“I’ll take it,” I said, handing $20 to the estate-sale man.

The salesman guarding his post in the barn.  He smiled, patiently trailing me. I tried to shop quickly but was distracted by his impossibly tight T shirt, barely shading his belly.

Distracted, that’s my excuse for the buy: a burgundy leather Crate & Barrel couch.

For $20. The caveat? This sofa formerly shared a house with 30 dogs, before abandonment in the barn.

You get that? The couch — too downtrodden for homeowners and 30 dogs — was demoted to an outbuilding.

The couch was glazed in a hazy mold.

“What color is it?”  Martin asked.

“Originally?” tight T shirt guy jumped in. “Probably ‘white!’  Ha-ha-ha!” he laughed at himself.

Martin and I heaved it into the truck. “It was a good buy,” Martin assured me.

The couch, on our turf


Driving home we speculated about our existing furniture and which would be voted off the island. There were three curb contenders, including a once-white, threadbare sofa my parents bought in the ’70s. Also, Martin and I had a cloth couch bought during our engagement; the former owner practically paid us to cart it away.

And then there’s our third couch. “This thing looks like a crime scene,” Martin remarked one day.

I couldn’t disagree. The middle cushion bears a sizable stain — more orange than blood-red — from one of Brynn’s oral vitamins. Somehow, a dropper’s worth of multivitamins dribbled on the couch. No amount of scrubbing will raze the stain.

Yet we are loathe to buy anything new. That’s why Frankencouch was worth the risk.

I offered to tackle cleaning.

Wash spots, stains, spills with soapy water, read the Crate and Barrel label nestled on the frame. Wipe with clean towel and air dry.

Care instructions did not offer guidance for a couch inhabited by a kennel’s worth of dogs and defiled outside by pets and wild animals.

I leaned in to smell the leather. Cat pee, I speculated.

Or maybe dog pee. Possibly fox. (I’ve noticed that foxes mark everything. They deposit calling cards in our hayloft near the cat food. And when a diaper escaped our trash, a fox pooped on it — right on Elmo’s face. That’s what they do.)

I used a full leather cleaner bottle on the couch, scrubbing until my hands burned. Then I used hot water and saddle soap on the suspicious spots.

After all that, it still smelled.

Defeated, I left it outside overnight while pondering my predicament. To protect it from another round of abuse, we covered it in horse blankets.


“Ah, smells homey and ripe,” according to Olive.


In the end, it would have been easier to slaughter a cow, tan the hide and build a new couch.

Frankencouch does look amazing compared to “before” pictures. Beneath the filmy dirt lurked rich wine-colored leather. Now it beckons us to flop down on its cushions.


But I couldn’t bear to put it in the house. I’d never be comfortable sprawling on it to channel surf — the cleaning process was too traumatizing. We might have a crime scene on our sofa, but it’s our crime scene.

So what happened to Frankencouch?

We positioned it in the carriage house. It’s better suited to a bar…

…where friends will be too buzzed or drunk to notice the funky smell and marks.