Back in college, I shared a shabby apartment in a run-down neighborhood with Stan, a friend who everyone told me to stay away from.
It was about as near to heaven as I have ever been.
We lived as best as we could on our part-time jobs. To keep our expenses down, we furnished the place with whatever came our way, which is another way of saying we took whatever our neighbors tossed to the curb.
One day a sofa appeared.
It was a stunning piece of furniture. Framed in solid oak, trimmed in elegant mahogany and upholstered in a rich brocade of red crushed velvet, the couch was high-style back in the day when such things were in style. Other than a few stains and what might be interpreted as a bullet hole, the couch was in better shape than anything else in our apartment.
At first I didn’t like it. I told Stan, it had a funky smell.
“It better not,” he said, “it cost $150.”
“You paid $150 for that?” I asked.
“I never said I paid for anything.”
“You ask too many questions.”
“It still has a funky smell,” I said.
“You’ll get used to it,” he said.
Stan was right. I not only got used to it, I learned to love the thing.
Whenever you walked into the room, it virtually cried out to be flopped on and the instant you sank into its cushions, the pillows wrapped you in a velvety embrace that lulled you to sleep.
No one loved that couch more than Zook, Stan’s dog. He rolled on it, slobbered on it and worked his big dog scent deep into the sofa’s repertoire of odors, but that just made it all the better.
Our couch made a statement. It told people who we were.
The first thing I did when I met a girl was to take her home to meet my couch. It served as a social barometer. If she didn’t like it, she probably wouldn’t like me.
One day I brought a girl home, who took one look at the couch and exclaimed, “Oh, for cute!!” She moved in the same day and shortly thereafter Stan and Zook suddenly got the urge to take a $6 bus ride to Mexico City.
Alone, the girl and I were good together.
We liked the same music, hung out with the same people and drank the same beer. Best of all she boiled Ramen noodles better than anyone I knew and could cook up some mean Mac & Cheese. We were about happy as happy can be.
Everything indicated it was the way things would always be until one day when we were driving home from the U and she said, “Oh, for cute!”
A kid sat on the curb, in the shade of an elm, holding a box of puppies. Half the puppies had spilled out of the box and were tripping over their ears, chasing each other through the sunlight that dappled the grass. It was irresistible. We came home with a puppy.
Like Zook, the little guy made the couch his bed, but unlike Zook, he gnawed on the trim and peed on the cushions. He chewed the pillows and scattered the stuffing around the living room.
“Oh, for cute,” she said.
I didn’t think so. It was costing me a couch. I tried my best to restuff the pillows and duct-tape the rips but her dog was quicker than I.
For a lot of reasons, I was thinking of asking her to move out but the couch was the most urgent. Perhaps she sensed what I was contemplating because I learned later from one of our mutual friends that she ran into a guy in her pottery class and said, “Oh, for cute.”
Stan and Zook showed up the next week.
“The couch has a funky smell,” Stan observed.
“You’ll get used to it,” I told him.
“No, I won’t,” he said, “put it on the curb.”
So I did.
That evening, a neighbor stopped by to complain about the funky smelling couch on the curb. He returned the next morning with three other neighbors.
“I don’t understand,” I told Stan. “It’s a great couch. How come no one takes it?”
“Did you put a sign on it?” he asked.
I did. The sign read FREE! in letters large enough to be read from the intersection.
“Did you put a price on it?” he asked.
I shook my head no.
“Do it,” he said.
“How much should I charge?”
So I changed the sign and not an hour later, the couch was gone.
22 thoughts on “My Couch”
Funny story, poignant too. It reminded me of UW-Madison move-out day. Every curb within a few-miles of campus was piled with stacks of junk and treasure. By the next day 80% was gone. By the following day it was nearly all gone. The few shabby pieces left were picked up by the trash haulers. Needless to say we drove miles to avoid “move-in” day. Our bosses never questioned why we were late on those days. sd
Ever think that people were telling him what they were telling him. To stay away from you.And maybe someone should have told the couch to watch out for a girl who says,”Oh, for cute.” She’s dangerous.
There is more truth to that than you think. I worked for the MPD and he spent quite a few nights as our guest.
