Laughter filled the dining room of George and Bunny’s home. George held his sides as his body shook. His soft spoken Texas accent a contrast to the bass voice emanating from his large frame he said, “darlin’ you can’t be serious, you’re so tiny, how could you have broken that chair?”
“George, Richard as my witness, the only time I sat in his office chair,” I said gasping for breath, “it flung me out backwards, the chair going one way, the stand and the wheels going the other.”
Looking at Richard George asked, “What did you do?”
“The only thing I could think of, used duct tape.”
“On your wife?” Bunny asked with her refined Texas accent her eyebrows imitating mountain peaks as she looked from me to Richard laughing at the idea.
“No, Fannie was fine, I used it to fix the chair,” Richard said, “but every time she got near it, something weird happen.”
“I swear, Chip, possessed that chair,” I said wiping the tear from my eye as the laughter subsided.
“Chip, who’s Chip?” George asked.
“He’s a long standing family joke, my grandmother used to swear a poltergeist lived in our house and anything weird that happened, she blamed on Chip.” I said smiling, the devil gleaming in my eyes, “we heard the story so often when we were kids, my sisters, cousins and I used to blame anything that happened on Chip.”
“What ever you do, don’t mention Chip to Verla or Velverlorn when they’re over, you’ll never hear the end of it,” Richard said laughing and shaking his head.
“Fannie,” Bunny said, “I can just imagine what your aunt and mother would have to say on the subject.”
“What happened to the chair?” George asked reaching for the bottle of wine. “May I?” he asked filling each glass.
“Well, I used a piece of plywood and screwed the chair back to the base,” Richard said smiling. “It worked great until we moved my office from the storage unit to our apartment.”
“Then we stocked up on duct tape so Richard could mend it each time I got near it,” I said leaning back into my chair. “We saved up money and bought another chair. I wasn’t sorry to see Chip’s chair go. Since Richard is so tall, we thought we should get him a taller chair.”
“But then my old desk was too low,” Richard said taking a sip of wine. “We didn’t have enough money to buy a new desk, so I improvised.”
“Define improvised,” Bunny said leaning forward in her chair.
“The hardware store had a clearance sale on hollow doors, so we bought a couple.”
“And then we used stair rail spindles as the legs,” I said laughing. “He wanted my help getting the desk out of the office so we could renovate.”
Richard lifted one end of the old steel desk from the floor. I heaved with all my might, sweat beaded on my neck. The legs lifted less than half an inch from the floor. My arms shook as I backed toward the doorway.
“Fannie, be careful of the door jamb, don’t hurt yourself.”
The desk cleared the doorway as I backed into the wall. “Umph,” I said almost dropping the desk.
“You can do it, we only have to get it out to the living room and I can get it the rest of the way,” Richard said, his shoulders filling the doorway.
Inching down the hallway with only three feet left to travel, we passed the cat tree. Wicket and Sadie, our Ginger Tabbies, watched from their perch with rapt interest. Wicket leapt from the perch and landed on the desk. The desk slipped from my hands with a crash. Before either of us could say a word, Wicket ran for the bedroom, Sadie on his heels.
“You okay?” Richard asked.
“Yeah,” I said looking at my bright red fingers. “Let’s just get this over with.”
We carried the desk into the living room. Wiping sweat from my forehead and face I said, “I may not be able to help you carry the doors.”
“Fannie, don’t worry about it,” Richard said, “ all you need to do is hold them in place while I anchor them to the wall.”
Richard, a door under each arm, walked into the office. I followed carrying the stair rails. Using the chair as his guide, he mounted the door to the wall. Taking advantage of his level, he attached each spindle to the doors.
The doors came up to my chest.
“Fannie, if I made you a stool, you could work at the desk standing up,” Richard said winking at me.
“Very funny,” I said sticking my tongue out at him.
Richard spread fifty pounds of catalogs over the improvised desk. The doors groaned and sagged under the weight. Using the last four spindles, Richard shored them up.
“So how long did the doors last?” George asked intrigued by the idea.
“About six months,” Richard said, “we should have purchased solid doors, not hollow ones.”
“Honey, you’re lucky it did not collapse on you,” Bunny said shaking her head enough that her blond pony tail swung behind her head.
“Bunny, that’s not the best part,” I said, “we knew this was temporary, so we saved money for a real desk.”
“The tall chair broke the day we planned on buying the desk,” Richard said laughing.
“He was leaning back in his chair talking on the phone with his feet up on a door,” I said laughing, “I heard a series of pops, the sound of bending metal, a loud snap followed by a thud. But I could still hear Richard talking on the phone like nothing happened. I ran into his office. He was lying on his back on the broken chair, his heels still on the desk. He wears this old gray felt Fedora when he working, it never fell off his head.”
“The best part was my customer never knew.”
“So now we had to buy a chair and a desk,” I said shaking my head.
The dark green Ford Explorer pulled into the parking lot of Office Depot at 5:30 p.m.. A parking space opened next to the front door. Richard parked the car.
Walking through the entrance we spotted the sign for furniture. Twenty-seven display chairs varying in color, shape and size sat in neat rows next to the aisle.
Richard sat in the first chair. It groaned. He stood up. Moving to the next chair, the back support caught him on the behind. The next chair’s stationary side arms prevented him from sitting on the seat.
