Five Tales by George Wier

George Wier
By George Wier October 15, 2012 21:14

Five Tales by George Wier

Summary:

Included are: The Coat Man–some worlds are better than others, The Leonids–a story of love and love lost, Nickel Cup–the last of a dying breed, The Devil And Mr. Tom Bean–visit Austin as it should never be, and The Field–biting social commentary on the death penalty in Texas.

Excerpt:

The Coat Man

He moved around the room from chair to chair lifting up one coat after another, examining each in turn before cursing loud enough for me to hear, and then replacing it. The hundred or so guests to the black tie affair were in the adjoining hall watching the presentation of their candidate on the big screen. Waiters moved about the vast, nearly empty dining room, cleaning away plates and glasses. I could tell it took some effort for them to ignore the coat man. I, on the other hand, was entranced.

Curiosity eventually got the better of me. I walked up to him.

“Help you?” I asked.

“Lost my coat.”

“That’s too bad,” I said, not meaning it. Somehow, looking at the guy, I got it that he wasn’t being completely sincere. But being the hired help for the night, a lowly security guy with not much left to do before the night was done, the coat man was the only game in town.

“I’m gonna check ‘em again,” he said, and started with the coat he had looked at a moment previous.

“That’s not gonna do any good,” I said. “You already checked every one that’s here.”

“It’s important,” he said, and went on to ignore me.

I smirked and watched him.

For another thirty minutes I watched him until the men drifted back in to retrieve their coats. The coat man watched them disappear one by one, and when the last was done he looked over at me and threw his arms up in despair.

I shrugged, chuckling to myself. Sucks to be you, I thought, right before I left.

*****

I saw the coat man a year later at a bar. He had forgotten me. I recognized him instantly. He was making a circuit of the room, checking coats even while their owners sat talking and swilling beer. The place was crowded and dark and the noise was at the level of a din. My kind of place.

“Here comes the coat man,” I told Paul, my drinking buddy. “You’d better put your coat on.”

“Why?” Paul asked me, but it was too late.

“Can I see your jacket for a minute?” the coat man asked Paul.

“Why?” Paul asked him.

“I lost my coat. It looks just like yours. I just want to check it.”

“Dude,” Paul said. “This is my coat. I paid four hundred bucks for it.”

And that I could attest to. Paul had been bragging to me about his new suede leather jacket since the day he bought it two weeks before. The sonuvabitch probably had photostatic copies of the receipt filed away in triplicate somewhere.

“I just want to look at it,” the coat man said.

Paul leaned forward, moved his arms back and slid them into his sleeves, donning his jacket. “Forget it,” he told the coat man.

“Man,” I told the coat man, “that’s his coat. And you don’t remember me, but you’re the coat man. You do this sort of thing all the time, don’t you?”

“What thing?”

“Lose your coat,” I said.

“No I don’t,” the coat man said. “I’ve never seen you before in my life. You don’t know anything about me.”

“I know you’re perpetually coatless.”

“That’s because your friend has my coat.” The coat man turned to Paul. “You want to let me see that coat? Or should I call the cops?”

“Call ‘em,” I said.

“Yeah,” Paul said.

*****

Outside in the parking lot the coat man stood there shivering in the cold while red and blue lights illuminated his thoroughly wronged face.

“Mr. Lopez,” the younger cop told Paul, “why won’t you let the guy at least look at the label in your coat?”

“Sir,” I said, interjecting yet again, “it’s because he’s the coat man,” I pointed. “And I personally can attest to this being Paul’s coat.”

“Paul is your friend,” the coat man said. “Doesn’t cut it with me.”

“Nor with me,” the cop said.

“Barking up the wrong tree, officer,” I said. “A year ago I was working security at the Hilton. This guy was checking every coat in the room.”

“So?” the coat man said.

“Yeah, so?” the cop said. “He didn’t take one, did he?”

“Not that I saw. I’m not saying he’s a thief. I’m saying he’s a little. . . loony tunes, that’s all.”

“Mr. Lopez,” the cop said to Paul, “I’m going to step over to the side with the coat man here, and he’s going to whisper the label name in my ear, then I’m going to come back over here and have a look at the label.”

