Experts say one thing successful marriages have in common is a division of labor. My husband and I have a division of labor: He loses things; I find them.

Of course, he'd never own up to the fact that he's the loser. He's quite adept at arranging things so that it looks like I'm the one who misplaced his vital documents, valuable coupons and favorite pens.For example, he'll make do with a succession of plain old No. 2 school pencils until the day I really dig in and deep-clean our bedroom. Then quite suddenly, he discovers that his indispensable monogrammed mechanical pencil is missing, and he's sure I've swept if off the dresser into the trash bin during one of my overzealous cleaning sprees.

"It was right here a moment ago," he says in the kind of voice that would make a nun feel guilty. "I laid it down just this morning, and now it's gone." (When he says "gone" like that, I know I'm a goner, unless I can quickly recover the item in question.)

With some things, it helps to have a spare around. For example, whenever he misplaces his keys, I just pull out another set on an identical ring. By the time he loses that set, I've usually found the first set, so things work out pretty well. But for other hard-to-match items, that strategy doesn't work.

"Did you check the pockets in your suits?" I ask.

"Of course not. I didn't leave it in one of my suit pockets; I left it on the dresser."

"OK," I say. "Did you check the basket on the refrigerator or look under the bed?"

"I didn't leave it on the fridge or under the bed."

"How about the window sill?"

"Not there, either."

"The end table?"


"Is it all right if I look under the couch cushions?"

"Why would you want to do that when I didn't leave it there?"

"Just where do you want me to look for it?"

"Well, I left it on the dresser. . . . "

"OK, you just sit down here and read the paper," I say, guiding him to the living room so he won't be able to see me rummaging through his closet.

Of course, when I at last find the missing item, he's going to want to know where I found it.

"In your gray pin-striped suit," I let him know.

"Well, I didn't put it there!" he says.