Gordon G Hall
Writer and Neo-Philhellene

Short Stories about Greece

Anna closed her eyes and, in her semi-recumbent position, allowed the glossy catalogue to fall, open, upon her face. Just the smell of the new print was good, but even with her eyes tight shut she could still see the wonderful thing, the object of her desire, her insatiable desire, just waiting to be ordered – by her.

It had been a full two weeks since she, her cleaning lady, and her cleaning lady’s son had wrestled the old mattress out of her apartment, and down the stairs, the lift being too small, and out into the street for the municipality to collect. For the intervening days she had been sleeping in the spare bedroom on a single bed, suffering, as she liked to think, for her future comfort.

She was sorely tempted to go to the IKEA store on the outskirts of town to see this, the object of her passion, in the flesh so to speak. There she would be able to not just see it, but to touch it, to stroke it, to sit upon it and, if there were but few people around and she was feeling very daring, to lie upon it. But wonderful as the idea was she realised it would only be wasting time. Why prevaricate when she knew exactly what she wanted. The catalogue number was etched upon her memory. She roused herself from the sofa, opened her laptop and startled her debit card into disbursing a large sum to a certain Swedish company. Delivery would be the following day.

Anna did not sleep well. Her single mattress felt lumpy and inadequate. She tried to lull herself into a doze by imagining that she was lying upon her new one, but there was no mistaking reality. Never mind, tomorrow night she would sleep oh so well and all her troubles would fade away, soothed by glorious interior sprung technology. She would look out her very best linen sheets and pillowcases, nothing but the finest for this Queen of Mattresses.

All morning she fidgeted. Twice the doorbell rang, and twice it turned out to be leaflet distributors. “Between nine and one o’clock” the store had promised. At five minutes past one she phoned them.

“Don’t worry madam, our man is on his way, he just had a heavy workload this morning. I am sure he will be with you in half an hour.”

Twenty minutes later the bell rang again.

“Yes, that’s me,” she said, “third floor.”

She held her apartment door half open as the lift came to a stop at her level. A tall, rather scruffy, individual emerged, tugging at the large, obviously heavy, sausage that had shared the lift with him.

“This way, in here”

The sausage was well wrapped which was as well given that Scruffy was dragging it along the floor to, at her behest, the bedroom.

“It doesn’t look very big,” she said

“Don’t worry luv, they roll ‘em like this at the factory. Give it an hour or two and it’ll be right.”

She signed the delivery note that Scruffy held out for her. He headed for the door.

“Aren’t you going to unpack it?” She said.

“Oh no, just delivery, that’s what I do. You’ll be right as rain with it Luv, just watch it don’t flip on yer. Bye” And with that he was gone.

The dream had not unravelled, but it was fraying a bit at the edges. She was, as they say, petite, and hardly the person to be handling something as awkward and heavy as this. Also what had Scruffy meant by ‘flip on yer’? Rather nervously she wrapped her arms around the upright cylinder of compressed springs and managed to ease it towards the edge of the bed.

“Just stay there,” she said, and went off in search of scissors. The mattress stayed.

Better equipped she started to cut away first the polythene and then the brown wrapping paper. As she pulled the packaging towards the floor she could see the beauty of her new acquisition. It was everything she had dreamed of, a sort of creamy white with brown piping. “Oh you poor thing, you must feel dreadfully squashed, what have they done to you?” The mattress seemed to wobble slightly.

The compression was held in place by three thick dark straps that were secured by Velcro. She needed a plan of action. It might be possible, she thought, to undo the top and bottom straps then sort of half lean the beautiful thing over her bed whilst at the same time undoing the final, middle strap. With any luck it ought to fall open upon the bed, just needing a little minor adjustment to get it properly into place.

Anna, very gingerly, undid the top strap. The springs stirred slightly, but the mattress remained tightly rolled. Good, this was going to be easy. She stooped down and released the Velcro on the bottom strap. Again there was a slight stirring of springs, but as she started to straighten up there was a crack as the Velcro on the middle strap burst asunder. The springs, suddenly released from their compression whirled the mattress around, striking Anna. There was a chaotic moment of movement. Things were displaced, wrapping was hurled into the air, straps were re-joined, and the mattress did indeed flip, at least twice.

Early the following day Jim and his mate Rick were on bin collection duties.

“Bloody mess here,” said Jim, “better give us a hand, it’s heavy too.”

“Load of old shit,” said Rick. “it’s like that time someone trashed an alligator, did I tell you about that,”

“More than once.” Said Jim giving the polythene wrapped brown paper bundle a disconsolate push with his foot. If a motorbike had not chosen to go by at just that moment he might, perhaps, have heard a slight groan. As it was the two men heaved the bundle into the dustcart and moved on to the next set of bins.

In the apartment the new mattress lay serenely upon the bed. It was so beautiful, so innocent, and so alone.


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