Jonas Rindegård | Art by Victoria Dai
It is 1867. A tree falls in the forest and a man is there to hear it. A lumberjack. The lumber accompanies him home.
Twelve days later, he sits down. The fruit of his labor supports him. His legs ache but the chair is there to support him. He is comfortable. The chair is happy.
The next day, the lumberjack sold it to a family of three at a local market. It followed them back to the city, up the creaky stairs of their small-but-affordable apartment complex, and was set down by a desk adorned with stationary, bottles of ink, loose forms, and a bulky typewriter as the centerpiece. There was a picture hanging over the desk, three people within: a man, clean-shaven and stolid, but otherwise discernable as the father; a woman in a plain dress, complemented by a floral shawl concealing the birthmark on her neck; and a child, smiling against her parents’ stoicism, mid-laugh at something just behind the camera.
Days and months passed into each other as the chair served its purpose admirably. Between the man’s comings and goings between home and employment, the woman would reserve the desk to herself and get to work. Stacks of papers slowly piled up over weeks, filling up with more and more words until they were sold off to the penny presses and pulps. The name atop was never the woman’s own. She seemed to care more than she seemed to admit, but the money (however meager) silenced her discontent.
The child watched her mother frequently. When she wasn’t at school, she was inside snatching loose papers and scrawling over them in pencil. She did this and laughed. She would show the papers to her mother too and she would laugh, or at least have the courtesy to smile. If the chair could, it would have smiled too
It is 1872. There was a fire.
By all means, the chair should have been reduced to ash. Just about everything else had been. Hearing commotion down the central stairwell, the mother and her child rushed out the door, grabbing only what they could: the mother took her latest stack of papers and her typewriter, but had to drop the latter to lead her daughter through the smoky air. The child had taken one of her latest drawings.
Hours later, the building was a half-decayed foundation filled with rubble and dust. After the flames died out, people began to sift through the wreckage. The chair was under a thick layer of ash and dust, but otherwise pristine despite being wooden. Confounding the man who found it, the chair was left on the curb for whoever saw fit to claim it. The family came back to see what had been recovered before they could find someplace else to stay. Besides some metal trinkets, kitchenware, and the chair, there was little. They left the chair behind.
The chair waited longingly for embrace, yet it never came. It faced the weeks, months, years ahead with no one at all. The rains slowly withered away at the wooden seat, passing dogs occasionally chewing or pissing at the legs. But through the molding years, it persevered. Into years of nothing more.
It is 1929. The chair sits in a junkyard, long since moved from the street. It is dry under a haphazard tarp, dogs roaming the land scavenging for carrion and warmth. Occasionally somebody new passes through, looking for brief respite or cutting through quickly to evade another. The chair watches it all unfold, from the sidelines of the forlorn scrapheap.
That is, until a cold December day dawned. The air was harsh, the city sleeping under a thick blanket of snow. The dogs had retreated to their dens. Sticking out from the calm was a man taking a stroll, warm scarf matching his reddened nose and auburn hair. It was quiet enough to hear him humming. He was out of tune, as if he had been drinking — if he was he would not tell.And he came into the junkyard and stopped to take a breath. Then he felt the need — that primordial desire, old as man or older — to sit. He scratched his leg and looked for a seat.
The chair. He saw it. It was there.
The red-nosed-man approached. There were cobwebs. Dust. Wet spots, leakage from the tarp above. Mold. He didn’t care.
He brushed it with his hand. He sat.
The chair, full of purpose once more, was happy.
It is 1932. The chair accompanied the man home that day many years ago. He lived modestly. He and his neighbors had little, but what little they had they shared. What they had lost with the rest of the world, they mourned together. They tried to keep Depression at bay. A group of them had managed to cobble together enough to rent out a small house just outside town near the waterfront, with additional shacks cobbled together on the perimeter. The chair was lucky enough to earn placement in the main room of the proper house, cluttered with all manner of scavenged furniture and kitchenware and newspapers sprawled out at random and with a handful of impromptu mattresses lining the floor. Yet, it was home.
The days flowed between despair and ecstasy with ease, like the neighborhood’s infrequently-procured brandy or their cheaply-stewed gruel. They gathered nightly by the radio, crowded together in the warmth of the living room. The chair was frequented by a man with the crooked knees, friend to the red-nosed-man who had saved it, though on occasion it was reserved for a little boy when he wasn’t out playing with stray dogs and other children.
One day the child sat there and shifted his weight, uncomfortable sitting still. With it, the chair swung from resting on four legs to just three. A crack loosened its hold on the ground. It rocked back and forth that night until the man with crooked knees, driven by the noise, went out to the shed and came back with a handsaw. Before he could straighten the legs however, the chair felt its age. A leg snapped off at the base of the seat.
