Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

Coat Tale

by Liz Hannon

This is the tale of a coat. A coat I picked out, some warm, wooly, little camel coat. A camel from India, fleecy and curled. It had a zipper. It carried a hood. A coat for a girl who knew what she wanted. A coat, a light cream coat with leaves worked into the warp. It was a coat so dreamed and so appeared in the shopping trip to Sears. A coat to prepare a young girl, a brown-eyed laughing girl, a girl the color of squirrel, a darting, laughing girl, for the slowing down of winter.

It was a coat, such a coat. A cocoon, a fuzzy-wuzzy that I could wear on the bus, on the playground, sitting by Mama in church. It was a zipped-up, chicken soup of a coat and it warmed my outside, filled my inside with pleasure. It was a daisy of a coat. You must know the butterfly inside flies high in spring. She pulls colors from sky, from cottonwoods, from clover, from bubblegum, from her daddy's pocket and hangs them on her coat. Carries her love wrapped 'round her, some caramel toffee girl in a shiny new wrapper.

A first grade girl, I, a first of a first-timer. First big bus. First school. Five-and-a-half, no kindergarten rehearsal, just plop on the yellow jitney and off to show off. I could already read, count clothespins, could dream, could love, could choose a magic coat, could try to fly, could do anything, anything. But I could not, I found one day, take off my coat. It was time, bell well rung, silence in that tile tidy place outside the classroom. It was a hurry and hang up my coat time, find my desk, begin life, begin counting and marching, begin to get a grade for breathing. But my mitt of a hand could not work the magic of that zipper. The coat stayed on, hugged me was if I were the mother, it a baby koala.

The sky frowned, the tile grew cold. Sister Mary Theophane looked down and down and down. Coat plus girl equals trouble. Coat plus girl equals, "Watch this one." Coat plus girl equals tears, spilt milk, a terse, "Take it off, now!"

And the coat held its breath, held mine. I looked at the floor, imagined snow, thought of making an angel, thought someone will remember how clever, how soft, how jubilant, how right. But this girl was sent down the hall to find a taller girl, her sister. Kathleen would fix the coat, explain it was time for it to nap and me to learn not to care what happens when you go off to school thinking it must be like heaven and realizing it's not true, it's not true, it's not true. Not true for the curly bear girl, no angel at the gate. No play. No time. No forgiveness. The little teeth of that zipper holding on for dear life.

Liz Hannon, writes in Santa Rosa, CA. She can be reached at lizardo_99@yahoo.com.

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