Shortly after returning from our honeymoon, my wife and I went furniture shopping. We launched ourselves onto countless mattresses, trying to choose one that we both deemed comfortable. We finally decided, and while the salesman checked his warehouse for availability, Southern Gal and I ambled through the store.
That’s where we found the chair.
We sat in the chair. Then we tried out the matching couch. We checked the price tag. Southern Gal sat in the chair again, asking me if she looked like a lady in it or if it was too big.
Of course she looked like a lady.
The chair was perfect.
Before we left the store, we purchased the mattress, the comfortable couch, and the perfect chair. Two weeks later, we received a phone call saying our furniture was available to pick up. Not wasting a moment, I called my dad and asked to use his truck. “Oh, and can you throw in some straps to tie the furniture down?”
My brother texted, “I’ll bring the truck over if you want. I need something to do this evening anyway.”
The warehouse closed at seven, and my brother was notoriously late...and forgetful. I urged him to come right away. “And don’t forget the tie-down straps.”
Much to my dismay, he took a long time to arrive…and forgot the straps.
It’s all right, I reasoned. If need be, I can buy some at Target.
We jumped into the truck and raced to the warehouse, arriving fifteen minutes before it closed. “I’ve been expecting you,” the warehouse worker said. “Just pull around to the dock, and I’ll help you load.”
The north wind nipped at my hands while we hoisted the plastic-covered couch into the pickup bed. “Think we can get the chair in, too?” I asked.
He leaned down, glancing at our license plate. “You guys had to drive a little way to get here. You might as well take the chair with you tonight, instead of making a second trip." We jostled the couch to the left to make room for the chair.
“I got some string here for you guys to tie it down if you want. Company policy won’t allow me to help you…for liability reasons.” He disappeared into the warehouse and returned with a wad of thin, wax-covered string.
My brother and I tried to secure the furniture, but our fingers were stiff and clumsy from cold and struggled with the string. Finally we finished. I checked the snugness of the chair. Through the plastic, I could see its off-white (“oyster-colored,” if you’re Southern Gal) suede fabric and the dark cherry finish of the legs. It really was perfect.
We crammed into the cab and pulled onto the interstate. I watched the rear-view mirror with intensity as we climbed to 40 mph… then 50… then 55…
The string made a high-pitched humming noise against the wind. “Let’s stop at an off-ramp,” I requested, “and check the knots.”
Things seemed secure when I examined the cargo, so I relaxed. I barely glanced in the rear-view mirror as we picked up speed again. By the time we were halfway home, I didn’t check it at all.
But when we got home, I noticed in horror that the chair was gone. We hadn’t heard a thud, thump or bump. The chair was just…gone.
We turned the truck around and before long spotted the chair by the side of the road, right-side up, with snow forming in small drifts around it. Surprisingly, the plastic was still intact. But as my brother and I picked up the fallen chair from the highway, I felt the ripped fabric in my hands. A broken board fell onto the snowy pavement as we carried it to the pickup parked on the shoulder. Some white cotton-like padding blew away, blending perfectly with the white snow.
We brought the ruined chair home. Southern Gal saw it, but didn’t say a word. After my brother left, she silently rearranged furniture to make our living room seem full despite the missing chair. When we were settled, she sank into our new couch and commented, “It’ll be okay. If that chair couldn’t survive a small tumble like that, then it probably wouldn’t have lasted very long anyway.”
That’s when I fell in love with her all over again.
Sitting on the couch, smiling in spite of our loss, Southern Gal looked like a lady.