There was another reading last night at the Springsalon. A group of artists and performers put on a show and asked me to open it up with a little bit of fiction. I had this idea that at night while we’re all sleeping, the furniture in the house get together and party, and sometimes even hook up. So that’s where I took this story. Payment in beer again, nice.
The Swedish Dining Table and the Frigid Lamp.
You would never call him a slut but it’s fair to say that in almost ninety years of existence, the dining table at the Hasselhoff’s place had got himself around the block a few times. Born in Sweden, he was naturally good looking and when they shipped him to Germany in the fifties, he got enough compliments in that first year to last three lifetimes.
He traded homes three times before finally arriving at the Hasselhof’s place along the Ufer in Neukolln. By then he’d darkened and wrinkled and the polish no longer covered up his scratches and scars, but the cutlery and the curtains agreed that ageing had only improved him and besides amongst all the other German furnishings, his charm stuck out like a lighthouse
The Swedish Dining Table remembered events throughout his life based on whomever he was squeezing at the time. For example when JFK visited he was doing a line with a Persian rug who insisted on keeping the lights off. When McCartney announced the end of the Beatles, he had just finished a wild 48hrs with a leather suitcase on its way to Paris, and when the rest of the world was boycotting the Moscow Olympic, the table showed it’s solidarity by engaging in a short fling with a kinky Russian teacosy with bad breath.
The longest relationship he’d had was three months with a coal oven, but later he’d admit that the only reason he dated her for so long was so he could get closer to her cousin on the landing.
You see, The table regarded nothing in life as good as sex, and felt no responsibility for anyone’s feelings while he made his way from apartment to apartment sewing his wild splinters.
If the Swedish dining table were to die right then, he’d say his greatest achievement had been the time he’d made love to both a fruit bowl and an armchair after a New Years party that got completely out of hand. If he were asked his greatest failure he’d say it was the fact that on the night in question he hadn’t managed to convince the futon to join in too.
‘Once you hit 24 years of age there’s no such thing as love anymore, it’s just business.’ He’d say. And he meant it.
That is until Mr.Hasselhof had a change of fortunes and lost his job as a BMW rep and was forced to sell partially used U-Bahn tickets at Schleschies Tor station. To do this job he needed to know the city’s rail network like his own hand. At night he had to study crowd patterns, work schedules and learn English expressions like ‘day ticket?’ In order to do this he’d need a desk.
The Swedish Dining Table, once familiar with fine wines and the best foods was now a landing sight for rulers, coffee mugs and pencil shavings. He’d become the one thing all dining tables hate, a simple, boring desk.
To add injury to insult, Mr. Hasselhof drilled a hole through the surface and mounted a gangly looking office lamp in its place.
Now the lamp was one of those metallic, twisty devices not known for their good looks. On top of that, this lamp was a feminist and refused to change her appearance to satisfy male whims. From day one they hated each other.
The dining table would make wolf whistles at the vacuum while Mrs Hasselhof did the cleaning, and never tired of asking the three ducks on the wall ‘How’s it hanging?’
The Lamp would blush or turn away, disgusted that she was compelled to spend her days and nights with what she considered was no more than some 2-dimensional, sex mad, hunk of Scandinavian wood.
The Dining Table on the other hand would buck and jolt and do everything in its power to try and shake her loose from her hinge. In fairness she was cramping his style. Not even the bean cushion – who’d normally get up on a gust of wind – would touch him now that he had a lamp sticking out of his ass.
Strange things happen in the lives of furniture. While they act as if there existence is their own, they’re really only one cleaning accident away from disaster or one garage sail away from an upheaval.
Upheaval started slowly at the Hasselhoff home. The first signs were when the family began eating from Penny Markt instead of KaWeDe. Mr Hasselhof wasn’t doing so well from ticket sales. There was competition from the junkies and the tourists had all read that same Lonely Planet advice section warning them off ze Germans at train stations.
One day, he hopped on a stepladder and removed all the paintings from the wall. They were never seen again. The Dining Table wasn’t so fussed, he’d had them all several times – they were a bunch of cheap tarts. The walls could do with an upgrade. But when the bay grand piano went, the dining table started to panic.
The Lamp noticed his concern. “It’s going to be okay?” she said at a loss for words.
“Did they teach you anything in Media Markt?” said the Dining Table.
“Are you all you lamps as dumb as you are ugly? It’s a recession. We’re fucked.”
The Lamp didn’t quite know what to say so she said nothing.
In early January things hit rock bottom and the Hasselhof’s were forced to leave Neukolln and move to a cheaper home in Marzahn. Mr. Hasselhof was now collecting Hartz IV so his work desk was no longer needed. The lamp and the dining table were dumped on the street.
“What’ll we do now?” said the lamp. The Swedish Dining Table, normally so macho, felt like a lost child.
After one day, they were taken by a group of punks and brought to their squat along the Spree. They decided the Dining Table was bourgeouise so they chopped his legs off to stumps. Beneath the noise of the saw, the punks grunts and the Dead Kennedy’s record playing in the background you could just make out the Dining Table’s soft, soft weeping.
The Lamp tried her best to console him. She poured warm light on his stumps but he refused to even open his eyes and look at them. In a word, he was a broken table.
The punks covered them in candle wax and piss. From time to time they’d brawl or fuck right on top of the once proud surface. At times like these the Dining Table would lift one stump so the lamp could curl up beneath his strong body and stay safe.
Furniture, if treated well, can last several lifetimes. It became clear to the dining table and the lamp that any longer like this and they’d be nothing more than fire wood and broken metal.
They hatched a plan. Every morning at 6am the garbage men pulled up outside the squat. The next time they came by they could throw themselves out the window into the back and drive away to anywhere else.
“I don’t know if I have the strength left,” said the dining table.
“I believe in you,” said the lamp.
Now all would have gone to plan if it the bull hadn’t visited the squat the night before. The bull was the fattest punk in all Berlin and somehow he ended up passing out drunk on top of the table. The next morning they heard the rumble of the garbage truck outside.
“I can’t budge him,” said the table. “We’re stuck here.”
“Watch this,” said the lamp.
She crashed her face into the floor and her bulb smashed across the room in a million tiny, shining pieces. The glass ripped right across the Bull’s face and he jumped to his feet. In that instant, the dining table leaped onto two stumps and with energy he didn’t know he had, jumped clear through the open window and onto the back of the garbage truck.
The Garbage truck rumbled off down the lane, but the Bull followed in hot pursuit. The lamp used her mechanical arm like a slingshot and fired club mate bottles back at him.
The Bull took one right in the groin and he fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
The truck eventually passed the city limits and made its way East. At a traffic light, they dining table and the lamp climbed out of the back and made their way into the woods at Treptower Park.
They scurried along the edge of the river until they came across a gentle bank overlooked by fine Willow Trees.
“This is the place,” The Dining Table said.
“Can you still bear to be with me even though I don’t have a face anymore?” said the Lamp.
“Till the end of time,” said the Dining Table.
And as sunset that evening, the Dining Table and the Lamp shared their first kiss and made sweet sweet love to each other.
For the first time in his life, the Swedish Dining Table learned that sex didn’t always entail someone getting fucked and the Lamp learned that just because you’re a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a piece of wood.
In time the Dining table and the lamp grew old and ivy wrapped itself around their worn frames but they were happy, and in the tough and precarious life of a piece of household furniture that was as good as it ever got, and as good as you ever wanted it to get.
And on soft Berlin nights, if you make your way along the sweet side of the Spree to Treptower Park, you can sometimes hear the faint grunts of metal and timber.