The Table

By Louise Ure


Have I neglected to tell you about The Table? Forgive me.

Bruce’s Aunt Hazel died last year at the age of 94. She had been a dietician on the civilian hospital ship HOPE back in the ‘60’s, traveling to Indonesia, South Vietnam and Sri Lanka to bring modern medical treatment, support and training to their suffering populations. She was a gentle, optimistic woman from North Dakota who never married but always stayed close to her five sisters and their offspring.



Bruce remembered her letters home – as early as 1961 – warning of an impending war in Vietnam and the possibility that America’s youth would be drawn into the conflict. “Go to Canada,” she said, prescient in her advice.

She was a woman who always took care of herself, saving money from each paycheck, and at the end, disposing of her possessions and arranging for her own long term care.

One of the items she set aside for Bruce was The Table.

It was seven feet long and two and a half feet wide, made from a three-inch slab of solid white granite with veins of black running like river deltas through it. The legs were wrought iron, thick and straight with flat-black spheres at the knee and ankle*.

It was a beast of a table. As heavy as original sin. As dramatic a statement as the stone tablets Moses carried back down the mountain.

Most importantly, it was an autopsy table.

Hazel had purchased it, decades ago, from an auction at Swedish Hospital in Seattle when they were doing major renovations, and hauled it back to her little cottage overlooking Lake Washington. She was so proud of it and frankly couldn’t understand why her dinner guests turned green when told the history of the new dining table. Neither could I.

Oh, how I coveted that table. I wanted it immediately and would have carried it back from Seattle on my back if I could. We could drive up and get it, of course, but the cargo areas in our cars weren’t long enough for that massive granite rectangle. Shipping it seemed like a likely option but we never got around to it.

So it wound up in storage at a friend’s house and stayed there for years, only to be freed unexpectedly four months ago when Bruce’s brother moved into that same friend’s apartment and set it up in his kitchen. He’s not using it for dining, but for a flat storage area. I think he enjoys its infamy as much as I do.

But he knows it’s on loan. It’s coming down to San Francisco. A friend in the antiques business will trailer it down with the next Bay Area load. I’ll need to hire a small army of weight lifters to get it up my stairs.

I’ve promised my brother-in-law another table in replacement. I’m thinking about a veterinary exam table.



Whatcha’ think, ‘Rati? Is this the perfect dining room table for a published crime fiction author? Wanna come over for dinner?



* I wish I could have included a photo of this magical table, but it’s still buried ‘neath the trash in my brother-in-law’s kitchen. I’ll take a photo of it in its new digs once I hire that cadre of he-men to bring it upstairs.


33 thoughts on “The Table

  1. Shizuka

    I’d covet one like it, but would probably have to reinforce my apartment floor.
    And if you ever have unwanted guests who are squeamish, you can use the table’s history to hustle them along. Or have seances on it. Lay down on it on a really hot day.
    Write it into a story. Make pounds of chocolate on it.

  2. Rebbie Macintyre

    Whoa! Okay, eating on the table would probably be great for my diet. I’d get so wrapped up in examining the tabletop for stains, I’d forget to eat. And of course, being a writer, I’d get into my head and start thinking about all the people who’d been on the table and what their lives had been like–you get the idea. Typical writer stuff.
    How about using it as a writing table? Set up your computer, get some organizers, some bookends, a lamp and all that stuff. Just sitting there would really rev up the ol’ muse!

  3. Barbara

    I love home furnishings that have stories/memories connected with them. It’s part of what makes a house a home. Enjoy!

  4. Cornelia Read

    I’m as wimpy as Alafair, but I still want to see the table. I’d actually PROBABLY be cool with eating off it, it’s just thinking about eating off it that’s hard.

  5. Rae

    Sounds much cooler than the autopsy tables I was around during my funeral service days. I tell you, modern forensic science completely ignores the importance of aesthetics…….

    (And yeah, I’d have absolutely no problem sitting down to dinner at it…I’d actually be more worried about the Clorox than anything else 😉

  6. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Reminds me of the scene in "Erin Brokovich" where they serve water to the lawyers from the power plant and then tell them that the water came from the contamination site. I imagine the exact same look on the faces of your dinner guests when you tell them the history of your dining room table, between courses.

    Bruce’s aunt sounds like an amazing woman. We should all have someone as inspiring in our own families.

    And, guess what? I’ll be bringing my own TV dinner tray when I come to dine at your home.

  7. Tom

    They just don’t make ’em like they used to, do they?

    An anthropologist acquaintance mentioned that we’re always standing on the bones of our predecessors. She meant it literally.

    Eat, drink,
    and be merry
    for tomorrow we drive
    the 405.

  8. Kagey

    This reminds me of dining at the Cracker Barrel with my Grandmother. The place was decorated with old farm implements and all manner of near-antiques. As the waitress brought our water classes, my grandmother identified the device hanging near our table as being used to castrate bulls. The waitress nearly dropped all the water in our laps.

    I LOVE the idea of making fudge on the marble slab.

  9. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I used to go to Grateful Dead concerts. An autopsy table hasn’t been anywhere near the things I have. Have me over for dinner any time, LU, I would be proud to sit at your table. (Just don’t ask me to cook…)

  10. CarlC

    Can’t say I’ve eaten at an autopsy table, but back in the late ’60s there was a great restaurant in Kanab, Utah where we enjoyed a number of meals. Its former life was as a funeral home, but that didn’t seem to bother any of us who knew about that. No indications that it had retained any of the original furniture. Once you’ve got that sucker in place, you should be able to have some fabulous dinner parties.

