The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2014 Results

The Mattress

Copyright © Ray Scott 2014

When my wife and I were first married we embarked upon our new life with enthusiasm, mutual sexual appetites, no money and a flat in the suburbs of a small English town that left much to be desired…the flat that is, not the town.

After several months we struck a problem which had arisen from the first point mentioned above, which was also accentuated by the second. We had some meagre assets that we had hastily accumulated when we fixed our marriage date at very short notice. This was not, I hasten to add, because we had been indiscreet, but because a two bedroom unfurnished flat above a nearby shop became available. We promptly rented it before anyone else locked onto it and subsequently dealt with the question of a marriage date. We didn’t move in immediately, but arranged a date in the very near future so that we could inhabit it quickly as soon as we had exchanged our vows. In those days it was customary to marry first before you lived together, had we adopted the reverse order that seems to be the norm nowadays I think my future mother-in-law would have had a fit!

The assets that we had hastily accumulated were a hotch potch of second hand furniture. There was little point in investing in new stuff, if we were going to spend our early marital years in rented accommodation, better to wait until we had purchased our first dream house.

Amongst the initial assets we procured was a second hand buffet which had obviously suffered a hard blow in the past because it was slightly out of shape and the doors stuck incessantly. We also purchased a wardrobe where the opposite applied as the doors persisted in swinging open under their own volition, usually when I was walking past it.

The prize item was the bed, which was cheap and showed its age – and cheapness - by the fact that it was a little unsteady on its legs which meant that when we were in it and the same urge struck the two of us simultaneously we had to embark upon the resultant process slowly and carefully. This probably worked out to my advantage inasmuch that I had (furtively) read several books on the subject of this intimate activity prior to our marriage to prepare myself for the rigours of a close knit partnership with a young and nubile female. These books appeared to be unanimous in the view that the aforesaid females preferred this activity to be pursued slowly and thoroughly and not in a frenzied manner reminiscent of two grizzly bears on the tundra. In addition if this activity was pursued too robustly the wardrobe doors would enter into the spirit of the thing and open expectantly.

After several months we negotiated this activity well with satisfaction seemingly guaranteed for both parties, until one night we nearly had a complete disaster. The moving bed itself was not the culprit. In fact we had now became used to its sideways rocking motion whenever either or both of us made any movements, which had some advantageous aspects and did enhance the interlocking process if managed skillfully and maintained in concert with the rocking motion of the bed. The item that caused the near disaster was the mattress, which had clearly had experienced a long and robust history with its previous owners and was now on its last legs.

The first I knew that there was anything wrong was when during a spirited joint exercise I was suddenly speared in one buttock by something sharp. By this time I had become aware that my female partner did instigate some adventurous and inventive innovations but a jab in the posterior by a sharp pointed object was not one of them.

We carried out an immediate investigation and discovered that one of the springs in the mattress must have ruptured or come adrift and the end of it was sticking through the material somewhere round about hip and waist level. This constituted a hazard whether one was engaged in frenzied activity or merely just turning over. Since mattresses were not usually repairable this meant that it had to be replaced.

Replacing the errant mattress was the easy part; difficulties arose when working out what to do with the old one. A used mattress wasn’t an item that could be left out for the garbage collectors, while the various retailers we contacted were willing to deliver the new but not to take the old one away. We obtained a new mattress almost immediately as neither of us wished to risk a severe personal injury with the old mattress as it was.

After taking delivery of the new mattress and installing it onto the bed, we spent the remainder of the morning with the old mattress leaning against the wall in the hallway, which presented further hazards. Initially we placed it with the spike facing the wall and it began to scratch the décor, so we moved it and propped it against the opposite wall with the spike facing outwards whereupon it ripped a hole in one of my shirts as I walked past it.

Removing it became a priority so we decided to take it to the tip that afternoon. Our only form of transport was a Mini Minor, the alternative would be to hire a small truck or utility. Our funds being what they were, we decided to try the Mini.

