idol survivor | individual challenge 1 |~1450 words
When It Rains, It Pours
"C'mon, it'll just take half a day," Howie told me. That was the kind of thing Howie always said, like he was cursed with this iron-clad optimism—or maybe he just didn't understand how time actually worked.
Either way, he was my cousin, so I agreed to help him out. I mean, driving into the city to pick up a sofa wasn't like climbing Mt. Everest or anything.
I hardly even remembered the plan until Friday afternoon, when the weather forecast mentioned that a big storm was headed our way. "Howie, are you sure we can't put this off until next weekend?" I asked.
"Nah, 'cuz that sofa'll go to Goodwill on Monday if we don't get to it first," Howie said.
"You could probably find another one in a few weeks, if you kept looking."
"Yeah, some cheap prefab thing that'd fall apart like cardboard in the rain," Howie said. "No thanks."
I knew what he meant. These days, everything was this slapped-together crap that only survived long enough to make it to the end of the warranty before collapsing into a pile of sticks, rags, and glue. "Okay, pick me up at nine, then," I said.
The sky was clear the next morning, a good sign after a night of too much Stoli and losing fifty bucks on the Eagles when they tanked in the fourth quarter and missed the spread. Freakin' football. I never bet on sports, but if I did, they always had to punish me by teaching me a lesson…
Howie apparently had gone to bed early on Friday night. He was all chipper and chirpy, like something out of a Mary Poppins movie, and he kept it up the whole time we were driving. I would've gladly killed him for nothing.
The person selling the furniture was actually home, which was not as common as you'd think. She said the sofa was upstairs in the rec room. While she and Howie talked, I went up to see what we were dealing with and ran into one of those awkward problems without answers.
Despite what my ex-girlfriend Trudy used to think, the "Bro Code" isn't actually written down anywhere. You mostly have to wing it. So you wind up in East Altoona asking yourself whether it's against the Bro Code to comment on another guy's taste in decorating. Because man, that sofa was fugly.
Howie came bopping into the room then, looking like he'd finally found the piece of furniture that would elevate his apartment into something beyond a troll habitat. The owner was right there behind him, so what could I do but give Howie the stink eye and work in some not-so-subtle hints like, "Are you sure this is gonna fit in your living room?" and "I thought you were looking for something a little less, you know… orange?"
But Howie was immune to hints. "This is great!" he said.
Fine. His money, right? "Okay, but is there room in the truck?"
"Yeah, I checked on the phone yesterday," he said. "Ninety by thirty-four by thirty-six. It'll fit."
"Let's get this show on the road, then."
The thing was a lot heavier than it looked. Getting it over to the stairs wasn't so bad, but which of us was going to carry the bottom end on the way down?
"You're stronger," Howie said.
"Yeah, but you're taller."
We flipped a coin, and I lost. "Fine, just remember to take it slow," I said.
A minute later, I was flat on my back with the weight of twenty years of Sears and Roebuck kitsch holding me down. "Get this offa me!" I said.
"Sorry, sorry! My foot got stuck on the carpet." Howie tipped the sofa sideways so it wasn't completely crushing me. "Are you okay?"
"Ask me in a couple of weeks, after the skin on my spine grows back," I said. "Ugh."
"At least the rest should be easier now."
I staggered to my feet and shook the bumps and bruises out of my back. "I guess. Let's hope you're right..."
I grabbed my end of the sofa and lifted, and Howie hiked up his end. We only made it a few more steps before we ran into trouble again.
"Why did you stop?" I asked.
"I didn't—you stopped!"
"No I didn't!"
The owner stepped into the hallway to see what was going on. "Looks like you're wedged," she said.
"I forgot how tricky this corner can be. Hey, stop it—you'll scratch the walls!"
"So now what?" Howie asked. "We just leave the sofa here and give up?"
"No," the owner said. "Let me try talking you through it. First, back up about two inches. No, not you—you. What was your name again?"
"I'm Zelda. Now, back up a little, Howie. That's it. Stop. Okay, and you there, not-Howie, move an inch to the left…"
We finally got that sofa around the corner and made it to the front door. I was sweating by then. This thing was no picnic.
"I'd better go out and unlock the back of the truck first," Howie said. He opened the door. "Huh. Looks like the snow's started."
Zelda shut the door after him. "I hope you don't live too far from here," she said.
"A little over an hour."
"Oh really, that far? They say it's going to be a pretty big storm…"
Howie came back, and Zelda held the door open while we tried to carry the sofa through it. It didn't fit.
"Will you look at that?" Zelda said. "You know, I think I remember this sofa coming in pieces, and then Myron put it together upstairs."
I gave Howie the stink eye again, but he wasn't looking.
"It might fit through the back door, though," Zelda said. "That's how we got the washer and dryer in."
I could feel my patience starting to go. "Do you have a tape measure I can borrow?"
The sofa just barely fit through the back door, but we got it through and then trudged around the house and out to the truck with it. My shoes were full of snow by the time we were drove away, with Zelda waving at us through the window.
"Man, I sure hope that thing is worth the trouble," I said.
"Oh, it is!" Howie said.
Though his enthusiasm dropped off a bit as the storm picked up. "Is that the corner? Can you see the light?"
"Yeah, it's green."
"Okay. I don't want to miss the ramp." Howie was squinting and driving with one foot on the break, never a good sign. "Boy, it's really coming down."
We crept all the way back to Homer City, pulling up in front of Howie's apartment build just as the storm was starting to die down.
"About time," I said.
"All right, already!" Howie jumped out of the truck and slammed the door shut.
"What. I really have to pee!"
We got inside, and by the time I was done in the bathroom I could feel my toes again.
"Help me rearrange this furniture, and then we can bring the sofa in and drink beer for the rest of the day," Howie said.
We cleared the big chairs out of the way, and moved the TV to a different wall. Then we went out to get the sofa.
It was colder outside than before, yet I was sweating inside my jacket. The sofa seemed even heavier now, but maybe we were just worn down. I sank my foot in a snowdrift while I was backing up with it, and I felt the cold seep into me as the snow worked its way into my shoe again. "Damn it! Watch your step…"
We went up the walkway and rested in the lobby for a minute. Then we worked our way up the stairs and finally stopped outside Howie's apartment.
"Let me just unlock the door here."
We carried the sofa in—much easier than going through the door on Zelda's old house. Then we wrestled the sofa into its new spot in front of the TV, and I flopped down on it to catch my breath.
"Boy, that was a chore and a half," Howie said. He turned on the overhead light and opened the drapes.
"You're tellin' me."
Howie looked over his shoulder and suddenly got a funny look on his face. He rushed over to the sofa and stood there, his mouth gaping open.
"Wait a minute," he said. "Why didn't you say something? This thing is fuckin' orange!"
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