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THE CHAIR/Sharon Balenane THE CHAIR WAS ONE OF SIX bought in Ronda fifteen years before. An antique rush-bottomed chair of olive wood, polished by many hands over many years, repaired many times. The crosspieces between the legs were weak, but the chair was still strong and comfortable to sit in, the carved back graceful. The wood was the color of cured blond tobacco. One night she was having a glass of wine in her study when she heard a voice call a greeting to her from the door onto the street. Hola, Karen! Then immediately afterward a terrible crash and the sound of something falling. She jumped up and ran up the steps from her study into the kitchen. By the time she got there, three village women stood in her doorway berating in high-pitched voices the supine man groaning on the floor amid the wreckage of her chair and the shards and earth of a large clay pot that had held a small palm. O-h-h-h, groaned the bearded man, Antonio, clutching his ribs. She had seen him drinking in the bar across the way at two. It was now ten. She knelt down to look at him while the women shouted. Disgraceful drunk! they shrilled. Have you no shame? Karen! the man groaned. Listen to the bitches, how they talk to a man. They say I'm drunk. I'm not drunk. Do you want a glass of water? she asked. Yes, he said. Don't move me. We must move you, she said, trying to lift him into another, unbroken chair. O-h-h-h, he moaned piteously. After some minutes, she and one of the women managed to get him to stand. They walked him slowly out to the street. I can't walk, he said. Yes, you can. Careful now. We have to get you home and into your bed. I'll find the practicante, Karen said. She knew her neighbor didn't want to walk him home with her, but they started off up the street. Though his house was less than five minutes away, it took them thirty, as he made much of every step, groaning, stopping, clutchinghis ribs. Declaring he couldn't go on, that he was going to die, that he wanted to die. You're not going to die, said Karen. Not yet. The other woman kept berating him, calling him a drunk, a disgrace to his family, a hopeless problem. Indeed the man was a problem. He fell, on average, once a week, usually in the street somewhere, and then he tried to waylay someone to help him home. Fewer and fewer people could be bothered, and those usually foreigners Uke Karen. He walked with crutches now, The Missouri Review ยท 189 since he had hurt all of his joints. He was, it seemed, trying to kill himself in this slow, painful way: alcohol and falling down. I just wanted to say hello, he said. Yes, she nodded. Karen asked him for his keys, opened the door to his house, and the two women helped him into his bed. The sheets were gray with dirt. The other woman wrinkled her nose in disgust. In the filthy kitchen Karen found a glass, filled it with water and put itby the bedside, along with the man's cigarettes and an ashtray. When she had found the practicante, who said he would go up and check on Antonio, Karen went home and looked at the broken pieces of her chair and sighed. She hoped the carpenter could fix it. She decided she needed a glass of wine and went across the street to the little bar. The men laughed when she came in. Again? they said. She nodded. He's a drunk. You let drunks lie in the street, one said. He wasn't in the street, she answered. He was in my house. Besides, you can't let people lie in the street. The man grunted. The next day, Juan the carpenter came and took the chair away. I'll fix it, he said, though it won't be easy. I love the chair, she said. It...


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