Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Chair's Secret

   Old, tired and worn out, that is what I am.
My legs are not straight any more and my colour is fading. I don't know how old you are but if you are close to my age and also a male, your legs are probably not beautiful either!

   Legs are strange things, don't you think so? At the start mine were very elegant, even for me not being female. But at the time I was born, men were far more elegant than today with white silk stockings decorated with ribbons; and velvet trousers and jackets. And expensive white wigs and lots of jewellery to show their wealth and status. Their shoes... very elegant with silver, sometimes even golden buckles. Of course I never wore shoes or stockings. My legs were always bare, only covered in white paint with a golden glow in the groins.
I was dressed in brocade with gold thread. Can you believe how beautiful this was? Particularly when the sun shone on it or with candlelight. The flickering flames brought the gold to live. If... only if I was on my own and not used.
Yes, people used me. I hope you are not thinking that this is the same as being
   Maybe I have to explain that I am not a human being, I am a chair. These days an elegant chair as I am might not be too useful and only to show off but back then my fellow chairs were the same.

   Being a chair is quite eventful. There are so many different.... uhm .. bottoms that made use of me. Not everyone in the very old days was tiny or slim. At least not in my castle. The older they got the bigger their bottoms. I dreaded the huge matrons trying to wriggle them selves between my arms. They pretended to be slim but they were not, still they wanted to sit on me. Can you imagine how that felt? First of all you see her coming, her perfume floating miles ahead of her (perfume was used to hide the not so fresh body odour, another challenge for a chair...). You have good hopes that she decides I am too small but no. She stops in front of you, turns around and oh my.... Do I have to go into detail?

   It was not all misery. I (still) live in a grand castle and I am told there are or were, many more of me in many rooms. And all served numerous bottoms of generations of owners and guests. Fortunately once in so many years we were reupholstered and our seats refreshed with new horse hair and singles to carry another generation.
But then came the day that changed our lives......

   I already heard rumours going round about the great financial losses of my owner.
I need to say I wasn't too surprised; so much money was spent on gambling, drinking, parties and mistresses. The rows with his bookkeeper and wife got worse and worse. I never understood anything about his business but from the furious conversations in my presence, I knew that the money that was going out was a lot more then that what came in.
   His wife was often in tears; she did not get any credit any more at her suppliers and thought she already spent her life in poverty. Which I doubted, but I could not say anything of course.
But my owner did not listen and said he was going to earn all the money back, people owed him large sums. He did not mention however, that these people were also almost bankrupt due to their gambling addiction telling their wives the same story!
   I witnessed my owner from being a wealthy man with mistresses, a wife and children, becoming a desperate poor castle owner; his life at risk due to his debts.

   One evening, during one of the numerous meetings with his bookkeeper (a very loyal man who worked for the company and family much longer than he remembered), someone knocked at the door. Not a polite or gentle knock! It was more banging, driven by a huge anger....
The butler tried to stop the visitor but by the sound of his scared voice, the visitor made his way to our room. The door flung open and there he stood; the man who lend a huge amount of money to my owner and who wanted every penny back. Right now and here. And he was furious!!
Debts do strange things to people. Either they become cool blooded monsters to get their money back or they become crying desperate pathetic little men, not being able to pay back.
   Of course you want to know who the latter was.... it was the bookkeeper of all people. And it was not even his fault!
While the other two man challenged each other's anger and power, the bookkeeper crawled backwards to a corner, one hand in front of his face, the other pushed forward with wide spread fingers as to protect himself.
When he passed me, I noticed a terrible smell and saw that he wet himself in fear. I felt so very sorry for the man but also understood his fear, I too saw the two pistols in the hands of the other men and knew it was only a matter of time before we were going to hear the first shot.

 Again the door flung open and the butler catapulted himself into the room, the brave man.
It made the other two turn to the door and then, completely unexpected, one of the guns went of. It was such a chaos that I still don't know who's gun, but I still remember who got killed....
 I promised myself and everyone, never to mention a name or gender, never! But I can tell you that it was not the butler, not the bookkeeper (who fainted when he heard the shot) and not the two other men.

 The smell of blood competed with that of gunpowder and seemed extra strong in the one minute of complete silence in which everyone tried to come round with what happened. Then there was shouting and desperate whispering about what to do next. The butler was summoned to close and lock the door and he obeyed like he had done for 40 years.
 All three men now discussed what to do with the body of that very unfortunate intruder who (and this was accidentally very fortunate) would not be missed being one of the most unpleasant creatures walking on two legs in this part of the world.
   While the discussion went on, I looked at the bookkeeper and noticed his very strange pale complexion. I wanted to attract the attention of the other three men but nobody paid any attention to me and I sighed a very deep and desperate sigh, feeling old and useless.
   The men came to an agreement; my owner walked to the door in the corner of the room, more a cupboard door then a real door because it was made just above the panelling. I knew this door led to a very small room with a secret passage to deep inside the castle and only the owner of the castle knew about it's existence.
But this was a different situation and owing the other man so much money, he showed him where they could hide the body and where it most likely, wouldn't be found for a long time, if ever.

   The next hour the men were busy moving the body, pushing it through the little door and believe me, this wasn't an easy thing to do! The deceased was not very petite!
Finally they disappeared into the small room and it did not take long before all the sounds of huffing and puffing, faded away.
   By the time they returned I worked out myself that the bookkeeper was not 'amongst us' any more and most likely died because of a heart attack. Or just pure fear. Whatever the cause was, he was dead too.
You might think that this was a real shock to my owner but I underestimated his empathy. He watched the poor dead man for a while, then sighed in relief and fell backwards on top of me. And this is when my legs cracked but he did not notice it. He leaned forwards, thinking of what he was going to do next.
   At least I have to give him credit for wanting a descent funeral for the poor man who left a wife, children and grandchildren.
Before they carried him out of the room, my owner lifted me and put me in front of the little door he carefully sealed, mentioning me of not being of any use to anyone any more.
   I watched them walking away, carrying the bookkeeper who's dangling head and arms moved in the rhythm of the footsteps of the others; the butler holding his feet.

   Within a few months time, the family left the castle. Many of their belongings were sold to pay off the debts but some uninteresting items were left to keep me company.
   The last I heard was the lock of the door; I was on my own and remained this for ages until a few years back when a group of young people entered the long abandoned castle, calling themselves 'urban explorers'.
   They managed to open the door and entered the room, surprised to find the odd things but disappointed that it was not hiding any secrets.
And why moving an old chair with crooked legs when it was not in the way of the door to another room? They passed me on their tour through the rest of the castle, leaving me with that terrible secret I never learned to live with.

Photo: @marshallubx (Instagram)
   A secret like a monstrous lump, growing and growing in my memory and body. When it is going to burst? I don't know. Maybe you will find me one day, asking yourself why I look if I exploded.
   But even then you will not know it was that secret that finally came out. You will not stand still to listen to the name of the dead person, whispered by the horse hair sticking out of the large hole in my seat.....

Word of thanks: the photo of @marshallubx (Instagram)) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use the photo as an illustration for which I am very grateful. Thank you Marshall!

Links: please visit the beautiful Instagram account of @marshallubx

Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!