A Man’s Chair

A man stands on a chair, reaching up to secure a length of rope to the wood joist above him in his basement. As he places the noose around his neck, in walks a woman. They momentarily stare at each other, appraising the scene in front of them.

The man’s eyes, seeing his wife of 7 years before him, are devoid of the shining emotion they once held whenever he looked at her.

The woman sees a man she once knew, who is now far removed from the one she married. She doesn’t move from her spot as the man, her husband, tightens the rope, his eyes still looking at her.

He moves his hands away from his neck, rope secure. He thinks he is ready.

She holds his gaze. Waiting. Seconds pass.

He wilts under the weight of her observation, even if it still lacks the warmth he wishes were there – warmth that had been absent for longer than he’d like to admit.  He moves his hands back to his neck, turns the rope around so the knot is now on his front right side.

Just as he is about to loosen it, he looks back once more to his wife, who stands now with arms crossed. Her eyebrows are raised in something he can’t quite place. Surprise, maybe even a little relief, he hopes. As he breaks her stare to attend to the rope, his body weight shifts a little on the wood chair. It wobbles.

He looks up and makes eye contact with his wife, the moment seeming to stretch in that short span of the chair’s unstableness. He breaks the brief visual connection with his wife when he thinks the chair might return to its equilibrium, the wobbling almost leveling out.

His arms, that had been flailed out to his sides in a vain attempt for balance, come back to his sides in relief – relief that does not last. His hands suddenly scramble back to his neck, his instincts tell him to be afraid, as he catches movement in the periphery of his vision.

His wife is moving towards him.

Bryan always loved that chair. I can’t tell you why, though. It looked to me like any other dining room chair. Except it didn’t match anything we owned.

He said his grandfather had made it by hand, turning unassuming pieces of wood into a family treasure. His grandfather had been a factory worker and liked to think of himself as an amateur woodworker. The chair was his greatest accomplishment, and he was very proud to have created something so functional and beautiful. Every time Bryan said those words to me, I thought they were a stretch.

Looking at that chair, I didn’t see anything special about it at all – it had four legs, a seat, and a back: basic. Looking closer, at Bryan’s insisting, I might notice some faint flares in style – the spindles, all nearly identical, had a slight taper at each end but were otherwise perfectly cylindrical and uniform top to bottom; the front and back stretchers were slightly higher than the side stretchers and shared the same subtle narrowing near connection; the curve of the back came into the seat just a bit for added form and support; the legs shared the same tendency to taper, but only at the bottom, and though sturdier in their tubular girth, they did not lack in character; and the seat had a slight contouring that felt to Bryan as if it was made just for him – which, I would eventually concede, made for a beautifully functional chair.

Bryan told anyone he could get to listen that the chair was made from cherry wood with a medium stain that his grandfather had applied in two stages during one Memorial Day weekend. I never thought it was all that comfortable, or pretty, but to Bryan, it fit perfectly. Bryan knew nothing of the craft that went into making it – though he spoke of generations of history, creation, and pride as if they really meant something to him. He liked to talk about that chair, mostly when he had a few beers or when he was bored, which was often since he lost his job.

Bryan got fired because he used his company email on a porn website and then accessed it at work.

I quit being surprised about weird stuff like that 3 years ago, when I realized he’d become entirely complacent in every aspect of his life and never intended to follow his dreams – desires he alleged to have before we married that turned out to be well crafted lies of an underachieving cubicle-dweller. Turned out his only passion or interest were wrapped in that chair.

He prized and cherished that chair more than he did me, giving it more attention and care than anything else. Bryan chose to use it at our kitchen table, though it didn’t fit with the set, and when we had company or on holidays, he’d bring it in to the dining room, where it stuck out even more. The chair’s one redeeming quality was that it always smelled good and was clean, because Bryan hardly went a few days without caring for it.

As you can imagine, I grew to hate that chair. My husband acted like we were limited on seating in every room in our house, so he dragged it from room to room as his seat of choice. But we weren’t limited. We had plenty of chairs, many more comfortable places to park than on unforgiving wood. But no, Bryan had to have his chair. But the chair wasn’t the only thing that divided us.

We knew our marriage was dying. Neither of us was truly happy anymore. But Bryan was Bryan, and if he had his chair, he was fine. But I needed something to change, and I think Bryan knew I felt that way. Especially when, after dragging his chair to the table one night and scraping it across the floor, I snapped.

“Really, Bryan!?” I said. “We can’t go one meal without this shit?”

He looked up at me, startled, but he was too weak to fight back. He said nothing.

I got up from the table, took the bottle of wine with me, and went to bed.

That was the first night of us sleeping in different rooms. I loved the freedom and space – I no longer felt suffocated by his presence. I started to feel happy again.

