The City of Ann Arbor issued a citation forcing us to remove the couch from the front porch and to clean the debris and junk strewn around the yard. This was the summer we rented a bush hog and mowed the back lot because the weeds had grown so tall. One of the blades caught a rock and a small sliver punctured my chest like a bullet. I dropped the beer I held and I rubbed my heart but did not think much of the pinprick sensation. We threw the couch in the back of my rusted out cargo van, a completely stripped and rusted cargo van with only one seat, the driver’s seat, the van still had faded stenciling on the side advertising an air conditioning repair company long gone out of business. The couch fit perfectly sideways, so we used nylon rope and duct tape to tie the couch into place, and we were happy to fashion a place to sit down when we went out to eat or to see a movie. On sultry nights we sat in the van, the side and back doors wide open, and propped up our feet on discarded milk crates and smoked skunk and told stupid “sofa king” jokes such as this Chinese food is “sofa king” good or you rolled that joint “sofa king” tight. We parked the van in such a way where a breeze would sweep in through the side and blow out the back.
That summer was the hottest in history seemed to me. Took us almost two months to clean up the yard and back lot. I thought I got a nasty sunburn because my chest was so hot and swollen and peeling but what really happened was this: I got this sliver of rock lodged about ½ centimeter from my pericardium. An infection then spread slowly enough that, about a month after I noticed discomfort, enough blood and pus had accumulated in my thoracic cavity to the point where my left lung collapsed. I woke up one morning and could not walk or breathe and had to be driven, held down on the couch, slipping and sliding in pain, to the hospital. Once in the emergency room, they stuck a tube underneath my arm and re-inflated my lung, “just like Ronald Reagan,” a nurse said. My parents came up the next day from Sandusky and my mother got anxious and nervous and she had to be hospitalized. My father went to the house to get some clean clothes and could not find any, he took a look around the house, and was “scandalized” at the living conditions, so he proclaimed. While I was still in the hospital, my father told me that I lived like a junky in a crack house and that if I continued to live in that house then he could not support me or send me any more money for rent or for school or even to pay the hospital bills. I thought the whole situation unfair, I’d already been in the house three years, this was the first time they had ever visited, and I had never smoked crack in my life. My friends couldn’t believe how my parents made my hospitalization a big soap opera. These friends promised they had my back.
But they didn’t have my back. After I returned from the hospital, I still had to rest, so I could not work, and not one of them offered to cover my portion of the rent. The lease was in my name, I had to give 30 day notice. My roommates silently moved out one by one, taking shit that did not belong to them, my collection of glass bongs, water pipes. This was already almost mid-August and I did not have the money to enroll in the new semester. Two days before the lease ran out, I found myself alone, bandaged, stoned, stitched up with nobody to help me move. I gathered what I could and threw the bags in the back of the van. Thank goodness for the couch because I slept and lived in the van for the next six months. Ironically, I left the yard and back lot pristine but the inside of the house was a mess, no deposit for me. Some nights I muttered to myself, this couch is “sofa king” comfortable.
Bravo! A very intense, clever, and satisfying read. I almost wrote a story with the same title a few years back. Now, I’m glad I didn’t. Yours would have blown mine right out of the water. Great write!
You should write something and title it “sofa king.” The prompt came from Dave Nordling and a few of us wrote from the prompt. Of course, I was about a year later than everybody else but I think Dave was going to prepare a short chapbook of all the “sofa king” pieces. Ask him about it.