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James R. Stout

The Leaning Sofa

            From the time I can remember we always had the latest issue of the Sears catalog. To be honest with you, I don’t believe that my mother bought anything via the catalog from home. However, it allowed her to see what was available and she would just go to the store and purchase it. She might have ordered in the store via the catalog, but I don’t recall that we ever received packages from Sears of items that she ordered. The catalog served other purposes as well. The big catalog was a source of wonder for me as a kid. All those toys, bikes, record players, transistor radios, and even clothes were all there to ponder. It didn’t take long for many pages to become dog-eared. My sisters viewed it mostly for clothes while Mom looked at clothing, kitchen items, knick-knacks, and for all I know, patty-whacks. Dad would look at the latest tools. He was a firm supporter of Craftsman tools.

            The catalog usually sat on an end table or a lamp table between my parent’s chairs. Dad always had a recliner while Mom preferred a swivel rocker with an ottoman. Come to think of it, there were likely back issues of the Sears catalog inside that ottoman. The catalog was also a convenient coaster. Therefore, it didn’t take long for the front cover to be wrinkled and worn from spilled soft drinks or coffee. Fortunately, the days of using the catalog in an outhouse were long gone. I never asked, but I wouldn’t be surprised that Mom had to put to use an old catalog for this purpose in her early childhood. They didn’t have an indoor restroom until she was about 11 or 12-years-old.

            As the years passed and I grew-up the Sears catalog was still a must have household item. We pretty much used it for the same reasons as stated above. There was a large Sears store in a mall close to our apartment when we were first married. There were also stand-alone Sears stores still in many areas of town. I remember sometimes going to one of these just because. Eventually, the catalog would get a year or two old and way out of date which usually meant it got thrown into the trash.

            Now, fast forward about 20 years. It was in the late 90’s and we had been married for 20 years or so and our kids were about to be teenagers or close to it. The house we lived in had a fairly large den separate from the living room. We used the living room for watching TV and so forth. The den was a combination music room and home office. We inherited an old sofa from my parents. It was a hideous thing. It had a brightly colored floral pattern. I remember watching the news one night and they had video of an arrest of some dangerous criminals. Right there in the background was an exact copy of our sofa. I felt like a criminal just owning that thing. But the truth be told, it served a purpose. It was something to sit on or take a quick nap. It also became more and more worn out with time. As the kids grew older their ability to jump onto the sofa didn’t lessen. Have you ever noticed that teenagers don’t seem to be able to just sit down on a piece of furniture? Nope, they plop down with a loud thud. It didn’t matter that I would tell them not to do that every time I was witness to it. They just couldn’t help themselves.

            One day I was working on the office computer (I worked out of the house when not inspecting damages for a claims) which meant that my back was to the sofa. One of the kids’ friends who was over all the time and seemed to like to talk to me came and plopped down on the sofa. Except this time the thud was much more pronounced. It was enough so that I turned around to see a teenager with a shocked look upon his face and that he and the sofa were leaning. Actually, it was the sofa that was leaning. Oh, by the way, the sofa was a sleeper sofa and weighed roughly the same amount as Dumbo’s mom. I got up to inspect the leaning sofa. The sofa had a large fringed skirting that effectively hid the feet. I lifted the skirting and the left rear leg, a behemoth piece of carved wood, was broken clean in-two. As bad as that sofa looked to me, it had been free and to replace it meant several hundred dollars that the cheapskate side of me didn’t want to spring for. But I couldn’t have a leaning sofa. Not while I still had a wife. So, I set out to find a way to fix it. That’s what we guys do. Fix things. Note that I didn’t say “fix things right or to the approval of the fairer sex”. I employed the teen who had done the plopping to help me turn the very heavy sofa on its front allowing me to gain access to the broken leg. After much inspection I realized that the leg itself simply wasn’t fixable. Had I glued and screwed screws into the leg it just wasn’t going to withstand even a small plop. My wife was due home within 30 minutes, and I was up against a ticking clock. That’s when, as Hayley Mills said in “The Trouble With Angels”, I got a scathingly brilliant idea. There was a linen closet in the laundry room. I remembered that it had become a catch-all closet over the years. One of the things it caught was a bunch of Sears catalogs. When a catalog got out of date, it was sent to catalog purgatory in that closet. I went and got three of those catalogs. We set the sofa back up right and I got down and started stacking catalogs under where the now missing leg would have been. Three catalogs was just a little too much, but two were not enough. I tore out a clump of pages and within a few minutes that sofa was no longer leaning. I even had a teenager plop down on it to make sure it would hold up. Remember that skirting? Thank goodness for that skirting. It hid my handiwork. Three cheers for Sears catalogs!

            Well, it lasted for about 3 or 4 years that way. The wife was none-the-wiser. But then it fell victim to a tropical storm that flooded our house with about 8” of water throughout. The sofa material slurped that water up and that was that. You should have seen my wife’s face when we moved the old sofa out to the street for large trash items to be picked up by the city. She just looked at those wet catalogs and then at me and then back at the catalogs and then she just shook her head. What’s that old saying? Necessity is the mother of invention? Well, maybe I didn’t invent the Sears catalog, but I sure did find yet another good use for it.

This one survived the flood only because it wasn't used to level the sofa.

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