You know what I'd LOVE for my birthday?
CONSORT: (After a beat) I stand by my earlier statement about owning chickens.
(He has vowed that the day after poultry enter our lives outside of the fridge he will put a car on blocks in the front yard. I have no reason to believe this is a bluff.)
QUINN: We're in agreement; no chickens until after you're dead.
CONSORT: You've thought this through?
QUINN: Not the point. What I want for my birthday is for you to clean the office desk.
CONSORT: What a great idea! As a matter of fact-
QUINN: No, just the desk will be fine. Not the-
CONSORT: I'll do the entire office! I'll bring out the-
QUINN: Please not the-
CONSORT/QUINN: (Together) BIG TABLE!
God, I hate the BIG TABLE. The BT is a nine foot-long folding monstrosity which every year or so takes over the living room when Consort takes my request for a clean desk as a suggestion to perform the office-cleaning version of Sherman's March. I hate the big table so much that a more cynical woman would assume Consort counters my offer for desk-cleaning with BT as a way of getting out of cleaning anything, ever. I can see that argument but, strange as it sounds, Consort loves the big systemic office cleaning; it appeals to some hunter/gatherer portion of his brain. In the beginning of the process, there is the cleaning; everything is removed from the office and piled on BT and a great wiping is wrought upon the office-land. This is when Consort performs his traditional ballads Why Do We Have So Many Pets and I Am Nauseated By All This Fur and I Shall Die of White-Lung Disease Brought on By Fur and Only the Vacuum Cleaner Truly Loves Me. The other mammals hide in the bedrooms, not the least because, honestly, the fur thing is kind of gross. Still doesn't make BT's presence any more sightly.
After the cleaning is the sorting; lo, the sorting and the considering. All pieces of paper, no matter how arcane, wadded-up or fly-speckled, must be considered. Some of them have meaning; some of them will have meaning; some had meaning a while ago. Nothing, however, is without meaning. You know that dry-cleaning reciept, the one sticky with jam found under the desk behind a hair beach-ball? The reciept you thought "Well, here's at least one thing I can throw away without Consort inspecting?" You FOOL. Under the jam, was a phone number. This is why BT is nine feet long; detritus takes room.
What there is not is the disposing-of. You'd be amazed at how little actually leaves. Oh, it gets looked at, and considered, and made note of, and sometimes it becomes part of a new pile optimistically labeled "I'm going to file these," but we're loyal around here; just because you're a five year-old memo from a defunct company doesn't mean we'll give up on you. If time does, in fact, travel in circles rather than a straight line, we're going to look awfully prescient at some point down the road, knowing the travel plans for Denver before anyone else.
When Big Table arrives, it settles in. It can take up to two weeks for every single item--dusted, considered, repiled-- to be moved back into the office. I ceremoniously take out the five or six sheets of paper declared null and void out to the trash. Consort follows me out, waving a fond farewell to these friends of his youth and then his eyes sharpen. "Wait, I need that," he mumbles, grabbing the parchment sheet from the top, squirreling it back into the office, where it awaits another visit to Big Table, another chance to be noticed next year.