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.