Chairs Waiting

Wed, Jan 25, 2012, 00:00

Flash Fiction:IT CREAKS and rattles, pulls to the right despite your efforts to repair it. The chair, foul concertina of a thing.

First you must pinch the grey wheels to check their pressure. You must attach the footplates, test the brakes, re-bind the armrests if the insulation tape is worn. Here, beneath the constant weight of hands and elbows, this is a weak point beyond any expert’s measurement of tolerance.

Whatever you do, though, you must not rush. Yes you are going slowly, and the chair – all wrinkled vinyl and tubular, matt-black steel – is not yet ready, but take your time; get it right. Inspect the upholstery for rips or sagging, spin the castors and check for any cracks or wear. Oil the bearings, clean the forks. Insert the rock-hard cushion right-way-up otherwise the occupant will slip. This is most important.

If the chair is electric you must charge the battery. You must confirm the panel settings and tidy up the cables. If the mechanism is designed to lift the occupant then you must inspect the harnesses and grips, must put your faith in gyroscopes and latches. You must force belief in declarations about quality of life and hope that nothing happens that might make the situation worse.

If the occupant cannot use the chair today then it needs returning to the unheated, unplastered, unused room that is designed to be accessible. And you must not betray yourself in there, where first you put the sticks and then the walking aids and now one chair from every table in the house. You must not allow yourself to linger either, because this is not a place for people.

This is the den of things that slot and lock and click, cold and mechanical things that can only be worked with Allen keys or calloused hands.

All around you are the idle hoists and sad rollators that have outlived their usefulness, the jail-cell frames of hospital beds and the humped backs of special mattresses, which all left sores despite their promises. A gallery of miseries and disappointments; a private collection, always growing larger, each and every piece at odds with the flesh and blood it was supposed to cradle.

But getting mad will do you little good now. This is not a place for you to hit or break things. You have no right, and, even if you did, everything is broken anyway. Just park the chair, fold it up with quiet curses, and know that you must wheel it out again tomorrow; you must pinch the tyres and check the pressure, must attach the footplates, test the brakes. You must know that a chair was once an article of state and dignity, heavy with braid and pressed with leaf. If nothing else, you must remember this.


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