“Write a short story where the characters don’t come of the couch the whole time.”
Sounds like my mornings. I get up at 4, grab a cup of coffee, my book, and my journals, and plant myself on the west end of the couch until 9am.
That’s not technically true. I get up for more coffee, to use the bathroom, do my yoga, and close the curtain when the sun comes streaming in to blind me, but essentially, I am planted. This is my spot. The cushions have become formed to the curve of butt and the arm has an indent where my elbow rests.
But my short story…more of a creative memory. It happened. I have pictures. But maybe it didn’t go exactly this way. Where shall it begin? On the couch, the same place it will end up.
The floor is lava! The couch has always been a place of refuge and entertainment. There were four of us, my brother and I and two of our younger cousins, spread across the giant, L-shaped sectional in the living room of our grandparent’s house. We’d been swimming at the community pool all morning. Grandma made us sandwiches and we ate them with tropical punch Kool-Aid and potato ships at the kitchen dinette counter, where spills and crumbs were easy to clean up. Grandpa turned on the big console tv in the living room and instructed us all to relax a while.
As an adult, I can see exactly what this was now. Two older adults, four young and wild children. THEY needed to rest, not us. The hope (the same hope I have held on to with my own children) was that they had worn us out in the pool and fed us. Now, in the name of all things holy, maybe we’d settle into the couch and be quiet a while.
My grandma said that she needed to “rest her eyes” a bit. “Watch your shows. No horseplay. And stay on the couch.” And then she and grandpa headed off to their bedroom for a nap.
The peace lasted at least a few minutes, maybe even past the first commercial break, but then we got antsy.
My youngest cousin was the first to move towards the edge of the couch, but my brother stopped her. “Grandma said stay on the couch!” She shot a look, that look, right into his eyes and lowered her foot. “Don’t even!” Her brother grabbed her arm, and she began to tear up. The wail was coming. It would be loud…grandma would hear for sure…not acceptable.
My brother, ever ingenious, lifted the cushion next to him and threw it to the ground beneath her feet. Her brother released his grip and she landed on it. They all looked at me and grinned.
Being the oldest sucks. I’m supposed to be in charge, keep things as the adults want them to be. But how is that fair? I sat there silently with my arms crossed. This is not what she meant.
Another cushion flopped to the ground beside the first and in moments a lily pad arrangement took shape across the living room floor. They were hopping from one to the next, running across the bare couch, and back onto the floor again. Giggling quietly all the while.
At first, this only began while commercials were running. Once a cartoon came back on, everyone fell silent, like a game of red light/green light. At the next commercial break, they were at it again. Temptation to play along overwhelmed me and I joined in.
Every once in a while, someone would land a little too roughly. It was trick to silence our running and falling feet in a mobile home. The floor and foundation aren’t that solid like a foundation house would be and the walls are thin to save space and weight. Each mildly loud giggle or tumble would cause us all to freeze in place and wait for the “all-clear,” no sounds of movement from the other room.
I’m not sure how long we went on like this, but at one point, while we were all happily skipping around the room from one couch cushion to the next, one of my cousins froze mid-step and we all piled up behind him, pushing him forward and landing in pile…at our grandpa’s feet.
There he was looking down on us, hands clenched in fists at his hips, those few wisps of hair standing up on the top of his balding head. He didn’t say a word. My grandma came in the room seconds later. “Oh, heavens, you kids.”
That’s when my grandpa said, “You told them not to leave the couch and they didn’t.” and we all started laughing.
We spent the next hour piling up cushions and seeing if we could stand on them, spreading them out for leapfrog, or blocking them all together to make a large tumbling mat for living room gymnastics. Grandpa would stand beside the pile and hold out a steady hand, ready to stop us from falling over into the tv or cracking our heads open on the coffee table.
Exhausted from play, we settled down into watching cartoons and most of us took a long nap there before dinner. But we never left the couch!