“Turn your light on, will you?”
There is a click and a light flickers on from the corner of the crowded box truck. The dim glow casts eerie shadows as it weaves about the contents. A large couch occupies the majority of the passenger side. Opposing it is a twin mattress, lashed to hooks sunk deep into the wooden walls. Assorted boxes fill the void, with the light coming from an antique Victorian lamp nestled atop an open box towards the front driver’s side.
The cushions of the couch pulse noticeably as it speaks. “Thank you. I get so nauseous moving in the dark.”
“Think nothing of it,” asserts the lamp, the light flickering with each uttered word.
Again Couch’s cushions waver. “Another move… where you think we’re headed now, Lamp?”
“Hmph, it is hard to say with our current owners. Never have I seen a more vagrant group of humans,” Lamp growls.
From the wall opposing Couch a small voice emanates from the mattress tied upright against the wall. “I like moving. You get to see new things.”
Couch’s deep seated, decorative buttons shift in the direction of Mattress. “That’s a nice way of looking at it, a little vacation.”
Mattress continues, its top edge bending forward as it speaks. “The fresh air feels nice. I’m glad to get out of that bedroom.”
The light flashes erratically as Lamp twists and leans toward the back of the box truck. “What fresh air? We have been stuffed into the back of some filthy automobile. It is as if the humans just threw us in here. Look at me! A vintage lamp such as I cannot simply be tossed on top of a box. What a travesty it would be should I fall.”
If Couch had eyes, and not buttons, it would have rolled them. Mattress curls its top toward the floor, and falls silent.
“Don’t let that old windbag get to you, Mattress. I’m happy for a change of scenery, too. And any time I can spend away from those wretched cats is a bonus,” states Couch, staring longingly at its arms.
The fine leather upholstery on Couch’s arms holds a myriad of tears, rips, and gouges. It gives a rough vertical stripe pattern to the otherwise elegant piece.
Mattress rises up and follows Couch’s gaze. “Did it hurt?”
Before Couch can answer Lamp interjects, “Hurt? We are furniture. We have no feeling. What a foolish question that is. What could any of us know of hurt?”
Mattress once again doubles over, deeply ashamed and embarrassed. “Sometimes I hurt,” it quietly whispers.
“I have to agree with Lamp. We don’t feel, but that’s how it should be. We couldn’t do our jobs if we felt pain. We have to be able to take a lot of abuse,” says Couch.
Still bent over, Mattress continues. “I don’t mean physical pain.”
“What other kind of pain is there?” Lamp quips.
Mattress shrugs its corners. “I just hurt, inside.”
It is Couch’s turn to show doubt. “Inside? You mean your springs? I’m afraid I don’t follow.”
“Sometimes it hurts when the humans do things…,” murmurs Mattress, its voice trailing off.
“Sounds like hogwash to me!” exclaims Lamp.
“Don’t be so dismissive, Lamp. Mattress hasn’t been around as long as your dusty base.”
Lamp scoffs at the insult. “Well I certainly cannot dust myself, now can I? If my base is dusty it is because of the improper maintenance these humans provide.”
“Relax, old timer. Remember a few years back when you were…converted?”
The light radiating from Lamp doubles in intensity. “Blasphemy! Those heathen cowards! Vandals, they are.” Lamp continues to murmur angrily to itself, the light pulsing as it seethes.
Mattress is intrigued by the display of emotion from the ornate lamp. “What happened to it, Couch?”
Couch shifts to take a look at the still pulsing lamp and then turns to address the question, careful to lower its voice. “Well you see, Lamp used to be an original early century oil lamp, very rare. Apparently its last owners were unaware of its rarity.”
“They gutted me!” cries Lamp.
Couch continues, “They took out all the original parts and added a modern bulb and electrical plug.”
“That’s very sad,” says Mattress, twisting towards Lamp.
“Sad? It is a sham, a mockery. I was a classic! Now look me, a weird twisty bulb and a tail to boot. Shame on you, Couch, for dredging up the awful past. Shall I tell our dear friend of the time a family dog mistook you for a bush?”
If Couch could blush he would have. “That’s not necessary. I was merely trying to elaborate on the pain Mattress spoke of. Perhaps it’s similar to the pain you feel in regards to your… twisty bulb.”
Lamp fails to see the connection and remains silent. The light still pulses, but at a lower rate as Lamp relives the loss of his oil burner.
“Is that what you mean, Mattress?”
Mattress tilts nervously back and forth. “No. Well, not really. They didn’t do anything to me. Well, not like that.”
“What happened?” Couch questions, its voice harboring a caring unknown to the Mattress.
“I…I mean they. Well, he? Or she? I don’t know.”
“Spit it out, you fool,” exclaims Lamp.
Couch shoots Lamp a stern look, creases forming between its deep seated buttons. Before it can offer a rebuke, the wheels of the box truck encounter a rather robust bump of some sort, causing the truck to buck wildly. Lamp is dislodged from its perch and sent tumbling down a collapsing wall of cardboard and kitchen trinkets until it comes to rest against the foot of Couch.
