Sunday, August 14, 2011

Marla Shaw’s Steamer Trunk Mystery

I love mysteries! I received this story from Sofie Couch, an author who re-purposed an old steam trunk and thought it might be the basis of a new mystery novel.  Thanks Sofie for your email and let us know if you decide to write this story!

Marla Shaw didn’t like worms, or any creature that had the potential for being found under a rock, but upon opening her wardrobe steamer trunk, a can of worms was precisely what she found.

A knock on the door of her compartment accompanied the satisfying snap of the latches on her trunk…

Okay, that could be the opening of a story, or it could be your new life as a writer when you unlatch your own re-purposed steamer trunk. The satisfying click of the latches, accompanied by the anticipation of mystery… which you write, because upon opening this trunk, you’ll find something more than you might have expected – an entire home office.

It all began when I was wandering around my house looking for purpose. My laptop had been returned for warranty repair, and without it, as a writer, I’m pretty much lost. Pen and paper just aren’t the same. It took me several days of wandering before I realized I was searching for my writing space. Oh, I have a desk, and an office, but without my laptop, it just wasn’t the same. I needed occupation.

And it was about that same time I received a call from my mother who owns and operates an antique mini-mall. She doesn’t need to go out on the hunt much these days. Folks just seem to find her with their treasures, and on this particular day, someone pulled in with a beauty of a wardrobe steamer trunk on the back of their truck. A phone call later, and we had struck a deal.

This trunk was ROUGH. The lock had, at some point in time, been pried open and was/is irretrievable. (Hmmm, what were the circumstances surrounding the forceful opening of the trunk. Could it be incorporated into a story?) It had also been stored in a barn for heaven knows how long, so it… er…reeked is the word that comes to mind. Probably black mold. I’ll let you know if it kills me. It hasn’t yet, but I did immediately break out the bleach.

Following a once-over cleaning, including, in addition to mold removal, spider eviction, I stood back to look at the trunk’s potential. And then it hit me! This could be an office for someone with limited real estate in their home.

And a re-purposing project was born. The materials necessary, (beyond cleaning/de-bugging materials,) are the following:

4’x 8”x1” pine board, cut into two pieces to fit interior of trunk

9” piano hinge

4’ of thin chain

glass beads or a two tassels

wall paper

upholstery trim

embellishments of your choosing.

The first task was to cut the board to fit the interior of the steamer trunk. Did I mention I don’t do electric saws? I’m a pretty capable person, but darn it, I need all ten fingers for typing. So I took my measurements to the local home improvement store and they were happy to cut the board for me. I had to trim the corners to fit the curved interior, but I don’t mind using a hand saw.

With one board resting on the braces that were already in place in the trunk, I attached the second board to the first using the piano hinge. (This second board folds up when the trunk is closed, and folds down into a desk surface when the trunk is open.)

Next it was on to wallpapering. I was not looking forward to this. I enjoy a volunteer gig as a set builder at the local theater, but precision is never the goal. Safety is the goal and making things “look” level, but we never actually use a level, or worry about seams matching, etc. It went well though, with the exception of one split seam that will need to be resolved. The drawers were a bit tricky, because the pulls could not be removed and re-attached, (at least not with my skill set.) I may come back later and crochet coverings for the original handles, but for now, they’ll do as-is.

The upholstery trim finished off the desk-side wallpaper and the rest of the frills are a hodge podge of accessories I’ve found around the house or made using stuff I happened to have on hand – old jewelry, some glass beads, chain and a tassel.

The last touch will be four feet, probably wheeled casters, that will lift the whole thing about three more inches. The lap tray is a little low for working comfortably as is, but as you can see, this would well define your office space. Next task, a “do not disturb” shingle to hang up when working.

Enjoy while I get back to Miss Marla Shaw. What was stuffed in that trunk that made it reek so?

Sofie Couch is raising a “para normal” young adults… and writing in the same genre!” You can read her latest novel, ANGELS UNAWARES: Fall for Grace, available on Kindle and through discerning booksellers everywhere. To see the steamer trunk in person, you can join Sofie and a group of talented writers at “FALL FOR A WRITER”, a tailgate party/booksigning to be held October 15, 2011, in Keswick, Virginia. Follow Sofie at