The Couch Troll

by Jeanna Tendean

The old man coughed and wheezed. His bones ached as he slowly climbed out of the flea-ridden, tattered bed. He hobbled into the living room, while holding his aching back. He moaned aloud, causing his dog, a shepherd-collie mix, to tweak his ears, but nothing more. “Ya lazy mutt.” The old man griped as he made his way to the beer and cigarette stained lazy boy. The wooden skeleton of the chair bulged through the trodden cotton, allowing the old man sturdy support as he eased down. He still couldn’t believe someone would throw out a good chair like this. Sure, it had its share of burns and a few stains, and if he wasn’t careful, he’d snag his pants or scratch himself on a few unruly wires or splinters snaking out, but other than that the chair was in great condition.

“Pansy wansys wantin’ somethin’ new every time they turn around,” he grumbled to no one in particular. “That’s why everyones’ in debt up to their frigholes,” he said, while glaring at the mutt. Besides food, utility bills, cigarettes, beer and soap, the old man hadn’t paid a cent for anything going on twenty years. That’s why he had a decent amount of cash hidden safely away underneath a particular floorboard in his bedroom. He had never entertained the idea of a bank account, for there was a price to pay when someone else counted your money. The old man lit a Boral cigarette and looked around admirably upon his second-hand furnished living room.
Everything that furnished his modest shack he’d found on the side of roads and at the city dump. And he prided himself at his ability to sniff out the best. He looked over at the newest couch. Loading that couch up in his truck had caused his back to sing soprano, but it was worth every note. It was the nicest piece he’d ever come across. No stains, no smells, no tears or cigarette burns: not even sagging cushions or upholstery. He couldn’t fathom why someone would just set it out at a Hannah home charity site. It was in the same condition as the couches down at Flannery’s Furniture, not that he’d ever bought one from that turd. But one day, he’d gone out for a stroll on the town’s square to look for dropped coins, and he stopped at the window and peered in at all the new couches. And he knew that sooner or later some of those couches would end up in his living room. And by the time they made their grand appearance in his home, the couches would be worth much more than what they were sitting in the swanky furniture store.

The old man stubbed out his cigarette and sat back in the groaning chair. He glanced at the couch again and chuckled, causing phlegm to lurch up his throat. He swallowed it down and chuckled harder. He has had his fair share of roadside couches, and half of his wealth he’d found inside them. Oh, the quarters, nickels and dimes lost by fools and more fools. He’d found dollar bills, five-dollar bills and one hundred dollars bills numerous times. He had even lucked up and found three diamond rings, a gold Rolex and a strand of genuine mother of pearls. Yes, over the years he’d found many riches inside the dark bowels of couches. He’d found pictures, and he kept those, too. He leaned up, reached under the coffee table and pulled out a 30 cal. ammo box he’d had since his stint in Vietnam, and positioned it between his legs. He gently unlatched the lock and looked inside. Smiling back at him was a snaggletooth grin from a child with a gapped up haircut, an elderly couple celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary, a wild punk-eyed teenager with blue hair and black nails, and there was even a lady with no legs, smoking a cigarette, perched on a bed.  The old man wasn’t a thinker, wasn’t a philosopher, but he did, at times, question his motive for keeping the pictures of people he never knew, nor will.  But when those complicated thoughts crossed his mind, he waved them away, just like a pesky fly.

He closed the steel box and pushed it back under the coffee table. The couch was beautiful, he thought and looked a little closer at the designs in the upholstery. With his head cocked in one direction, he saw Asian dragons blowing fire from their mouths, but when he looked from a different angle, all he saw were gold squiggly designs with a deep orange underlay. He didn’t know what fabric made up the upholstery. He’d never owned a couch so new, so expensive, but it felt like silk to the old man. And the couch had a smell, too. Not a bad one, rather musky and piney. Yes, he was lucky. The old man sat back, closed his eyes and laughed, because he knew, better than any moron, that he’d be a few coins richer in the morning…

The sun was up, but jaded by dark rain clouds. The old man sweated profusely after turning the couch, so the bottom faced outward. “Just like a woman positionin’ to give me her goods,” he said to the dog that snoozed on the floor and flicked an ear at the occasional flea. “Lazy mutt,” he said. “I don’t even know why I let your bag of bones stay around here.” The old man got onto his knees; they popped from the weight of his beer belly. He clicked his box cutter out as far as it would go. The old man had a set routine for this, having done this many times. He had learned that not all treasure was lost between and under the cushions. The good stuff fell deep down inside the dark bowels, because when people sat down, it widened the gap between the side and back walls of couches. He began to cut at one end and made a straight line to the other side of the under fabric. He dropped the box cutter on the floor and reached into the dark slit. He felt over thick metal coils and roughened pieces of wood, fingered the small nooks and crannies. As he neared the end, his heart sank. Nothing, nothing at all. “Sure as a dog’s got fleas, there’s gotta be somethin’ in here,” he said aloud. He frantically groped over every inch of the metal and wooden guts of the couch and finally struck pay dirt. It was round, a tad larger than a softball and smooth, but his fingers didn’t recognize its dynamics. He felt a hollow spot, and he prodded a finger into the round mystery, and slowly pulled it out into the clouded light of day.

It was a skull. A baby’s skull. He was sure of it. While in Vietnam, he’d seen many skulls, skulls from adults and babies, alike. It was toothless, with large round eye sockets. On top of the skull was a V-shape jagged slit where the baby’s skull had not fused together, yet.  It didn’t have time. It looked alien to the old man. He dropped the skull on the hardwood floor, and it clanked, like porcelain smacking wood. He shook, while the hairs on his back and neck stood up. Its hollowed eyes gaped up at him.  Fear surfed in his stomach. What should I do? The old man’s thoughts ran like a hamster on a wheel. If he called the police, they’d not only take the skull, but also the couch. They were a package deal. But he wanted the couch more than any other piece he’d found. It was a gem. He closed his eyes and shook his head. “No, uh huh, there’s no way on god’s green earth I’m giving this couch to a bunch of badge-totin’ Barney Fifes’,” the old man confirmed aloud. He picked up the baby’s skull and pushed up from the couch. He retrieved his box and locked the skull inside with the pictures. Not a picture box anymore, now it’s a steel coffin. The old man shivered at the unwanted thought. He maneuvered the couch right side up again and went to his chair, reclined back and thought about the skull. He wondered who the babe was and why someone would murder a newborn. He wasn’t a bleedin’ heart for no one, but hurting a baby crawled under his skin. It gave him the willies. He also felt a little guilty for not doing what he knew was right and moral; feelings he wasn’t accustomed to feeling. But the old man waved the complicated thoughts away, just like a pesky fly…

He had drifted off to sleep, but something roused him from a forgotten dream. He opened his eyes. Night had fallen, and the living room was dark. As he reached for the lamp switch, a voice sounded from the new couch.

About me

This is me: home-writer, book-reader, dog-lover and occasional poet. I make this website to share my and my friends texts with You, dear Reader. Please: read carefully, don't be scary, upgrade your mood and be king and leave your comment. :)