Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 14
Spring, 2014

Featured Novel Excerpt
New Works

Beth Browne

The Wild Flight of Bookshop Chair

It was chaos in the bookshop. I had to get out of there. After the meeting, all the people were shouting, laughing and waving their hands. The racket was intolerable. No one noticed as I stretched my legs, raised my back and pulled the worn scrap of fabric on my seat up to resemble a short dress. If anyone had looked, I would not have passed for human. I did have four legs, after all. Fortunately, I had a wide backrest, curved up like a smile, which served to give me a pleasant appearance. But it didn't matter. No one noticed as I skittered to the door and went out behind a burly man with a briefcase.
Oh, the air, fresh air! I hadn't been out of the bookshop since the old lady picked me up in a dusty antique shop where I'd languished for years. I don't know why I never thought to escape before. Maybe it was just that I'd tired of all the books. No, more likely it was the books that encouraged me to leave, all those tales of the wide-open spaces. There was the baby at the meeting too, the tiny infant asleep in his snug little seat. I could never hold such a child. I was too tall. I had no arms and very little padding. It made me sad, I guess.
But now I was out, on the street. The sky roiled with morose clouds, thunder rumbled. It would rain, I knew, and soon. That would be the worst thing for my old finish and my fabric and padding would be ruined. I had to get under cover. There was a restaurant across the street, plenty of chairs in there. I could slip in and hide in a corner. It might be interesting. People would talk. No one talked in the bookshop. It was so lonely, nothing but all those words swimming around on all those pages, in silence.
I pressed myself small and went in behind a family with two squabbling kids. I perched by the door and the little girl sat on me. She was squirmy and pouting but I held her. She swung her feet and I wished for rockers to give her a ride. We could be friends. She would figure it out, I felt sure. She would squeal when she realized I could hear her. I would do my best to be a special friend. She could tell me her secrets. But all too soon, they were called to a table and a teenaged girl crashed onto my seat. Her butt was bony and she whined on her cell phone. The buzz of her chatter was irritating. She smelled of too much cheap perfume. What a relief when she got up and left me.
They just kept coming, an older man who smelled of urine and made me want to air my fabric, and huge fat women who threatened to break my legs, young men who turned me backwards with a rough jerk and leaned on my back. I kept trying to think of a way out, but they just kept coming until I was exhausted. This was no place for a finely built chair. I was too old for this. The air swam with noise and voices until I thought I could stand it no longer. And then it began to quiet. No one else sat on me. I breathed the hush like rarified air. Everyone left, first the customers and then the staff, one by one. The manager didn't give me a second glance as she locked the front door.
I was so wrung out I couldn't even think what to do. I had thought the restaurant would be fun, all those people, all those conversations, but it was too much. I had to get out. But where to go? I couldn't wander the streets for too long. Someone would see that I was not, in fact, a person. Outside the plate glass window, I could see the sky lighten. The kitchen staff came in and I could smell the grease heating for breakfast. At least it wasn't raining anymore. The sky was dusky purple. I knew it would soon be blue with sun and then it would get hot. I had to get out before the customers came and sat on me. I would have to be quick to get out before someone noticed. There was no way I could manage the door. I'd have to let someone open it and slip out, but how to keep from being seen? A sudden longing for the peace and quiet of the bookshop assailed me and the thought of books reminded me of a detective story I had recently read. I needed a diversion.
I saw someone lumbering up the sidewalk towards the door. Lickety-split I leaned over and spilled the contents of a magazine rack onto the floor. The blue-haired woman came in, saw the mess, bent with a groan to pick it up and I squeezed myself out the door. Assuming as human a shape as I could manage, going as quick as I could, I crossed the deserted street. On the other side, behind the shops, was a tree-lined residential neighborhood. The sun broke the horizon and lit up the stately oaks like a beacon. It spoke of home. The houses were all quiet with curtains drawn, wide porches, with oh, with chairs! Mostly rockers, but still, they were fine old wooden chairs. They might even make interesting conversationalists.
It felt good to stretch my legs a bit. I was sore and tired from last night's ordeal. I should have known I wasn't a restaurant chair. How silly. But I wasn't built for walking either, I was built for sitting and after half a block, I climbed up the stairs to a small cozy porch with nothing but a swing and one small table. I gauged the length the swing would travel and settled myself at a safe, but conversational distance. He was an angular thing, but well made and at the moment, he was sound asleep. He was older than me by a fair stretch, I guessed. The table was cheaply made and worn but gave a cheerful air. I could tell she was very happy for the company of a contented philodendron sprawling over her top.
A towering magnolia in the yard lent sweetness to the rain-washed morning air. It was warm, but not stifling yet and a light breeze brought freshness. A wren flew in, perched on the banister and peered at me curiously, as if to say, "Where on earth did you come from?" I smiled at her so she wouldn't get any funny ideas about the uses of chair stuffing as nesting material and she flew off with a respectful nod. I rested my feet on the worn wooden floorboards. I let my back relax a bit. I was dozing when the screen door creaked open and a woman came out. She was middle-aged with a bit of padding, but not obese, thank god. Her hair was sensibly gray and stylishly short. She flung a purple mat on the deck and began to stretch. I watched her assume the chair pose and decided I liked her. A person who can sit like a chair would surely understand one better than most.
It was entirely pleasant to watch her gyrations, let the breeze caress my rungs, feel the silence like a warm blanket. I decided if she'd have me, I'd stay. Hopefully the porch swing would not object. He looked like he could be grouchy at times with all those sensible angles and no romantic curves. I would do my best to sweet talk him. The woman finished her moves and lay back on her mat with her eyes closed. The table stirred, saw me and grinned, the plant falling around her top like tousled hair on a teenager. I smiled back, feeling suddenly shy and tried to sit tall and proud. I wanted the woman to like me, so I could stay. I thought of the bookstore owner and felt a pang of guilt. I hope she'll find a good replacement, a young chair, maybe one that likes to read.

Since her re-birth in 1963, Beth Browne has been struggling to return to her previous incarnation as a sea otter. To this end, she now owns a wetsuit and a sailboat. Her two children love her, but they wish she liked cooking half as much as writing. Occasionally, she indulges in a spot of knitting but she practices yoga every single day. When she was five, she starred in the school play as The Ugly Duckling, even though she would have much preferred a lesser role as A Beautiful Swan.