A COAT FROM ANOTHER LIFE, his father’s over-sized grey winter jacket with red inner lining hangs in the hallway closet. David looks at himself in the mirror, combing his hair forward in failed attempt to deceive his aging to the rest of the world. Lately he has thought about moving away from the city, taking on a mortgage, and finding a 100-year-old house with wood flooring. After living and renting in a large city for nine years, anything but the city seems affordable in comparison. In a remote town he would cut his hair short, walk to the movie theater without wearing a ballcap, and people would just assume he was nearing 40, instead of 30, and he would be fine with that.
With the delay and transfer in Cleveland, the train ride to Kalamazoo arrived late by two hours. Luckily there was daylight the entire ride through New York; in particular the stretch along the banks of the Hudson River, between New York City and Albany. The night and morning hours of the trip take you through Cleveland in route of Chicago, which isn’t very scenic.
Normally a good son would find the soonest departing direct flight, but upon hearing of his father’s fatal heart attack, his dad had already been dead. His mother would have called back a second and third time when David didn’t answer, but David’s sister, Marie, was phoning their mother on the other line just as she was about to make the second attempt to reach David.
The next flight would make no difference; at least taking the train would allow more time to think. He was a good son, despite the turmoil years of high school that consisted of lashing out at his father over the dinner table. Their father-son relationship was healthiest when they didn’t live in the same city. His father’s first heart attack occurred about the same time last year. The holiday time of year caused the family to come together even more as a family. In the hospital cafeteria they consciously appreciated each bite of food by reflecting on the ability to chew food. David thought about attending church for the first time since mandatory mass of his school years. He ended up sleeping in telling himself he will go next time; however, he did recite a few Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s the night before in hopes of giving his father testimony and reference. Since it had been some time, he had to look up the words of the prayers.
To make Christmas easier around the house this year without dad being around, David bought a Pre-lit Fold-Flat Metal Christmas Tree at one of the nationwide retail hardware stores. It was durable, rust free, and came with a lifelong warranty replacement. To make it look not so much like a metal tree David painted the metal green. It didn’t work. In order not to be questioned by the neighbors, David’s mother positioned the metal pointed object in the corner, away from the traditional location of in front of the dining room window. Unless someone in the family has an allergy, resorting to an artificial Christmas tree is lazy and only somewhat acceptable if you reside in far off places like Tampa and San Bernardino. If mom didn’t want it around for next year, perhaps David could take a drive up to Northern Michigan to plant it somewhere in the sparsely populated backwoods near Ishpeming and Marquette. David would know and take note in detail of what roads he turned left and right, mapping out where he had planted the tree. Perhaps with time, it would evolve out of survival, rooting itself like its surroundings, taking on a new identity in life.
The funeral was attended by their family. Leaving the church, David is wearing the wintercoat of his late father. The son has brought the wintercoat a new life. It is not the winter of 1973, when his father first wore it, yet the February weather is just about the same as then.
Jack lives in Denver, Colorado. His most recent flash fiction has been published in Birdy Magazine, 81 Words, Five 2 One Magazine, 101Words, Red Flag Poetry, and is forthcoming in Ginosko Literary Journal and L' Allure des Mots.
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