Things Found Between Couch Cushions
Here it was, a Friday night, and Jared wasn't even making the motions of getting ready to go out. The sweatpants were on, the small stack of delivery coupons was on the coffee table next to his cordless. Shaving wasn't even under discussion.
He plopped down full-length on the sofa and used his sock-covered feet to push Sunday's paper onto the floor. He turned on the tv. He ordered pizza. He channel-surfed.
True, he was not going out. Again. Not that it was habitual; more like a slump that a certain way of starting his car or a lucky pair of underpants would break. Jared considered that he was staying in, having a cozy first date with the blue plush sofa he'd scored for free off Craigslist. Free of price and free of cigarette burns, animal pee, and uncertain smells best left unexamined. It was practically new. Hell, he'd even found change stuck under the cushions—a sofa that made him money! He nodded as he flipped the clicker; that was the kind of sofa a man could love. And it was sized just right for stretching out after a long week putting toys back on the shelf and batteries out of shoppers' pockets.
Jared was three-quarters through his pizza, and not even into the first ten minutes of Farscape when he felt something...what? pinch his butt? No way! He scooched over and looked down at the cushion. Was he sitting on a fork? No. He turned back to the tv when he felt it again. Definitely a pinch! What the fuck!
He got off the sofa and pulled up the cushions. Nothing. When he'd found the first quarter the day before he'd done a pretty thorough search, and as a result it was pretty clean down there. He put the cushions back and sat down again, only sitting up, and with his butt at the other end of the sofa. But after a few minutes he felt another pinch. He didn't move or cuss this time, only moved his eyes down to watch the crack in the cushions next to his thigh.
Out of the lower corner of his eye, where he had to strain so that the tops of his eyes hurt, he saw a spot of red moving. He slowly moved his chin to his chest to get a better look. A tiny arm and hand was sticking up between the cushions, feeling around. It looked like Stretch Armstrong's arm in a red sleeve, bending this way and that. Jared put his hand down on the cushion next to his leg, next to the groping arm. The little hand touched his pinky, then ow! he felt the pinch. Still quiet, he moved his hand along the cushion, away from the crack between the cushions, and slowly, a little shoulder followed by a little chest, all in red, emerged from between the sofa cushions, followed by a small blue plush hat sitting on a doll head. When enough of the little figure had wiggled out to reach his hand, and he felt the beginning of the pinch, Jared summoned his PlayStation-honed reflexes and grabbed the little Stretch. The figure just about fit within his clenched hand, but a small pair of legs stuck out from between his fingers. The legs kicked and a little fly-sized voice screamed out, "Help me. Hel-l-l-l-p me-e-e-e-e! Hel-l-l-l-l-l-p me-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!" He gave his fist a little shake, but the voice only got louder and the little legs only kicked harder, though still without much force.
Jared leaned over and grabbed his Big Gulp cup off the coffee table, popped off the top and dropped the squealing thing inside before snapping the plastic lid back in place and pulling the straw out. Whatever it was immediately started scrabbling around the bottom of the cup, but didn't seem to be able to reach the lip; the challenge of a 64-oz cup seemed to overwhelm it. He carefully pulled the lid back off and looked inside.
Damn, it really was a little dude in a red suit and a blue playaz hat. It's little white face was flush from its exertions in the Big Gulp holding cell, but when it saw the lid off it stopped racing around, turned its reddened face toward Jared and shook a clenched fist in the air. Jared laughed; the sight of the little pimp dude so angry reminded him of the Christmas specials he watched every year as a child. But when the little pimp dude saw Jared laughing at him, he showed Jared a tiny middle finger. Not very cartoony. He stopped laughing and put the lid back on, set the Big Gulp back on the coffee table, and went back to watching tv and finishing the last slices.
The apartment was dark, and Jimmy Kimmel was wrapping it up for the evening. The cup was still sitting on the coffee table, but the scrabbling sounds had ceased hours ago. Jared didn't want to go to sleep with the doll-like thing still in the cup, but he also didn't want to think about it too closely, either. Would it come after him if he fell asleep, crawl over him with a little carrot peeler or a steak knife and stab him in the eye while he slept? Why did it pinch him? Why was it in the sofa to begin with?
What was it?
When the tv finally went to snow he grabbed the cup and headed into the bathroom. He got as far as lifting the lid before he remembered how awful it had been when he was nine and his older brother had flushed Goldie down the toilet after Jared had broken his brother's Little League trophy. He put the lid back down and walked to the kitchen.
The small window over the sink looked out over an empty lot festooned with pampas grass and plastic bags snagged on the woodier weeds. He was on the second floor but figured that something as small as Little Pimp Dude would be light enough to survive the fall. How much was there of him for gravity to catch hold of anyway? He opened the window, took out the screen, stuck the cup out the window and took off the lid. Before he could upend the Big Gulp he heard the fly-voice say from inside the cup, "If you spare me, I will serve you." Jared paused, then started once more to upend the cup when he again heard,
"Spare me, and I will serve you."
He pulled his arm in and looked in the cup. The little figure was crouched down in the bottom of the cup like it was getting ready to kiss its ass goodbye. Jared gave the cup a little shake to get its attention, then said, "What?"
"Spare me, and I will serve you. Put me back in the sofa."
"I don't want you pinching my ass while I'm watching tv. Or scaring the ladies I might have lying on that sofa. You dig, Little Pimp?"
"Spare me, put me back in the sofa and give me back my treasure, and I will serve you."
"What—you mean the change in the cushions?"
The little figure raised its little face and looked square at Jared. "That was mine. People drop coins into the sofa for me, and I do things for them. Serve them. Put me back in the sofa, give me back my treasure, and I can do things for you, too."
Jared felt like part of him was floating over his shoulder, watching himself talk to the little creature in the cup. It felt unreal, but he continued to bargain with the tiny figure. "Don't pinch me no more, or I swear I will set off a four-pack of roach bombs in here, you little sonofabitch." Pause, and a small shake of the cup for effect. "What will you do for me?"
"Find your keys when you lose them. Find the paper money for you. Unhook a bra." Pause, and a tip of his hat for effect. "Useful things."
"Alright. I don't know which coins are yours, so take what I've got here in my pocket and the spare change on the table." He set the cup down on its side on the sofa so that Little Pimp Dude could see him sliding the change behind the middle cushion. "Remember the deal."
Jared watched as the little figure squirmed down between the cushions after the coins. "Oh, I will. Remember to drop a coin down here for me every now and then. And don't piss me off. I've got brothers."
"Huh." Jared sat down on the coffee table. "I'll leave my pipe loaded in case you decide to do something about that attitude, Little Pimp." He turned off the tv and walked into his bedroom, shutting the door behind him.