  11. Susan Shea

    Louise, you realize there will be friends lined up outside your flat waiting for invitations to dine, or at least stare, at your table? I can see an iron candelabra in the middle, but am stumped when I try to envision placemats and silverware, never mind a piece of rare roast beef!

  12. JT Ellison

    What a brilliant heirloom! (And what a smart woman!)I can’t wait to see it, though you’ve already done it such justice, I have a very clear picture in my mind of its beauty. Include me in the dinner party, would you?

  13. Nancy Laughlin

    I love Bruce’s aunt! What a lady! That is such a funny story. Wish she’d been my aunt.
    I’d have no problem eating at that table or hearing the stories while doing so.

  14. Karen in Ohio

    Louise, you are a rare woman of vision, and I applaud your enthusiasm for this treasure. If I were ever fortunate enough to be invited to dinner at your house I’m sure I’d be thrilled to join you!

    I could even bring dessert. 🙂

  15. Janine Wilson

    We’d be eating on plates, right? Not off the table, right? Count me in and would you like me to bring placemats? All kinds of designs spring to mind….

  16. mary lynn

    Tom and I will happily, joyfully, gleefully fly up for dinner at your marble autopsy table. Hell, I will come help clean it if you want. The best cleaner for organic stains on marble is actually 12% hydrogen peroxide–hair bleach strength, not the wussy stuff we get at the drug store.

    I grew up in a family where human entrails, etc., were the occasional dinner table topic. I’m still very frank and open when discussing body parts and functions, much to the chagrin of my granddaughters.

    T and I once owned an amazing antique surgical gurney. It was made of beautiful, highly polished wood and steel with these gigantic spoked wheels on it. We found it very useful for a number of diverse jobs, not the least of which was as an al fresco dining table on the wraparound front porch.

  17. anonymous

    OK That’s IT! This is the most exciting thing I have heard about in YEARS!


    I just got around to reading the blog today because I have been clearing out my ‘potting room’. I just told a friend of mine that when it was built I had these Martha Stewart visions of hanging fragrant drying herbs in Provencial bundles from the ceiling and arranging lavender and hydrangeas in pastel gardening gloves while wearing Laura Ashley and a sweet little straw hat. Fuck that. The ‘potting room’ looks like Cornelia’s old dorm room if Hannibal Lecter had roomed there. It is stacked with crapola intended for future works of art that the sculpture cat (moi) dragged home from all manner of flea markets and decades of medical and chemical detritus inherited from the doctors on my father’s side of the family. I have skulls, skeletons, anatomical models and posters, chemical glass, death masks, apothecary items, Pirex and tubing and surgical tools and on and on. I am obsessed with body parts. Mannequins and hands and legs and arms and feet in floor to ceiling death camp piles. (I’m Jewish. I wasn’t trying to be funny) I even have a pile of faceless clay heads that another artist was throwing away. THROWING AWAY! Imagine! So for a couple of days I have been trying to organize and clear out this room because it scares my kids to go near it. (They are 23 and 28 years old and still scared) I have caught them bringing their friends over for mini tours of Mrs. B’s. wax museum of horrors. So before they actually started charging for visits, (the scene where Bytes charges looky loo tarts to see John Merrick The Elephant Man in his hospital room comes to mind) I thought I better administer an attenuated vaccine of purging to dilute the virulence the visual impact of my ‘studio’ has on the family and their friends.

    Back to The Table: I saw a picture in Architectural Digest, years ago, of an über chic New York loft where the dining table was a surgical gurney from the 30s. French Industrial. Stainless steel with accordion steel adjustable truss. Huge locking wheels. I have been looking to buy one for 25 years. YES. and still looking!!! Damn. Mary Lynn I am loving that you found one!

    Now I hear that Louise has inherited an even cooler autopsy dining table and I am formaldehyde GREEN with envy !!!! ( I know, I know, you forensic geeks. CH2O is colorless. but "colorless with envy" didn’t seem to make my point.)

    Louise. What a wonderful acquisition !!! PLEASE send us pictures and thank Bruce for saving that treasure for you next time yall have a chat.

    kiss hug

  18. anonymous

    Also. My ‘stone guy’ told me to use denatured alcohol which can be diluted with a little water (or not) in a spray bottle and a cotton cloth to keep my marble and granite clean on a regular basis. No streaks.

    I am still just kvelling over your new table. Any more medical or Red Cross souvenirs? I am a junkie for that junk.

    Now to find appropriate dining chairs. Hmmmmmnnnn.

  19. mary lynn

    Anonymous…you’re throwing what away???? where are you? my pickup truck and I will be right there to ‘help’ you! (i’ve been known to sculpt what a friend dubbed ‘decapitated heads’)

    Of the physical items I’ve had and lost in my life that gurney remains on the top ten list of things I miss the most. I had to give it up when we moved to the school bus.

  20. anonymous

    Mary Lynn. You can take a tranq. I am cracking up. I meant that the ARTIST WHO MADE THEM was throwing the heads away. I couldn’t imagine that. They are so cool. They are white clay and sort of featureless and I have about 15 of them. Just heads….no necks. I pile them in my black walled fireplace in the summer. My kids don’t understand me.

    I am grieving for your gurney. Sigh

    I am in the Bay Area of San Francisco.

  21. Sylvia

    Hot damn and pass the pasta! Get that table down here woman. What the hell are you waiting for?

    I would have loved to have had some equally as impressive artifacts from my father’s life. He was a surgeon in WWII, herded the first MASH unit on Omaha Beach on D-Day, saw the Battle of the Bulge (where I later found out I have a brother… oh boy). We have photos of the surgical tents, but oh to have some relics.

    Congrats … but I have to ask, what’s the most appropriate candlesticks to pair with such a fine dining piece?


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