My happiness also came from my small act of passive revenge that I enacted that night, long after he’d gone to sleep and I’d finished the entire bottle of wine on my own. My clouded brain had concluded that the perfect thing to do to take out my rage and unhappiness at Bryan was to direct it toward his precious chair.

I walked down into the basement, found a handsaw, came back up to the kitchen, and proceeded to make a small cut about halfway through in one of the legs, flush with the underside of the seat. My muddled thinking at the time was this would cause the chair to tremble a bit, just noticeably enough for him – not having the know-how to fix it – to either retire it or have it fixed. Either solution would get it away from me for a while and that was all I wanted.

This would keep me happy.

Bryan, though it was hard to tell with him, seemed a little more down than usual. I couldn’t be concerned with him, however, because he didn’t do anything about it – he never did. That had become his nature, just another thing that began to grate on my nerves, his increasing inability to act in any manner that was productive.

Three weeks later, I was in the kitchen emptying the dishwasher when I heard the sound of a chair scraping across the hardwood floor, slow like a kid dragging his feet, the citrus of the wood polish overpowering the soapy residue that had been tickling my nose and clouding the dishes. Looking up, I saw Bryan dragging his chair toward the basement door. He didn’t look at me and I didn’t say anything.

The way he held the chair – with one hand, allowing his precious chair to drag along on two legs behind him like an afterthought – with despair weighing on his face, I thought for a short, forgettable moment, about saying something, anything. But we both continued as if neither of us were there.

I wondered if maybe he was taking the chair to the basement because he noticed there was something wrong with the leg.

After I’d finished in the kitchen, had folded the laundry, and got caught up on my work emails, I realized that I hadn’t heard Bryan come back from the basement. I didn’t know what could be taking him so long. There was nothing for him to do down there – he wasn’t handy and he didn’t have any hobbies; the basement was only used to house odd boxes and items we didn’t use anymore. I went to the basement door and called, to see what he doing.

“Bryan?” I said. But I got no answer.

I walked down the steps, looking carefully at each one. It was the same walk I’d taken the night after our fight, when I was drunk. When I reached bottom, I saw Bryan. He was standing on his chair and had a rope around his neck. The rope was tied to one of the floor joists, above him. I never thought he would do it, because he pulled the noose to the side and was about to take it off. But then the chair wobbled, and the leg broke. He hung there, his body flailing. Eventually, he stopped moving.

Who would have thought Bryan would kill himself? Not me. He only succeeded because I’d helped – with the cut I’d made to the leg three weeks before.

You know the best part? About four hours later, after I called the cops – because I wanted to let him hang there for a while – I found out the chair wasn’t even made by his grandfather. One of the crime scene techs overheard me talking to the investigating officer. He came over and said the chair was actually Amish, and there was a maker’s mark on the bottom.

I started laughing. Probably not the smartest decision at the time. That may have made the officer wary.

That reaction, coupled with my overall lack of emotion for my husband having apparently committed suicide, prompted an investigation. That’s how I wound up in here.


The officer followed up with the tech, he noted the way the leg broke was a little suspicious. “They did the whole CSI thing and matched the saw to the marks on the leg,” I said. “My prints were on the saw. They said they could prove I killed him. They tried to get me to confess to first degree murder.”

“Did you?” the redhead sitting across from me asked.

“No.” I wasn’t stupid. I had seen enough lawyer shows to know they were probably stretching what they could really prove. “I told them what happened, plead out to involuntary manslaughter.”

I was smart enough to leave out the part where helped the chair break. When we were in the basement, Bryan up on his chair, noose around his neck, the chair started to wobble. Sure, he hesitated, wasn’t going to go through with it. But nobody else knows that. And I wasn’t going to let him back out of this – this was going to be a decision he made that he was going to see through, even if he needed a little help.

In that moment, when he felt that relief of the chair stabilizing, I stepped forward. I looked Bryan in his guarded eyes, keeping eye contact the whole time, and with just the gentlest kick of my foot to the weak leg of the chair, allowed him to accomplish something in his worthless life.

There was a bit of a creak. Then a crack and the front left leg snapped off from right under the seat of the chair. And he dangled by his throat, gasped, clawed at the rope that hadn’t broken his neck.

I watched, unmoving, as he flailed until he was finally still. Then I turned and climbed the stairs to the kitchen. Like I said, some things just need a little help, that extra push to break a piece of already damaged wood.

The only thing I asked was that I be allowed to burn Bryan’s chair as part of my plea deal.



Karalee’s work has appeared in the literary magazine Horizons and most recently in her self-published senior project The Mass Wasting, a book of poems that focuses on crime, disaster, and weird deaths.  She is currently a senior at Lakeland University studying writing and psychology.  Though she enjoys writing in multiple genres, Karalee has been focusing on poetry for the last few semesters.  She is also an assistant editor for the literary magazine Seems.