It fell to the ground. The break was messy, splinters and semblances of rotter edges spotting the cracked edges. The man was dismayed. He bent down to pick up the pieces, back straining as he leaned. Parting the sea of neighbors he took the chair outside. The air was harsh and cold, whipping at splintered wounds. The backyard was a new home. Other junk and half-finished projects lined the outside walls. A passerby might mistake it for the week’s garbage.
The sun set and the evening redness fell upon the sea and the man reentered the living room. The chair was alone again. It was a painful night. It became many nights.
It is 1945. Years passed in turmoil, wartime, tragedy, victory, and eventually, victory. Celebrations were had by all, hardships by some. The seaside neighborhood disbanded and the shacks surrounding the house were struck down, though friendly faces from the time before visited some days. The red-nosed-man had moved onto brighter prospects, leaving the house and its possessions behind in generosity.
The house was now occupied by the man who had frequented the chair many years ago. His knees remained crooked. His face had grown older to match. With him, three children: a girl no older than seven, another who seemed at least twelve, and the same child who had occupied the chair all those years ago, now nineteen and working most of his days. They were not their own blood, but they lived like they were. The chair accommodated them all.
The chair had since been rebuilt. Two legs had been replaced, noticeably smoother and less weathered than their twins. The original legs had been used as firewood.
But the boy — now a man of his own — was not content. He sat in the chair often to comfort his aching legs and bruised body. Sometimes cuts would paint the chair in blood. Nevertheless, he came home everyday with food and money for the rest. Without fail.
As the girls slept, the crooked-kneed-man and the boy-turned-man would argue. Some nights it was quieter: a look of disapproval, sadness. Others it was violent: shouts and fists slamming into the table and walls to make bold statements. The chair was kicked over on occasion, but always set upright in the end.
But one night ended everything.
The boy-turned-man came home with a pistol stuffed into his belt. The man with crooked knees, seeing this, jumped from his rest upon the chair into a wobbly stature. A shout. It was returned. He frantically locked the door. He pulled his gun from his belt and as the crooked-kneed-man got louder in protest, the girls came from their rooms.
Suddenly from outside, a gunshot. Bang. Screams within the house.
The boy-turned-man cursed. He ushered the girls out the backdoor into a neighbor’s yard. Tears in his face he came back inside. He tried and pleaded with the crooked-kneed-man to leave. He stood his ground. He hugged him and called him son. The boy cried.
Thunder from heavy fists crashing on the door shook the house. The boy urged the man to run. He resisted. The door came down. A massive man in a broad-shouldered suit came through, hands the size of his head or more. The boy reached for his gun but not quickly enough. He was pinned to the wall by the massive man. The father snatched a knife from the kitchen and dug it into the assailant’s back. A guttural yell echoed. The boy pried himself free.
The massive one turned to the man with crooked knees. His eyes were set with anger. The crooked-kneed-man cried for his son to leave. He didn’t. He reached for his gun.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Click. Click. Click.
The massive man fell. The man with crooked knees, weak, had fallen. The boy helped him up.
There was still urgency. The man urged the boy to go protect his sisters. His knees were too weak to carry on. The boy tried to carry him. There was commotion at the door. The boy hurried. The man couldn’t keep up. He said it was all right.
More men in similar suits to the massive one saw through the window. One held a length of rope. The other a knife. The boy struggled to carry his father, who urged him to leave now. More important were his sisters. Tears flowed. The boy was forced to run. The crooked-kneed-man stayed in the home that had protected him for so long.
The men came through the door. The boy was gone. The crooked-kneed-man remained. The suited men saw the massive one dead and turned to the old man. Knuckles cracked against his face. Blood oozed from his lips and his eyes grew dark and shut. They threw him around the room. He was forced into the chair and the man with rope tied him down. They asked questions but no answer came and they beat the man more but he was silent.
The two men grabbed the man in his chair. No resistance was left. They went for the door. The cool seaside air calmed the man’s wounds as he slipped from consciousness. The wharf approached. The ships were all at sea or lifelessly bobbing tethered to the dock. The men strolled down, crooked-kneed-man in tow. The chair had no choice but to follow.
A third behind them. He carried a hefty bag. He tied it to the leg of the chair. He kicked. The man fell back. The bag weighed him down. The chair went down with them.
The man didn’t react to the cold water. They plummeted together.
It is now. The chair rested beneath the waves for decades. The boy was never seen again. Life under the wharf was silent. An empire of rubble sat with the chair. Algae spread through it all like a verdant plague.
No one sat upon the chair. But it wasn’t lonely. The chair was happy there.
The nails rusted slowly but surely.
The glue crumbled to dust.
The wood, weak and molded, was easily plied from itself.
First to go was a leg. Then another. The seat back was next. Then the rest.
They all floated to the surface. The sun was still there waiting.
“Have I served my purpose?” the chair pondered as it left.
In the sky, a great lumberjack set himself down upon it once again.
The chair is happy.