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The Couch

The Couch

by Samora Chapman / Illustration by Sasan / 18.01.2013

There had to be a witness. That’s how the story goes I guess. We locked eyes for a nanosecond as the lightning struck and I stood frozen like an umlungu ghost in a foreign land. It was a dead-end road and I’d hoped like hell nobody would notice my terrible presence. My dastardly deed. But the loud cracking noise I’d made when I dragged IT out of my bakkie had alerted a local. Her silhouette appeared suddenly like a cat in a doorway. Our eyes connected and I was got. I saw myself from a distance as if watching a cheap television thriller. Standing shirtless in the rain in the middle of Cato Manor, in nothing but a stupid pair of floral surf shorts. I suddenly wished I’d had the presence of mind to put some clothes on. My long wet hair like a mane, setting me apart from the people of the township. An alien from outer space up to nothing but trouble.

I would never have come up with the idea on my own. But my neighbour had caught me with the THING hanging halfway out my baki. “Take it to the location,” said the heavy-set bulldog of a man in a thick Afrikaans accent. I was wrecked from the day of slave labour and the night had caught me off guard. It’d come too soon and I’d somehow got left with the dirty work. I had to get rid of IT tonight… there was no two ways about it.

The filthy old garden couch had to go.

It was Christmas Eve and we had to be out of our flat by the next day. The mouldy garden couch had been sodden by three months of rain and had started to grow and breathe and give off a warm steamy odour like a slow, organic, living thing.

My neighbour was still hovering like a rhino, cemented to the sidewalk beside me. He wasn’t gonna leave until I did something about the couch. “You can’t leave that thing out here on our street,” he growled.

A sense of fatigue and desperation overwhelms me. I nod and hear myself say: “Okay. Are you sure I can just take it to the township? Maybe I’ll take it to Cato Manor.”

He nods and grunts: “They can want it,” as he trudges off to his cave next door.

So without thinking where the closest municipal dump is, I adopt my ex-neighbour’s logic and reckon I’ll just do the poor a favour and give them a mouldy old couch. I heave the stinking beast into the back of the bakkie as a bouquet of lightning fills the sky. The thunder rumbles. If I don’t get rid of the couch I won’t fit my last load of belongings into the bakkie tomorrow. So I head into the night; a desperate unthinking man. I feel like a filthy criminal already. I am about to become an illegal dumper.

I drive to Cato Manor as the storm erupts. I’m delirious and I turn the music full blast to drown out the guilt. Led Zeppelin’s howling “I gotta whole lotta love,” as I enter the labyrinth of Cato Manor. A cop car cruises past and I try and sink behind the steering wheel to hide my white face. I drive til I find a dead-end. The cul de sac is strewn with all sorts of discarded belongings. A plastic bike snapped in two. A shoe. A cast iron bed base like a naked skeleton.

I skid to a stop, crank the handbreak and hop out the car in one motion. Drop the tailgate and drag the couch off with one yank. But to my surprise the coach makes a loud crack as it hits the ground, like a cowboy’s whip. A flash of blue lightning illuminates the scene.

And there I am, caught red handed as a bewildered middle-aged woman watches me from her kitchen door. What’s worse is that from where she stands she can’t see what I’ve left her until I hop in the car and speed off into the night.

Couch this

*Opening illustration © Sasan.
*Couch image © Chris Mason.

12   6
RESPONSES (27)
  1. nthen? says:

    I’m not sure what happened here? Please correct me if needs be, but did this white dude dump a fucked up couch in the hood and then drive off to write about it for Mahala, complete with snap of said white dude on said fucked up couch? I don’t know Mahala or the writer very well but it seems like those people in Cato Manor – and this article is not for their consumption – have been used for someone’s entertainment and all they got for it was a stinking couch…

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  2. nthen? says:

    is it supposed to be ironic? what’s the motivation?

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  3. Andy says:

    nthen, it is what it is. we’d welcome some feedback from anyone in Cato Manor

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  4. not from cato manor but..... says:

    I stayed for a short while in an informal settlement in Knysna & was often gobsmacked by the ingenuity of how discarded junk was used for practical purposes….years of making do develops incredible, out of the box, fluid intelligence….. on the the other hand, a fungal, disease breeding couch, maybe not so much. No matter, I’m sure the outies that gather to share a splif, or to drool in a spit bucket, will be grateful.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    i don’t get it

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  6. Anonymous says:

    When I lived in London my boyfriend practically furnished the whole house from things left on the side of the road. Those English throw away some good shit.

