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Someone Else’s Chair - A Short Story by Sam Murphy

In a parking lot on the outskirts of Montgomery, every Wednesday the local church held a Flea Market. Local residents came down to sell everything, from candles to lampshades. Some simply held open their trunks, often the more experienced marketeers set up tables and typed up price sheets, meaning nothing except for the impression that they were more professional. In reality it told you they were so inexperienced that they didn't understand the importance of keeping prices hidden. The parking lot would be used for baseball games during the summer by truant school kids wasting time, in between sweaty cola bottles and arguments over first base. Faint chalk markings covered the tarmac under several of the stalls. Some mistook them for car parking spaces. This created a maze of cars parked everywhere, impossible to move once the place was full. Several birds would settle on a shell of a building in the corner overlooking the car park. The floor was littered with roof tiles that had fallen, leaving gaps for the sun to break through. The gaps created stripes all along the dust floor like black marker pens on an old yellowed white board in negative.

I could have bought anything from gramophones to melons, from only loose change. Pineapples, pots and hallway mats scattered the floor of one stall where it looked like even the table was for sale. Every second Saturday of the month, this was my market. Each year I got a calendar from Time Magazine, and marked the dates with a big red felt pen. I have kept every calendar. The pen always fades by the end of the year.

The market was heaving with people looking for something that they could use in their spare room or sell on later. I had never been there when it was this hot before; the heat clinging to you like laminate. Most stalls sold overflowing levels junk, like a trash tip. This one only sold chairs. According to the owner the chair that I bought, came from a South Eastern area of Maine. It had been owned by a Governor back in the 1890s and proceeded to be his cigar chair for his tenure in office. History remembers him as the Governor that ignored a four week General Strike, but still drank his way to reelection three years later. The smell of ash lingered in the wood. I bought it on the spot. To this day I don’t know if that story was true but I preferred it that way.

I could barely carry the damn thing home, it wasn’t the weight but the awkward level of the wooden bars which were attached half way up each leg. It had a similarly awkward rung across the base. Each had a small pattern carved into it of vines going all the way up the back of the chair. So detailed were the carvings I got the feeling that they existed first before the several pieces of wood ever became a whole chair. It wasn't made for carrying. The next morning, my back felt like a boulder had placed itself at the base of my spine all night, slowly been pressed down by an over weight man.

My life with the chair lasted all of eight hours. The eight hours from when I bought it and brought it home. When I woke up the next day it was gone. ‘Why have you got my chair?’ I shouted as I lurched at him. ‘I’m very curious to find you slouching around out here in the dust with my chair. Why do you have my chair? Do you know why that chair, my chair, is under your ass? I have been looking for this chair since the beginning of the day, when the sun rose this morning I was looking for this fucking chair, and now when the sun is just about to go down I find it here. Last summer you did the same with my kettle, its now at the dump on the other side of town after you used it as an ashtray for fifteen months. Do you know how long that is? No, you don’t because you can’t even buy a god damn clock can you? My washing line is out back slack because of you. Being a feckless bum, without a job does not give you the right to steal your wife’s chair, does it? I didn’t think so. If you’re gonna sit round all day in that stupid fucking jacket, please can you sit in someone else’s fucking chair who doesn’t mind your lazy ass.’

To this day I don’t know what happened to my chair. He probably burnt it. When I got back he was sitting on the porch staring into a bucket as if it had all the answers. I didn’t question. I only suspected it was burnt weeks later; I was having a cigarette with Molly at the back of Nelsons house. I noticed a small piece of charred wood it the high grass. It was burnt at one end. Running my finger down both sides I could feel several, long indents that could only have been the vines from my chair.

A month later I left him. I moved to San Francisco on the Greyhound. I got a job as a typist at the city council, mostly payroll and parking fines. To my knowledge, no one has sat on that porch since. My first night in San Francisco I stayed in a motel. I whispered, ‘I always loved that chair’ into my pillow leaving some spittle for my head to rest on. I could see a single open card on the table, with scrawled handwriting, illegible but probably from the motel owner. On the other side of the door, I could hear shouting from the apartment below. As sun went going down a puddle of water had collected on the window sill from condensation. I saw the light reflection in the window but the damp had stained the wood a dark brown. I could hear children outside, boys shouting statistics from last years world series whilst playing a pick-up baseball. The sound of the air conditioning unit drowned out the traffic noise. Before I closed my eyes. As I stared at the window a small sparrow flew into the glass and dropped to the floor. It never flew away. I’m sure someone will pick it up, before morning.

Credits:

Created with images by Aneta Pawlik

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