BY WES PAYTON
Copyright is held by the author.
An Open Letter to the Smithsonian Institute: You May Have My Chair
My apologies for this open-letter format, but you have so many museums, and I wasn’t sure which dealt with used furniture — moreover, this is an emergency: Please don’t take my chair!
My wife and I just had one of those discussions that started off with an “I get where you’re coming from” tone but then took a sharp turn into “Now I see where you’re wrong.” Apparently, with all the sheltering at home we’ve been doing of late, she’s grown sick of the sight of my writing chair.
Granted it’s no prize, but I’m quite fond of it, as it’s where I’ve written about a half million words that are currently in print (okay, so technically some of those words were self-published), which over the years have brought in dozens of dollars for our family, so I explained to her that we can’t get rid of the chair because one day, when I’ve become a writer of national treasure stature, the good folks at the Smithsonian will undoubtedly come asking for it, to which she replied, “Can you check if they want it now?”
Despite her rejoinder being cute verging on clever, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve had that chair longer than I’ve known her, so really I think this is in part a jealousy thing. But it’s also partly a duct tape thing, as the faux leather trouper has incurred some injuries over the years that necessitated bandaging, though don’t our imperfections only add to our character? Certainly, I admire my wife’s character, including her characteristically short-sightedness when it comes to vintage home furnishings.
It’d be one thing if the chair in question were prominently featured in our living room, but instead it’s discreetly and discretely tucked away in our unfinished basement, which she’s usually as loath to visit as Persephone is to descend into the underworld. (That allusive simile was meant to put the word out by helping this piece get accepted into one of those prestigious, exclusively online publications that’s probably curated by some classics wonk, which my wife thinks are a complete waste of time — ezines, not Ovid lovers. In all likelihood, she’ll only be able to read this letter’s title before she’s inevitably called away to chase after our young children so that I may continue to do my important writing uninterrupted.)
Back to the matter at hand. I’ve devised a foolproof plan that we’ll both benefit from and that will require very little effort from either of us. I’m aware that you’re in possession of Archie Bunker’s chair, but everyone knows it’s not a collection until you have at least three, so I propose that you see about procuring that Game of Thrones chair, which recently seemed like a pretty big deal, and then maybe also the dad’s chair from Frasier. The latter may appear a bit underwhelming if it’s to be displayed next to a throne made of swords, but I think that dichotomy would do much to enhance the exhibit — something for every taste — and I can assure you that both chairs are in far better condition than mine.
So now that I’ve done my part by offering two excellent suggestions for more renowned chairs to set your sights on, let me describe your part. I need you to send me a letter on Smithsonian stationary by certified mail officially requesting that I donate my chair. Then I can show the letter to my wife as proof that my writing chair has value. From there I don’t think it’ll take much to convince her that we ought to keep it, since — like her antique doll collection — it’s valuable despite its ugliness. I’d be willing to leave the chair to the Smithsonian in my will so that you’ll end up with it at some point anyway . . . I’ll even throw in those creepy dolls, if you’re interested.
In summation, I think we both know that my writing chair belongs in my basement, not America’s attic, so let’s work together on this thing to ensure that it stays there.
With appreciation in advance for your complicity,
P.S. I’m aware that you may well be of the opinion, nobody wants your damn chair; however, firstly I submit that’s patently not so since I’ve plainly expounded my desire to retain the ersatz patent-leather beauty, and secondly — all the more reason to send the letter.