Monday, 9 April 2012

Coffee Table

When the package was due to be delivered, Poojah made sure that her grandson was there. After more than half a century of living in the South East of England, having moved in her youth from the South East of Asia, her English was good. She had made the effort over the years, especially in the early days to learn the language by becoming immersed in the mixed community around her. But she always felt that she wanted the added security of having the latest generation, her home-grown family to help her. It wasn't just dealing with the delivery man, it was also the fact that she knew that even without being asked, her grandson would put the package together. 

Poojah's days of youth were long gone and she relied more and more on the wheelchair to get around the house, as well as outside. She would often curse her legs for failing her whilst her arms remained strong and her mind sharp, but she was resigned to the fact that she needed extra help now and then.  

It arrived in a simple cardboard box, flat-packed for easy assembly printed on the side in large black letters. They debated whether to move some of the lounge furniture to accommodate the new arrival, musing as to whether it would be a replacement or an addition. The old coffee table was full of memories, but it was shaky, damaged and splintered, risking injury not only to herself but to her increasingly mobile great-grandchildren. 

As she knew he would, Poojah's grandson got to work straight away. Less than an hour later, the table stood in the middle of the room, coasters from the old table placed on top of the new one, and newspapers and magazines placed in the narrow space between the tabletop and the open shelf below. Thinking ahead to the toddlers who regularly visited, Poojah had ordered some rounded plastic covers for each of its corners.

Minutes later, an ambulance stood outside Poojah's house, the crew who emerged from within barely able to suppress their giggles at the sight that was in front of them.

"If you two laugh at me, there'll be big trouble!" The grandson couldn't help but laugh either. "And you too! I don't care how old I am, or how old you are, I'll beat you all with my walking stick!"

And then it happened. Poojah laughed too. Sometimes, in the face of adversity, even the one directly affected must see the funny side.

"Don't make me laugh! It hurts being stuck here like this!"

All we saw as we stepped in to the room was an upturned wheelchair, newspapers strewn across the floor, and a pair of legs flailing in the air, about a foot off the floor. Poojah, by some miracle of inexplicable science and against all the laws of gravity, had fallen out of her chair and head first onto the lower shelf of the coffee table. She was wedged in the small gap and no amount of manoeuvring by her grandson could release her from her trap.

"As I see it, we have some options. The first one is to get the fire brigade to come and cut through the table. It'll be noisy, messy, but quick."

"Don't you bloody dare call the fire brigade! My neighbours will never let me forget it. It's bad enough your van is here."

"Fine, no fire brigade. The other option is that we all try to pull you by your legs and see what happens."

"You want to do what?"

"Just kidding." I didn't need to see the glare to feel it.

"And your third option?"

"We take the table apart screw by screw. It just might be a bit uncomfortable, because we're going to have to move the table to get to the bits and pieces."

"Do it."

"And it might take time."

"That's fine. I'm not going anywhere." We all laughed again.

As gently as possible, we started to take the table apart. The way it was built meant either just unhitching the shelf, risking Poojah hitting the floor and sustaining injury, or to work our way backwards, remove the tabletop whilst maintaining a steady base. We chose the safer, but more prolonged route and eventually lifted the wood that had become an accidental cage. Poojah was lifted gently off the shelf and helped back into her wheelchair.

She was uninjured in body, although her pride was severely bruised. There was no way she was going to hospital and no convincing her to allow for a doctor to visit, just for a check up.

"We'll just put this back together, then leave you in peace to enjoy your new table."

"Don't bother. I'm sending the damn thing back."

1 comment:

TAZ THE AMBO said...

Did you make an offer on the 2nd Hand table? Might have gone well back at station in the Tea room.