    I am very keen to know what happened to the couch though – the author is duty bound to go back and check, and let us know what became of it.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Wow.. You should try and do that in my hood and we’ll show you flames bra. What makes you think it’s okay for you to dump your shit on our streets?

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  8. White People still don't get it says:

    How fuckin disrespectful!..

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  9. Andy says:

    I think this white person actually does get it.

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  10. bewildered says:

    WTF an article about some guy littering as if it is cool . The tone is condescending and the attitude of this person sucks – how would you like it if people dumped their filthy steaming couches on your doorstep ? In fact where does the author now live ? I have some kak I would like to give throw in his garden – bad article with bad morals – the author should be ashamed

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  11. Lus'Goose says:

    And the moral of the story is?

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  12. Anonymous says:

    For the lack of a better word..what a kak write-up! Also the worst anti climax I’ve seen from your one of your writers.

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  13. Eminent says:

    This, Macklemore and Hendrik Verwoerd are my top 3 reasons for being ashamed of being white

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  14. Babelfish says:

    Brilliant piece. The moronic comments that follow are the icing on the cake.

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  15. couch politics says:

    You ou’s dissing the author for writing something that was obviously playing on his mind and gave us an honest account of what he did should look at yourselves. How many can say you’ve done something shameful and publicly admitted it. For sure it was kak what said author did with said couch at said place.. I’m pretty sure that’s why he said what he had to say, so many times have I should have come clean but just left it.

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  16. Understander says:

    It is clear that the author wrote this piece because he was driven by guilt and remorse for his actions. Are you people missing something? He seems to know his actions warrented introspection. Is it right to dump something that one no longer needs in a place where it may just be useful to someone less resourced?

    If he thought dumping the couch was fine, this piece wouldnt have been written. The discrepancy between the haves and have nots in SA is a glaring hole. Do you ignore it, and point fingers at someone who realises the complications that surround the line between giving and dumping, between re-use and throwing away?I don’t think so. We need to interrogate the root motive for wanting to get rid of a couch, but also wanting it to still retain some use and value, albeit for somebody far less fortunate. Starting with an admission of guilt around the conflicting ideas of what is right and wrong (or precieved as such) when donating old stuff is at least a beginning of a probing into an issue that is far more complicated them it appears at first. I commend Samora for doing that. The jumping, snapping trolls who can’t even substantiate their dull comments are more cringeworthy than a man who lays bare his self-doubt in the public eye.

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  17. White People still don't get it says:

    “The discrepancy between the haves and have nots in SA is a glaring hole. Do you ignore it, and point fingers at someone who realises the complications that surround the line between giving and dumping, between re-use and throwing away?”

    Okay, now I’m really convinced that Mahala is a platform for white idiocy. What do the problems of our society have to do with a couch? Do you really think that some white dude dumping a fucked up couch in a township solves the discrepancies between the white people of this country who still earn 6 times more than the average black person?

    Black people want the same opportunities as white people, not their hand me downs. If your white guilt is that bad, divide your salary in 6 and take that to the township.

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  18. Understander says:

    White People Still Dont Get are you just looking for an excuse to play the cherished race card? Maybe you should think twice before you call someone else an idiot. It’s so boring when people don’t understand a little discursive banter.

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  19. White People still don't get it says:

    Understander do you also comment on News24?

    Anyway, If you read this “article” again, then read both of your comments (especially the part about the race card) and are still happy with yourself after. Then I’m sorry for calling you an idiot. You are clearly very smart.

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  20. Babelfish says:

    I’m not sure why Beeld readers bother with Mahala to be honest

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  21. Beeb says:

    No need to diss on Macklemore now

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  22. Mike says:

    Joeg. That couch belonged to me and if you had no further use for it, you could have shown some decency and returned it rather than leave it in the garden to rot.
    Where’s my daughters pram and other baby items? did you dump those too?

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  23. Anonymous says:

    loved the piece. would have done the same thing if i were smart enough to come up with the idea. have given so many of my old clothes and furniture to people in khayelitsha, makana, transkei and always appreciated. same in europe where i lived many years. left my stuff on the curb and the next day it was gone. so what’s the big deal?

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