Someone has left a red sofa in our drive. In medias res, so to speak. Is this installation art, or some kind of hoax? With my bag flung over my shoulder, I bend down to scrutinize it.
“What´s that dirty, old thing doing in our drive?” My husband has left his desk to join me, throwing suspicious glances at it over his reading glasses.
“How should I know? It is probably a joke.” While I refuse to take responsibility for the ancient piece of furniture, my memory begins to rummage for something. No, that is just not possible.
Two days later a sprinkle of autumn leaves cover it. The result is beautiful but desolate. Our neighbours have started a whispering campaign, and soon they will unite in rebellion as if I had left a corpse to rot in their well-regulated suburb.
“What are you going to do about that … that thing? Can´t you call someone to remove it?”
I married an academic, not a handyman, so I suppose it is fair enough practical problems belong to my sphere. I know I should call the council and arrange for them to collect it, but I am growing more and more certain I recognize the monster. Impossible to explain this to my well-regulated spouse, but some superstitious fear prevents me from taking action. I am waiting for his next move.
Ralph sat down next to me on the red sofa and put a large hand on my thigh. “Come on now. It is you and me, and you know that.”
I tried to move away, but the hand tightened its grip on me. “Gimme a kiss, and we´ll forget all that rubbish.”
“Why won´t you understand that it is over? Over! I am sick and tired of arguing with you. And all those friends you hang out with.”
He inched closer, mouth open. All I could think of was that he reeked of beer and stale smoke. I knew that if he kissed me, I would retch.
“Is there someone else? Is it Mick?” He put up a hurt face but a huge belch destroyed the effect somewhat.
“Don´t you get it? I don´t want to have anything to do with you or any of your mates! My dad will be here in ten minutes.”
“So I am not good enough for the little teacher´s daughter any more? Is that it?” He performed his favourite trick, cleaning his dirty nails with his flick knife, but I had seen it too often to care.
“Mind you, you´ll regret it. I won´t do anything now. But some day, I´ll kill someone you care about. And to remind you who I am and why I did it, I will send you the red sofa.”
I am sitting on the weather-beaten sofa, wrapping my coat around me. I can feel all the watchful eyes on me behind starched curtains. I have just called the hospital. Again. No news. He is still unconscious and they can´t say which way it will go.
I look at the stained fabric, mapping my six months with Ralph. But surely no one bears a grudge for twenty years. My father is in his late seventies, and we all know his heart is frail. I don´t believe in this voodoo stunt. Still, I cannot pull myself together to do anything. I have begun to punch the number to the council more than once, but my fingers will not obey. His words ring in my ears and the woolly contraption has me in its clutches.