If I turn my head slightly to the left, I can see it from here.

It’s only five, maybe six feet away from my desk. This is a big room we share. It’s called “the office.” I work at one end, the cluttered end. Hers appears to be cluttered. Trust me. It’s an illusion. There is order there, invisible to the naked eye, but it’s order. It’s a sunny spot, a magic place — her desk, her domain, her place in the sun. My place is quite different. Here, I spill things: coffee, tea, soda. I lose things. I break things. I try to hide my errors but she knows. Her patience with me is legendary … as long as I stay in my zone of chaos.

There she sits in her zone, pencil in hand, correcting student work, making notations in the corners of mysterious papers. Sometimes she mumbles softly. Incantations? Ancient formulas or spells, maybe curses? I’m curious, but cautious. I don’t ask because her answers are complicated, soaked in mysterious “teacher talk” that makes me sleepy.

But recently, my sweet tooth began to rumble. I needed a candy fix, and I knew she often hid some there, deep in the folds of mysterious things kept in the three drawers. There was that diet promise. I had to be careful.

As I searched, I was drawn to the myriad piles of papers stacked side by side in neat rows. These, I knew, were our bills, the ones she paid each month as she huddled over them like Bob Cratchit at his workplace.

I knew when they were favorable by the tone of her mumblings, the soft sighs and as she folded them into envelopes and said, “There.” That was good to hear. I knew there would be trouble when she hissed out things like “OMG!”

Candy was my mission, but my attention was diverted by the envelope of the month’s bills. This was something new, an adventure. Despite all the chatter about being a “partner” in this life, basically, I’m an errand boy. OK, my bad. I designed it that way so as to avoid too much troubling responsibility.

So then I made a few mistakes. So I lost the checkbook … twice. Did the world end? Eventually I was reduced to a benign aide de camp, sort of like Joe Biden.

My eyes fell on the numbers. There they were, tiny mysterious figures, hieroglyphics of commerce, rows of them with dates beside them. I was filled with admiration. It was like looking at the keys to some mysterious kingdom, a mosaic of magic symbols all arranged in formation.

Somewhere, I knew, there was stored the last of the Halloween candy. I know it’s March, but candy corn never seems to go stale or grow mold. Candy corn, like love, is forever. I could smell it. I knew it was in there somewhere.

I picked through her collection of colored paper clips, a tube of Burt’s Bees lip cream, Scotch tape, notes, receipts, she loves receipts, a tiny silver whistle. A silver whistle?

There were buttons of all sizes, her father’s desk set of brass scissors and letter opener. She is inordinately fond of the letter opener. It makes clean, neat incisions that leave no jagged edges. She loathes jagged edges, even on envelopes that will be discarded.

Once on a summer day, I brought her a bill I had opened in my usual careless, impatient way. The corners were torn, some pieces missing. She stared at it without touching, as though it were Martian excrement. I knew I had erred. She looked at me, smiled and sighed. I know that sigh.

There was one more drawer to search when I heard her come up the driveway. I moved quickly back to my space.  Did I leave everything as it was? Was that blue paper clip on top of the yellow one? If not … she’ll know I was here. She’ll know.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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