The Chairs Summary

The Chairs Summary

The Old Man stands upon a stool, gazing intensely as he leans through a window. His wife, the Old Woman, expresses concern that her husband may fall out of the window and eventually pulls him away, dragging him toward where two chairs sit. She takes one of the chairs for herself and the Old Man promptly sits down on her lap.

The Old Woman begins soothing the Old Man with a calm, serene tone that gently reminds him of the message that he is expected to deliver. The remembrance of this task suddenly fills the Old Man with animated excitement, causing him to jump from the Old Woman’s lap and begin pacing back and forth. Still in soothing mode, the Old Woman reminds him of his talent and that the world is waiting for him to deliver that message. The message is going to be revealed that night to a number of people of great distinction.

The doorbell rings. The first of those guests has arrived.

It is the Lady and, like all the other distinguished that will be arriving this evening, she is invisible. The Old Man and the Old Woman welcome the Lady and engage in small talk before showing her to her chair. The next guest to arrive will be seated next to the Lady. He is the Colonel. When Belle and her husband show up at the door, the Old Woman engages in some rather bizarre sexually charged gesticulations aimed toward drawing the attention of Belle’s husband. Small talk indicates that the Old Man may have been intimately involved with Belle at a previous point in time.

As more and more guests arrive—all of them invisible—the Old Woman is forced to find more chairs. So many guests are arriving at such an accelerated pace, however, that she quickly loses pace. All the while the Old Woman is becoming increasingly more flustered and frustrated by the demands made upon her by the Old Man. As if that weren’t enough, most the guests that being arriving after Belle and her husband are utter strangers to the Old Woman and the Old Man is too preoccupied to help cut through the mystique.

Some of the guests arrive with children and this immediately puts an emotional strain on both the Old Man and the Old Woman. The message to be delivered is what’s important, however, so they strain to make accommodations for the unruly rugrats. By this point, so many guests are arriving so quickly that the effort by the Old Woman to struggle even to give the appearance of keeping up becomes absurdly humorous. Finally forced to admit she has run out of chairs, she begins trying to shill programs and snacks the assemblage. Meanwhile, those guests arriving too late to find seating must improvise themselves by locating empty spots along the wall. By this point, the number of guests has strained the credulity of geography; in order even to communicate with each other the Old Man and the Old Woman are forced to yell toward each other at the top of their lungs across the crowded room.

The crowded room of invisible guests.

The small talk among the couple and their guests turns to assurances that the important message they have arrived specifically to hear will not be delayed much longer. When the Emperor shows up as a guest, even the Old Man and the Old Woman are duly impressed and utterly stunned. In recognition of his importance, the Emperor is afforded the very best seat in the house.

Suddenly, a non-invisible person arrives. He is the Orator and he is there to properly announce the message from the Old Man. Dressed like some fine artist from the 1800s, he mounts a dais and waits until the Old Man instructs the audience that they should feel free to ask the Orator to sign autographs. As the Orator signs his name to the meet the requests, the Old Man individually expresses thanks to each guests for coming. He then informs the Emperor that once he has shared his important message, the leader will realize that his life has not been lived in vain. Then the Old Man turns toward his wife and expresses his thanks for her. After praising the Emperor one more time and suggesting they will be fondly remembered on earth even as they are united in time and space, the Old Man and the Old Woman together jump through their window in a suicidal act of defenestration

The Orator moves to speak from the dais where he has been signing autographs, but not only is he deaf, he is also mute and incapable of producing any sound but guttural grunts deep within his throat. He reaches for a piece of chalk in an effort to communicate his important message through words scrawled on the board behind him. The words are:

ANGELFOOD

NNAA NNM NWNWNW V

With a few more guttural utterances, he leaves.

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