3rd Place – September 2020

The Gift

By

Kathy McDonough

Most people would look at the old sofa and see trash. The stuffing was coming out of the seat. The wood framing the piece was scratched. Not deep scratches, more like wear and tear from surviving one hundred years or so. Tired, ancient gold brocade material was losing its hold on the furniture – ripped and wrinkled.
“How about this piece?” Rebecca asked. The Texas sun beat down, heating up the shed.
“Aw, honey, you don’t want that old thing. It’s propped up there, but the back leg is broke. You can see that big rip. It was nice at one time, but now it’s just a piece of junk.” She walked across the shed. “I called you out about this table.”
It wasn’t a real table, more of an old farmhouse chopping block, precursor to the modern kitchen island.
“Yes. I do want that, and maybe this box of lattice dishes, but I’d also like to throw in the sofa. I might be able to fix it.”
“Sure,” the lady said, “saves me the trouble of hauling it to the dump.”
They settled on a price of $300.00 for the lot. Rebecca paid, and they loaded the chopping block and old sofa in the back of her truck. The dishes went in the back seat.
Both parties were satisfied – mark of a good deal.
In Rebecca’s high-end Dallas shop, she’d easily be able to sell the chopping block for $900. She’d sell the lattice dishes individually, not as a set. Interior decorators, who frequented her place, loved to string expensive ribbon through the ceramic lace that was a part of each dish. That box alone, would bring almost $1000 when she was done with it. Yes, a profitable little visit to be sure.
Then there was the sofa. For now, she’d put it in the front window. It was perfect in its current condition for the look she wanted. A before and after display – shabby to chic. Her customers would love it.
Four hours later, she pulled into the parking lot of her shop.
“Hey!” Fiona called as she came into the warehouse.
Rebecca waved, straightened the truck, and got out.
Fiona was already at the tailgate. “That chopping block will sell as soon as we unload it, but the sofa…? That might take a little longer.”
“I’m not selling it. I’m using it in the front window.”
Fiona frowned and then brightened. “Yea. I see it. I see it. Oooh. I can’t wait to get it there.”
That was one of the best things about Fiona. A lot of words weren’t necessary. Give her the idea, and she’d come around to it on her own. It was uncanny and just a little weird how their business minds synced.
“I thought we could drape those upholstery swatches over the arm.”
“Yeah. That would be great. And how about putting the old Persian carpet underneath?”
“The red one?”
Fiona nodded.
“That would work. The colors will be perfect with this gold.” Rebecca tapped the back of the sofa and a puff of dust drifted up.” They both laughed.
A few days later, Fiona and Rebecca were in the shop together. Fiona’s husband, Sam, had gone on a call to buy books at an estate sale.
“Come here!” Fiona called from the workshop. “You have to see this.”
Rebecca closed the scheduling book. An old house was being demolished for a new gas station. Their shop bought it, but part of the deal was to be finished with their dismantling by Monday morning. She couldn’t turn it down, with the beautiful crown moldings, glass handles and wood floors. But putting together a last-minute crew was proving difficult.
“Hurry!”
“Okay,” Rebecca called.
Fiona, the furniture expert in the shop, had out her secret solution for cleaning wood. “We thought the dark wood was cherry, but it’s not. Look!” she said in awe. “It’s Birdseye Maple. Real Birdseye Maple. Only 1% of maple trees are Birdseye. And look how the furniture maker used the wood. A true craftsman.”
“Wow,” Rebecca said. “This sofa just became a lot more valuable. We’ll display it for a while and then reupholster it.”
Fiona nodded. “Don’t forget, you’ve got a meeting with Livy and Charlotte over that chopping block later today.”
“I know. Right now, I’m assigning a crew for the house in Marsipole.”
“Put me down. I want to take pictures of that sweet, old place before we start taking it apart” Fiona said and got back to the cleaning.
