Lawn Chairs

Contributor: Eric Suhem

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Alfred was a somnambulist. As a somnambulist, he would walk about the house in the middle of the night, deep in slumber, sitting in different chairs, turning on and off various faucets, eventually winding up back in bed. His family had become accustomed to his nocturnal ramblings. One morning, after falling asleep in bed the night before, he woke up in a brightly colored lawn chair out in his vegetable garden. The morning after that, he woke up in a neighbor’s yard, and the next morning in another neighbor’s yard. Each morning Alfred would wake up in the brightly colored lawn chair, closer and closer to the nearby freeway, until he woke up 10 feet away from the road’s speeding cars. At this rate, he would wake up on Lane 1 of the freeway.

Two mornings later, after the usual nighttime ambling, he did wake up in a brightly colored lawn chair on the freeway, but saw that 78 other people were either asleep or awake in brightly colored lawn chairs on the freeway, so everybody got out of their stopped cars and had a picnic. While chewing on a blood orange, one of the lawn chair occupants asked Alfred, “Who are you?” Alfred was about to describe his dead-end job at the orange grove, packing crates, preparing invoices, and sweeping up orange peels, when, in an epiphany, he suddenly visualized his new career, saying, “I’m Alfred Lindquist, I sell lawn chairs.”

The person chewing the blood orange looked at Alfred strangely, and cryptically muttered, “Through the miles of desert in the blazing sun…on the arid, parched, barren ground…ants and worms crawling amidst wayward oranges…wind howling through the empty canyons…in the middle of the silence sits a wooden coffee table…on it pumps a heart…veins, arteries, aorta, valves, pulp, peels…blood and soul spread out on the dirt…it’s the heart you’ll never know.” He then handed Alfred an orange.

Alfred started a new business selling yard furniture, and the sleepwalking stopped, much to his family’s relief. One night, after the business day had ended, Alfred sat down to fill out some paperwork that had been piling up. The plastic blinds of the window were open, filtering the glare of the streetlights onto the imitation wood paneling of his office. The first item in his inbox was a refund request for one of the lawn chairs he’d sold the previous week. This particular lawn chair included the wide orange ‘Happy Face’ on its seat. Unfortunately, customers of this product had reported skin rashes, and more severe epidermis disturbances. It was soon discovered that some fibers in the ‘Happy Face’ symbol on the lawn chair, derived from an obscure toxic plant, were creating itching, and much worse. Hostile litigation would undoubtedly flow in, and further tests indicated that an increase in degree of the smile caused more skin rashes, as more of the toxic threads of the wide smile were directly under customers’ legs on the chair. One of these chairs was in Alfred’s office, and he looked at it, the ‘Happy Face’ seeming to word, “Who are you?”

The next item in his inbox was an invoice for another lawn chair he had sold that week. Alfred needed to sign his name on the invoice, but for some reason, no matter how hard he tried, could not remember his name for the signature. He set the invoice aside, and picked up the next piece of paper, a memo from the orange grove, having to do with his some minor job severance insurance issues. His name popped instantly into his head and he was able to sign his name: Alfred Lindquist. He picked up the lawn chair invoice again, and stared at the signature line, unable to sign. The somnambulism returned.

The next morning, after a night of sleepwalking, he woke up in a lawn chair under orange trees in the orchard where he used to work. In his lap was the orange that the strange person had given to him on the freeway weeks ago. The orange had a little “d” imprinted on its side, and it was ticking, like a bomb. A year ago, Alfred had seen another orange with a “d” imprint, which had been an advertising stunt from a fruit juice stand, extolling the benefits of Vitamin D, but this time he realized that the “d” stood for “decide”. He stood up, threw down the lawn chair, and went to the orchard manager’s office, where he got his job back. The orange stopped ticking, and later became a refreshing mid-afternoon snack for a passerby.

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