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The Red Leather Chair

Published: September 14, 2018

It was a bit old-fashioned for a desk chair. It was a long way from new, sitting off to the side in the vendor’s stall, a price tag dangling from the armrest. But, there were no tears in the leather, no cracks in the wood, and the casters still rolled. To the wandering shoppers strolling by, the red leather chair looked no different than hundreds of other pieces of used furniture available in the large indoor market.

The red leather chair had a history. Like every item in the market, it had a story of where it had been, what it had been used for, and, alas, why it was now for sale. With no one to tell its story, the chair remained in the vendor’s stall. It was simply a chair after all.

On close inspection, a potential buyer would see a stain on the seat back. It wasn’t eye-catching. With the red tone of the leather, it appeared to be blood. But, it couldn’t be — could it? No one would sell a blood-stained chair.

There was no one to tell the chair’s story. The vendor had no idea what this old chair he had bought at an estate sale had been witness to. To him, it was simply a chair. If he had any idea of the story, he would have advertised it and used it to crank up the price.

But what was the story? And was it really a blood stain? If only the chair had a voice to tell its own tale.

The chair had been new once. The man who had bought it was young when he found it, just right chair for his new office. Bernard Chesterman, Bernie to his friends, had finally gotten his business off the ground. With cash flowing in, more than out, he decided he could afford real furniture. His dog had been young too, a wagging blur of fur that watched as Bernie unpacked his new chair. The dog shared in his excitement when Bernie called him up to sit on his lap and listened intently as Bernie described the successful future that would no doubt be theirs.

Years went by and they were successful. The chair witnessed Bernie’s long hours at the beginning and the frustration when the recession hit. The chair was there when the company recovered. The dog would curl up in the chair for long afternoon naps while Bernie enjoyed time on the golf course as the company needed him less. Bernie was sitting in the red chair when he signed the papers, sold the company, and planned his retirement from its smooth, familiar comfort. It would have been a nice ending to the story, sweet and a little dull.

But of course, there’s always more to the story.

With no business to run, Bernie had more time on his hands. He needed more than golf to fill his days. As he sat in his dependable desk chair, with his old dog snoring loudly in his lap, he stared out the window. Though many of his friends teased him, he didn’t regret not having a wife and kids. He found it mystifying that the same old guys who harassed him for not “settling down” were the same ones with endless horror stories. Multiple divorces, affairs, alimony, and ungrateful children who never called didn’t sound like fun to Bernie.

Then the light bulb in his mind clicked on. He didn’t have to live those horror stories. He could simply write them. He sat in the red chair and scribbled ideas. When he was empty of ideas, the old dog kept his chair warm while he went to the golf course. Bernie would listen to his buddies rattle on about Wife No. 2, 3, or 4. He would murmur noncommittal noises as his retired lawyer friend complained about how his mistress left him for the plumber. When he got home, he would sit again in his favorite chair and make notes. Real life provided so much material, and he couldn’t make up stories half as intriguing.

Finally, Bernie started tapping away on the computer. He would refer often to his notes as he created people and lives, and invented whole new messes for them to get caught up in. He had always abhorred soap operas, finding them so ridiculous. But, he found he had a knack for writing them. The stories weaved together, and he ended up with a book. And then he found he still had ideas. So he kept tapping away.

The second book began to unfold on his screen. For this story, he planned to kill off one of the characters. There were no scribbles to prod the development of that storyline, surprisingly enough. As he read through the chapter, he found it didn’t quite work. He walked through it in his mind and in his office, miming the villain’s moves. He could see it now and rushed to fix the story before it all faded from his mind. As he finished the page, he gestured in the air to get just the right word. He gestured right into his dinner plate that he had nearly forgotten, sending his famous chili flying.

Bernie fetched a rag to clean up the mess. His old dog insisted on assisting. Neither of them noticed the red stain on the red chair until the next morning. Soap, water, and dog tongue worked diligently, but, alas, the stain was permanent. Bernie worked it into the book, the sauce evolved into blood; the red leather chair itself being immortalized in what would become a best seller.

The red leather chair was still there when Bernie had to say the final goodbye to his old dog. It was there when Bernie too, passed away.

 

“Wait, Mom!” The young man stopped to take a look at the vendor’s wares. The chair had caught his eye. He stepped in to get a better look. He shook his head slowly, not quite believing his luck.

She was helping him to furnish his first apartment. “That would be a good chair for you, honey,” his mom commented. “It looks like it’s in really good shape, too.” She fingered the price tag and nodded. “Good price.”

“Mom, I think this is the chair from one of my favorite books!” He was thrilled. He checked out the rest of the items in the stall. He held up a couple books for her to see — both were Bernard Chesterman novels. “I’m sure of it!”

That evening, the young man looked around at his new apartment. It was still a work in progress, but it was looking more and more like a home. Arranging the red leather chair at the desk that had been his father’s, he noticed the back of the chair and smiled. He said to himself, I wonder what the real story is behind that stain? Then he selected one of his Bernard Chesterman novels and settled in for a good story.

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