Demolition ninja

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on January 10, 2021


This tale begins 10 years ago, when I first moved to Elsewhere, into an elderly apartment building. Housing for multiple tenants often have a laundry room in the basement. Most often, they also provide small, lockable units for storing luggage, unwanted furniture and all the books that sensible people put aside for reading in the afterlife.

My building is too ancient to support such modern conveniences. There are only six tenants. We occupy six small flats in what was once a huge single-family home. So there’s no laundry room and the so-called storage units are odd-shaped spaces carved out of the dungeon the original owner had created beneath the house. Successive generations of tenants have used the basement to dump their unrealised hopes and dreams. There are popcorn machines, curling irons, gym equipment and power-tools, all in advanced stages of decay.

My storage area is about the size of a single-car garage. It has a rickety door, a single light dangling from the ceiling, three unusable wooden shelves and, until two days ago, a giant sofa with matching armchair. It was thick with mould, looked like a flea-paradise and took up two-thirds of the available space in room. But getting it out of there seemed impossible. Too big, too heavy, too ugly.

Bins, who is normally Mr Fixit, declared with just one glance, “In India we have kabadi-wallahs to visit the house to buy our rubbish from us. They don’t have that system in the US! You might as well give up.” But I didn’t want to give up. So, on a whim, over Christmas dinner at Muriel’s house last month, I mention it to her younger brother Joseph. He hears my description and says, “Tell you what? I’ll come over and take a look.”

The next day, a Saturday, he not only comes over but he brings a big black bag of power tools with him. “Guess what,” he says, stripping off the square seat cushions like a ninja furniture-warrior, “it’s not just a sofa! It’s a sofa-bed with springs and whatnot inside!” Before my astonished eyes, he gets out a power-saw with a small serrated blade and takes that sofa apart like it’s made of blancmange rather than wood and steel! In 10 minutes he’s demolished a monster that I’ve been wanting to vanquish for 10 years.

Then he goes away and returns a week later with his mini-truck. Between the two of us, we haul the remains of the sofa up the backstairs of the basement and into his vehicle. The armchair tries hard to get stuck in the door, but I spot an ordinary hand-saw lurking in the shadows of the basement. Joseph uses it to saw off the solid wooden joints and legs. We’re done! The carcasses are loaded up and transported away, never to return!

Despite all the sorrows of Covid-19 and the mayhem taking place in Washington, here in Elsewhere, emptiness is bliss.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on January 10, 2021

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