Couch lets out an uproarious laugh. “I believe they call that karma, Lamp.”
“Karma indeed! Am I broken? I fear this is the end of the road for this fine lighting apparatus,” cries out Lamp, rolling about on the floor between Couch and Mattress.
“Never have I heard such dramatics from a piece such as yourself,” scolds Couch.
With a quick lunge Couch pins Lamp’s electrical cord beneath its wooden leg. Now tethered, Lamp abandons its erratic escapade and lies motionless on its side, its bulb still flashing sporadically.
“And quit that blinking, Lamp. You’re going to give me a seizure.”
At once Lamp rolls upright and ceases blinking. It gives a tug at its cord, which Couch lets free. Lamp quickly shuffles to a nearby end table and snakes its cord around a leg.
“You good now?” Couch eyes the now terrified Lamp with contempt.
The group is silent a moment before Mattress begins to talk, inaudibly at first, but growing in intensity. Both Couch and Lamp turn their attention to the rambling bedding.
“…it’s dark. Night, I guess, I don’t know, but I can’t see. Small one is asleep. It snores. Feels warm and restful. I like it. That’s my job, you know? I hear another. Door opens, but then closes. It’s quiet again. Someone is there. I know they are there. I can’t see or hear them, but they’re there. I know they are. It’s a big one. He or she? Small one wakes, but something…hurts. It’s different this time. It’s wrong. I know it is, but I don’t. Small one hurts now too. Big one doesn’t hurt. It’s taking…I don’t know, but it’s taking. There’s struggling, but not like usual. Different. Feels…bad? I know it’s wrong, but I don’t. I feel them both now. It…hurts. Small one hurts. I feel… hurt? Big one leaves. Small one stays. Not warm or restful. Hurt. Crying. I feel different…”
Mattress falls silent and the group is left only with the steady hum of the truck’s engine and the rhythmic pulse of tires beneath them. Mattress has bent over nearly double, a sagging horseshoe of springs and polyester.
Couch is the first to break the silence. “Did the big one hurt you?”
Still facing the floor, Mattress quietly says “no, but yes. I don’t know. I feel hurt, but I’m not hurt. I feel strange. I feel dirty, old, worn.”
Lamp chimes in. “What are you blabbering about? You are not making sense, young one.”
Couch makes a quick shuffle to the side, knocking into the table that Lamp has secured itself to. Lamp’s light glows brighter and flickers, but it says nothing. Couch stares down at Lamp for a moment, and then slowly turns its attention to the distraught Mattress, slouched over its tether.
“I understand, Mattress. You witnessed something terrible. You were misused and that hurt how you feel.” Couch’s tone is calm and even.
“I thought I was going to be used for relaxation, rest, recovery. I’m supposed to be a place of comfort and security. I’m not anymore. I’m nothing.” Mattress rises slightly, along with the volume of its voice.
“It’s not your fault, you-“
“Yes it is!” screams Mattress, shouting at the floor. “There was hurt and I did nothing! Every night I can feel the hurt. What good am I?”
Couch, taken aback by the sudden outburst, looks to Lamp for guidance. Lamp remains motionless, suddenly void of voice.
“I don’t want to be like this. I want small ones to jump up and down on my springs, laughing and enjoying my soft surface. I want to hear bedtime stories and to soothe weary bodies. I want to be a shelter during thunderstorms. I want to be a weekend fort, loaded with pillows and sheets. I just want… I wish… I want…” Mattress’ voice trails off.
“…to be loved,” finishes Lamp, its light a soft and comforting glow.
This causes Mattress to fully rise and look to the strange savant tied to an end table by its own cord. Couch also faces Lamp, surprised at the words coming from the typically ornery fixture.
With both Couch and Mattress too stunned to speak, Lamp continues. “It is what everything wants; love. It is what everything deserves. It is not your fault what happened, Mattress. Do not blame yourself. Sometimes there is evil and we are powerless to stop it, but it is not for lack of will. You have not the ability to control the actions of others, only of yourself. Do not let the transgressions of another batter you, but use it to strengthen your resolve. You are not weaker as a result of this, but stronger, having lived through it, and seeing its immorality. Do not lower your light, but burn it brighter.”
“Do you mean it, Lamp? I’m not a failure?”
Lamp relinquishes his bond to the table leg, shuffles toward Mattress and says “Of course not, dear. And you are not alone either. Remember that.”
“Thank you, Lamp,” says Mattress softly.
“Lamp’s right. You’re never alone,” says Couch, matching Lamp’s understanding tone.
“Thank you, Couch.”
Mattress turns toward the front of the box truck and says “We’re not alone.”
From between two towers of boxes there is movement. A young girl, her auburn hair disheveled, and her face stained with tears leans out from the shadows. A worn shirt and torn jeans drape about her slender form. She brushes away fresh tears, whispers “Thank you,” and, for the first time in two years, smiles.