Seventeen chairs later he stood in front of a fire engine red chair with adjustable side arm, adjustable lumbar support, adjustable height and tilt. He moved the arms out. Sitting in the chair he squirmed a little. No sound. Since his knees were even with his chest, he raised the seat to match his 6’5” frame and raised the side arms to match.
“Fannie, can you adjust the lumbar on this seat?” Richard asked, “it needs to go up at least 8 inches.”
He leaned back in the chair. It did not creak or groan. Sitting upright he turn around rolling himself down the aisle.
A smile spread across his face. “We have to get this chair.”
“Don’t move. We’ll see which desk fits the chair now that you have it all adjusted,” I said steering him and the chair down the aisle toward the desks.
Moving from desk to desk we felt like Goldie Locks at the Three Bears house. Ten desks later we found one that was just right. Richard grabbed the stock tag for the desk and we headed to the cash register.
“Your desk is in stock, but it will be two weeks before your chair will arrive, we only have the display model,” said the cashier.
“We’ll take the display model then,” Richard said.
“I’m sorry but the display model is not for sale.”
“I’d like to speak to the manager.”
Richard would not leave the store without the chair. Towering over the manager, he convinced him to sell us the chair.
A clerk steering a pallet jack wheeled the box containing the desk parts out to the Explorer. The clerk on one end and Richard on the other, they heaved the desk into the back of the vehicle. The suspension groaned.
“How much does this thing weigh?” Richard asked.
“400 pounds,” the clerk said.
I looked at Richard and mouthed “400 pounds.”
He flashed me his winningest cheesy smile.
Racing back to our apartment in West Seattle, we pulled in at 9:00 p.m. Richard set the chair next to the Ford. He tore the box open and handed me some of the smaller boxes.
“We’ll have to make several trips,” Richard said lifting the chair and leading the way up two flights of stairs.
Forty-five minutes later all 400 pounds spread across the floor of the apartment.
“Fannie, I’m just going to rip the old desk out of the wall and patch the holes,” Richard said the look of a conqueror reflecting in his eyes.
Richard walked into his office. He removed the catalogs, telephone and computer from the desk. Grabbing one of the doors, he yanked. The door sprung from the wall snapping one of the spindles. Loosing its support the other door hung at an angle. Richard removed it from the wall with a quick tug.
“Richard, we have a noise ordinance, you can’t work passed 10 o’clock,” I said looking around the room.
“I know, it won’t be a problem.”
Richard walked the debris down to the dumpster. At 9:58 he ran the vacuum around his office. At 10 p.m. he put the vacuum back into the closet.
“See Fannie, I told you it wouldn’t be a problem. I’m going to patch the holes and repaint. It won’t disturb anyone.”
Richard patched the holes in the walls. While the patches dried, he looked at the desk. The instructions sat on top of a box near the sofa. Leaning back on the sofa he looked into the bedroom.
“Good night Fannie,” he called.
“Good night Richard, don’t forget to come to bed,” I said rolling over.
Richard walked into his office. He checked the patches. Taking sandpaper from the closet, he sanded down the rough spots. He pulled out a can of white paint. By eleven the paint dried in solitude.
Richard tiptoed across the hall peaking into our bedroom. The cats slept with me. He continued to the living room. Like a church mouse, he moved the parts into the office.
Removing all the parts from their boxes he laid out all 500 pieces in the order of construction on the floor. He located his hex key set, a Phillips screw driver and a hammer.
Pound, pound, pound. I jumped. Pound, pound, pound. The cats scrambled under the bed.
“Richard,” I called from the bedroom, “It’s 11:20 at night. You have to stop hammering. You’re going to wake the neighbors.”
“Sorry Fannie, go back to sleep, I won’t do it again.”
The clock struck 12:30 a.m. I sat bolt upright. Pound, pound, pound.
From the bed I said, “Richard, it’s 12:30 in the morning people are trying to sleep. Please stop hammering.”
The hammer stopped. Continuing on in his assembly efforts, he pulled out wood glue and clamps. He ran out of clamps at 2 a.m. The smell of fresh wood filled the room. He ran his hands over the sleek texture of the desk’s finish stopping at the organizer.
The partially assembled desk stared at him. Tempted him. Taunted him.
He grabbed the hammer and a dowel.
I awoke with a start. Not making a sound I walked into his office and held out my hand. The look on my face quelled any resistance he might utter. He handed me the hammer with a shrug. I climbed back into bed, hammer and all.
At 3 a.m. he snuck into our bedroom. He slid his hand under my pillow. His fingers touched the hammer. I made a noise and rolled over to face him. He held his breath. My eyes did not open. He let go of the hammer, sliding his hand from beneath the pillow. He walked to the closet. Pulling out his dress shoes he returned to the office.
Richard used the heels of his dress shoes. When he finished, he put everything into their shiny, new organized places.
Around 4:30 a.m. he got me up to demonstrate how wonderful his desk looked.
He compared it to my disorganized desk. “Look Fannie, this is what a desk is supposed to look like, clean, orderly.” He pointed to my desk, “untidy, disorganized”. He repeated this one or two more times until he realized I still possessed the hammer. . .
George and Bunny burst out laughing.