Later that day, the two designers showed up to bid on the block. When they left, Rebecca ordered pizzas and the group sat back to celebrate.
“How much?” Sam, who had returned from the estate sale, asked.
“I was hoping to get $900.” Rebecca rolled her pizza and took a bite.
“And…?” Fiona asked.
Rebecca swallowed. “Charlotte won the block for $1550.
Sam whistled.
A young couple stood outside the front window. Rebecca nodded their way. “Customers.”
“No,” Fiona said. “They’ve been coming by for the last two days. Of all the things in that window, the woman has her eyes on the sofa.”
“She’s got good taste,” Rebecca said and opened her water.
“They keep looking, but haven’t come in to ask about it, yet.”
The bell on the door jangled.
“Looks like today’s the day,” Rebecca murmured and brushed the crumbs off her blouse. “I’ll go. You guys eat.”
She greeted the couple.
The woman was soft spoken. “I was wondering about the sofa.”
“I picked it up a week ago. We haven’t started working on it, yet.”
“We had one just like it in our home when I was a child. That exact color with those strange markings. I called them sofa freckles. I carved my name underneath. Got a whooping for that one.”
Rebecca laughed. “Where are you from?”
“New Orleans. Mom’s gone now. Died soon after Hurricane Katrina. I never knew what happened to the things in the house. Probably floated away.” She murmured.
Her husband pulled her into a hug and looked at Rebecca. “How much?”
“How much? What? This? Oh, it’s not for sale,” Rebecca said. “We only sell finished pieces in here.”
He nodded, and they left.
The next morning, there was a knock at the door.
A coffee sat in front of Rebecca, steam rising. She studied a list of names, some crossed off, some with checkmarks. At the sound of the knock, she hollered and pointed to the nonexistent watch on her bare wrist. “Not open for another hour!”
The knocking only got louder.
She groaned, but went to the door. The man from yesterday, waved hello. “I’m sorry to bother you he yelled at the glass.”
Rebecca opened the door and invited him in.
“I never introduced myself, yesterday. My name’s Joe. I’ll only take a minute. I came by to give you my card, and ask that when you are ready to sell that sofa, could you call me? I want to buy it for my wife. It would mean a lot to her.”
Rebecca glanced down at the card. “You’re a roofer?”
“Yea. On my way to a job right now.”
“Wait.” She went back to her notebook. He followed her into the store. “I need a roofer.”
“For…?” He glanced up.
“No, not here. Our shop is deconstructing a house, 30 miles from here. Maybe we can work a trade.” She gestured between the two of them.
“What were you thinking?”
“I’ve had two roofers turn me down for Saturday and Sunday’s job. I know it’s last minute, but if you could take the roofs off the buildings on the property, I’ll give you that sofa, fully repaired, wood refinished, and upholstered in a high quality gold brocade.”
“Deal.” He held out his hand, no hesitation.
That weekend, the grand house and two outbuildings came down, filling the shop’s bins with glass door handles and stacks of wood. The metal roofs were in good shape and were already sold.
“Rebecca!” Fiona yelled from the workshop.
“Excuse me,” Rebecca said to the three women who were purchasing several of the lattice dishes.
“Hurry!”
Rebecca trotted in. “What in the world, Fiona?”
She was repairing Joe’s sofa, as they had come to call it. “Remember telling me about his wife carving her name into her family’s sofa?”
“Yeah.”
“Any chance his wife’s name is Claritta?”
Rebecca peered at the underside frame of the sofa. Scratched in the wood were the unmistakable letters. “Wow! He calls her Claire, but what are the odds?”
“We deliver in two weeks, right?”
Rebecca nodded. “Anniversary gift.”
“I want to be on that delivery,” Fiona said.
The sofa was returned to its former glory, repairs were solid, and a rich gold brocade shone against the gleaming wood. Only one place on the sofa was left untouched. It was part of the history of the piece and testimony to, as Claritta called it, a miracle.

Writers’ workshop and writing group