  Nikki said that she appreciated the thought, but insisted that they eat dinner first.  The two laughed and talked, sometimes forgetting the pasta entirely.  They joked about the desk, did their best to forget about work, and found themselves still talking at nine o’clock.  Nikki went to the window and pulled the curtains back.  Dexter took in a marvelous view of the last moments of sunset.  The city and the lake below them were lit up in a wonderful orange-pink glow that offset the surrounding areas of darkness.

Dexter got up and went to the window to join Nikki, but found that she walked back to the kitchen.  Dexter thought that he had misread a social cue and wondered if he should apologize for crowding her.  But Nikki returned with two wine glasses in her hand.  She gave one to Dexter, took a sip from her glass, and let her head rest on his shoulder.  “Thanks for coming over tonight”, she said quietly.  “I like having you here.”

“Thanks for being patient with me.  Sorry my construction skills are little… um…”

“Creative?” she offered.

“Something like that”, he replied.Image

“We’ll call it practice”, Nikki said kindly.  “We still have one more to go.”

“Wait, what?”  Dexter was confused.

“Yeah, no one’s going to look under that desk.  It’s the dining room table that will be out here for people to see.”  Nikki pointed to an imposing box taking up half of the opposite wall.  “Remember, I said I had some tables I’d like help with; plural.  I could have built that little desk myself.”

Dexter felt like he was going to cry.  Then an idea struck him.  “What if I come over tomorrow?  Then we could spend the day, take our time with it; maybe talk a walk after?”

Nikki lifted her head off Dexter’s shoulder and smiled.  “I think that’s a pretty solid idea.”


About Cosand
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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