The exercise was one of the most exhausting that I have ever experienced; it was like trying to pour a gallon into a pint pot. We manipulated the mattress outside into the yard and began stuffing it into the rear seat area of the Mini Minor. This entailed bending the mattress double and then pushing it in, but it had a definite disinclination to be bent double. Even when we did manage to slot it in it refused to go in fully so we could not fully close the rear door. Finally we managed to force the mattress in and pushed the door so that it was half latched, then clambered into the front seats and set off for the tip.

On the way I was unable to see the road behind us in the mirror as the mattress completely blocked the rear window, in fact it was all I could do to see through the windscreen as it overflowed into the front seat area and pushed my head forward. It occurred to me it would be just my luck if we were spotted by a passing police car at this juncture. We made our way to the tip, paid a small fee to gain entry and proceeded as directed to the point where we were told the tip workmen were presently back filling.

We reached a point on the top of a rise that looked like the point to which we had been directed and I pulled into the side of the track. About 300 metres further on I could see a few men moving around but I wasn’t sure whether they were tip workers or people like us who were dropping stuff off.

I opened the rear passenger side door and began pulling the mattress out, if I had previously thought putting it into the car was hard, I found that getting it out was a damn sight harder! We tugged and heaved but it would not shift, a further difficulty was that the projecting spring wire tore a hole in the rear seat lining as we tried to move it, and since it was a company car I could foresee problems with my branch manager on the following Monday morning.

Finally we managed to tug it halfway out, it was bent double from head to toe, and we at last managed to remove it from the confines of the vehicle. It left a scratch on the inside of the door as we did so, it came out in a rush and immediately straightened itself out and the spring gave me a glancing scrape across my ribs that ripped a hole in another shirt. The straightening movement catapulted me backwards and I fell flat on my back in deep boggy ground with the mattress on top of me.

I scrambled out liberally festooned with mud and dragged the mattress further off the rough track while my wife closed the car rear door. As we stood there, both ankle deep in mud and myself plastered with it, there was a shout from the group further on down the track.

‘You can’t leave it there mate,’ one of them shouted.

‘What? Why not?’

‘Because we’re filling in down here,’ was the reply. ‘We’ve covered over with top soil where you are now. Bring it down here or you’ll have to take it back!’

‘I’ll have to take…!’ I was speechless as I looked down at the mud covered mattress. It would be impossible to get it back in the Mini again especially as with the muddy terrain it was almost impossible to gain a foothold to anchor ourselves if we tried to stuff it back in. Further, by this time it was caked with evil smelling mud that would have spread itself all over the interior of the Mini.

All the men had all stopped work and were looking at us expectantly with hands aggressively placed on hips. My first instinct was to leap aboard, turn around and drive off, but it was only a single track and a small truck had drawn up behind us. To make a quick getaway I would have to run the gauntlet of the men ahead.

‘But I can’t get it back in,’ I shouted in protest but the leader of the group shrugged and waved his arms.

‘Sorry mate, you’ll have to get it down here or take it back!’

Help came from an unexpected quarter as the driver of the truck behind climbed out and came over. I think his helpfulness was also dictated by the fact that if I stayed parked where I was while I tried to load it back in again he could be parked where he was for the rest of the day.

‘Grab hold of that end, mate,’ he said. ‘We’ll load it on the back of the truck.’

We did so and it hung precariously off the rear end after we’d finished, it was hardly secure but it would probably last for a few hundred metres or so. We both drove down to where the men were working and we both unloaded it.

‘Thanks mate,’ I said and shook his hand.

‘That’s all right,’ he said. ‘How the hell did you get it in the Mini in the first place?’

‘I was wondering that myself,’ I replied and he gave a wry smile.

As if Fate hadn’t dealt me enough useless cards, when I returned to the car I found it was stuck in the mud. It took three of them to push us out; as we departed I gave them all a wave as they stood in our wake with mud up to their knees.

That night we clambered into bed onto our new mattress, we pushed and prodded it and revelled in its softness. We were both feeling exhilarated that we had successfully rid ourselves of the old worn pallet and after basking in the comfort of the new mattress we decided to indulge in a joint venture to celebrate the arrival of the new bedding. We had both just moved across into the centre of the bed to commence proceedings when we both had a sensation of instability. At this point there was a sudden sideways movement, a rending of woodwork and the bed collapsed!