LOL. That will serve him right for adopting that couch.
Alas, poor couch. I wonder what the origin of that funky smell was.
I didn’t recognize the scent until years later when I went for a ride-along with the MPD crime scene team.
Another great story by the master. And I’m gonna remember that one-item garage sale trick to move the unmovable!
A great one-item garage sale technique is the pre-sale. You post a notice for a next-day garage sale then convince anyone who walks by that only the chosen few can shop today. It works every time. I sold a half empty can of AJAX for $50 that way.
You should have found a way to work a dog in. A couch story is only a work-in-progress without a dog. 🙂
Actually, I really liked your couch story. I ask myself, why don’t I write stories more like that? In fact, I am working on just that, writing an essay about my essays and I have come to a couple of conclusions.
1) I like to make things up.
2) I obscure the facts to avoid offending half the people I know or complimenting the other half.
3) For some bizarre reason, I have never taken the obvious and sane path in life and that makes for some interesting stories.
I would argue with you. I find your fictionalized versions of the truth especially funny and entertaining. You’re good at this writing style and I think you’ve figured that out. Stick to it.
On the other hand, my education and background are in journalism, meaning I write in a more journalistic style. And sometimes poetic, because I also pen poetry.
Keep writing how you’re writing. I love your work.
Hey, thanks for the encouragement!
Someone once said, “All football coaches wish they were generals and all generals wish they were football coaches”. I can’t speak for coaches or generals but I have met writers who wished they could write non-fiction as well as they write fiction as well as writers who wished they could write fiction as well as they write non-fiction.
The people I envy the most are those who do both extremely well. Look at someone like John Sanford who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work writing about the farm crisis for the Pioneer Press and now he is a NY Times best selling author for his fictional crime novels.
Sanford toured the BCA several times (his detectives are BCA agents) and each time I missed meeting him. 😦
All the while I’m reading this, I’m thinking of the great leather couch the son acquired a few years ago when he was working a summer job in Rochester. He found the reddish leather sofa at Good Will. It was originally priced at $150, marked down to $110. In the end, he got it for $25, after pleading his poor college kid case. Here’s a link to that story: http://mnprairieroots.com/2013/05/20/the-price-is-right/
With a good cleaning, it looked pretty darned good.
Then in August, we had the couch temporarily back home because the son was heading to college in Boston. Eventually we stuffed it into our van and headed East. As far as Appleton, Wisconsin, and shoved the sofa up a flight of stairs and into our daughter’s apartment.
That’s my couch story. No dogs. Nothing nearly as entertaining as yours.
We live along a busy street and, whenever we want to get rid of something, set it on the boulevard. The “free” sign works every time for us. Bam. Gone. Sometimes even before our hands have left whatever we are giving away.
Superbly crafted tale – I enjoyed the read immensely. Where you stand unique/apart from us other chaps perhaps is your intent to capture a gal with the thought in mind, ‘The first thing I did when I met a girl was to take her home to meet my couch.’ Not a line I’ve ever come across previously!
Funky couches were a well-established mate selection technique of the era. The couch simplified the process by efficiently eliminating entire classes of potential girlfriends.
Today, males employ tattoos and piercings to much the same effect.
I still try and fail with the old, ‘Do you want to come up and see my etchings’ technique!
And just like that, I can hear my Aunt Mary (in Mankato) saying “Oh, for cute!” Incessantly. Down South, they’d say “Isn’t that dahlin’?” If they really didn’t like it, it would be the ultimate insult, “isn’t that nice…?”
Favorite bit? “….and what might be interpreted as a bullet hole…” LOL!
If only I had kept the couch, my forensic friends might have been able to settle the “interpretation” question by identifying the caliber. Stan, who had no “formal” education in forensics, said there was no question about it, it was a .38.
Fun story – great way to start a Monday.
“Oh, for cute” must be a local idiom. Not in the lexicon in these parts.
I am, however, familiar with magic curbs. I have managed to avoid any number of trips to the dump by invoking the magic powers of sidewalk boulevards.
To be precise, it is a local idiotism (which is the term locals use for idioms).
Great romp! Thanks for the read.
You are welcome, Mark. It was fun to write.
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