Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fiction: Lance Ceaser

MAN, WOMAN, SOFA

Josephine leans into the cushions of the couch with obvious intent. “So, [pause] how do you reckon Hemingway would describe this particular [pause] conundrum?” She seems to lean harder yet and tightens her focus on you. Her intonation is unmistakable, even if the particulars are vague.

If you hadn’t been paying attention to what I’ve been telling you for it-seems-like-forever you might get hung up on her question. Like she’s asking for a seven-letter word for a North American rodent (opossum, in case it ever comes up). Predictably (sadly), you stiffen.

Flick, flick, flick, go the channels.

“Or Dickens for that matter?” she adds, pulling a jab. If you weren’t confused before, you’re completely at sixes and sevens now. All dressed up and nowhere to go. Dickens, you wonder, plumbing the name. What in the world is she talking about?

Flick, flick, pause. Flick. Flick. So many channels to choose from. So little
choice.

Were you a lucky man, a James Dean look-alike would shuffle in at this point, or an asteroid might strike the couch, crushing her. Elephants would stampede; the Spanish Inquisition would burst in unannounced (it’s true, no one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition). A single butterfly arriving through an open window.

Instead, you sit in that battered arm chair trying to invest your attention in the blur of the television wherever it lands. She knows you can’t see without your glasses and that you aren’t paying particular attention to the idiot box – you flinch at the sound of her voice. (Didn’t I tell you the importance of not reacting when she speaks?)

Josephine waits for you to say something, anything, and it’s starting to look like she’s outmatched you and the sofa, its cushions caving in. She purses that mouth of hers. It’s like she actually expects – nay, is anxious for – your answer.

Flick.

“Hmmm?” she prompts. You alight on a program with suitably people-shaped blobs and a laugh-track that tells you when something funny is said. The blob that sounds like Charlie Sheen says something smart-alecky to the blob that sounds like the guy who was in Pretty in Pink. Another blob, smaller, comes onto the scene. The boy-blob says something about breaking wind. A facsimile audience laughs.

Perhaps it’s the weight of her glare feeling like a 6-stone bag of concrete mix, or maybe it’s just the commercial break, but you dig in just long enough to unstick from the moment’s inertia. You say, “even a great writer could not do this quandary justice, I fear.” You reaffix your foggy gaze on the set and drum a little on the arms of the chair.

(She is stifled, and I must admit this is not a turn of events one could have imagined. Her mouth silently turns on unsatisfactory words, as if she were chewing on them, unable to spit them out.)

And it’s just then that your luck comes full about. Karma? (I’d doubt it.) She shifts her weight and is suspended for a moment in the space she inhabited before the couch exacts its revenge – the sound of a broken spring (BOING?), the SNAP of wood, and she sinks into a vortex of upholstery and broken frame. She is reduced to legs, arms & head protruding from the collapsed corner of the couch.

The Charlie Sheen blob might be in bed with a woman if you could squint hard enough. You squint, hard, but it’s just another blob with a woman’s voice. You stop tapping your fingers.

She is still struggling for some words, any words. Propelled by a sigh, you cross to Josephine. You extend a hand, which she takes. With a tug and a grunt and giving it almost everything you have, you pull her by both hands, but the couch is committed to keeping her. You consider the foot-pounds of torque, the kilojoules required to extract her. For a moment, you imagine one of those Wile E. Coyote contraptions with roller skates and a jet engine. You decide to locate your spectacles instead.

You can still hear the television with your back turned. Charlie-blob is drunk and the Ducky-blob is mocking him. The boy-blob is not in this scene. No one is having sex and there’s a lull in the laughing.

You turn back to her, and take your best shot. “It’s hard to say what Dickens might make of this particular dilemma. Perhaps some comment about class struggle as played out between mankind and cheaply made furniture.”

You scratch your chin. Where are those glasses? How long do commercials last these days, you wonder. Is there time to retrace your steps? Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom – in reverse order of appearance.

“That being said,” you offer over your shoulder, “I don’t think Hemingway could do a thing with this sofa.” [LAUGHTER]

*

R. Lance Ceaser is a lawyer and writer, practising law to make a “living” and writing to continue living. His writing has appeared in Prairie Fire, Poetry WLU, Scrivener, Afterthoughts and QWERTY. Lance has a M.A. in English (Creative Writing) from the University of New Brunswick, as well as a B.A. (English) and a LLB (J.D.) from the University of Western Ontario.

He lives with his spouse among dogs in London, Ontario. Some of his older publications, new writing and just odds and sods from the inside of his brain pan can be found on his blog, The Beleaguered Rationalist (http://r-lancerationalist.blogspot.com/).

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