“No you’re not,” Paul said. “This jacket is recognizable. Anybody who knows anything about suede leather jackets can tell you what the label says without looking at it.”

“And you can do that?” the cop asked Paul.

“He can,” I said. “I’ve seen it.”

The cop turned to the coat man–I still hadn’t heard the sonuvabitch’s name–and said: “Wait over by the patrol car for a minute.”

The coat man turned and walked twenty feet away, turned again, crossed his arms and regarded us.

“Okay,” Paul said. “What gives?”

“Look,” the cop said, “do me a favor here. It doesn’t matter a damn if it’s the same label or not, I’m not going to let him take your jacket away from you. I’m just trying to get this thing resolved.”

“Yeah, but–” Paul began, but the cop cut him off.

“Yeah, nothing. Apparently this guy can’t have a coat. He’s a little weird, I’ll grant you, and he’s got something about coats if what you say is true,” he nodded towards me. “Something rattling around in his noodle, maybe. Something maybe got shook loose in there and he never got it back in place again. I don’t know and I don’t care. You let him tell me the label name, I come back over here and look. I don’t care if it’s the same or not, I’ll tell him it’s not even if it is, then this whole thing is settled.”

“Okay,” Paul said. “Anyway, I’ve got a receipt for it at home.”

“I don’t doubt you,” the cop said. “Give me a sec.”

The cop walked over to the coat man. They conferred for a two long minutes, then the cop came back over.

“He says it’s a Weston coat. Size large.”

“Not even close,” Paul said, “Jacobs. Medium. Take a look.”

Paul slid the coat off and showed the cop, who gestured for the coat man to come over.

The coat man took one look and said: “Oh. This isn’t my coat. I’m going back in there and check everybody again.”

“Nope,” the cop said. “You’re going home.”

*****

I dream a lot. Some of them are good dreams and some aren’t so good. In one of the bad ones, the coat man distracts the cop, snags his gun, then shoots all three of us, laughing maniacally the whole time. In another, the coat man is on a spaceship between the stars, checking every planet he comes across, forcing the population of each world to get in line and show him their coats, one by one.

But my favorite dream of all–one of the good ones–is where the coat man at last finds his coat. He finds it, sighs deeply, smiles a thin, satisfied smile, and ever-so-slowly dons it.

The Leonids

We met at the City Lake around 1:30 a.m. As promised by the weatherman the sky was clear and shone with a million stars. The moon would not be putting in her appearance until sometime around five a.m., so there would be no obscurity. We’d be getting the full effect.

I pulled my old Ford off the gravel roadway, expecting to have to wait, but a set of headlights pulled off the highway and turned down the narrow road a quarter of a mile back. Twin spears of light penetrated the settling cloud of dust I’d left behind scant moments before. I wouldn’t even have time for a cigarette.

After a minute of watching the headlights bounce and dodge all over creation Matt and Mandy and the kids pulled up beside me, their windows rolled down.

“Probably won’t see anything,” Matt said from the driver’s seat.

“Hey Bill,” Mandy said to me. We couldn’t see each other worth a damn. We were two ghostly faces in the night, mere feet away from one another. She had her arm hanging outside the minivan.

“Hey, Amanda,” I said. “Are you bored yet?”

She laughed. I’d always loved her laugh. Matt was a damned lucky man and I’d often wondered to what depths he knew that singular fact.

“I am,” a voice intoned from the back seat. That would be Stuart, the eldest. Stu was a lot like his father–he saw the rust-lining in everything.

“Did you bring the booze?” Matt asked me as he got out and slammed the door behind him.

“Hush, Matt,” Mandy said. “Get the chairs.”

I waited while the Prescott family disembarked. An onlooker might have thought we were all up to no good–a single man meeting a husband, wife and kids in the dead of night in a closed lake park miles from town. We’d had it figured that there would eventually be cops coming by on patrol. They’d see the vehicles, run an obligatory check or two of the plates, then start to nose around and see if they could find us and run us off. Maybe even give us a ticket. Or two. But the plan was that if that happened I was supposed to flash my badge and magically make everything alright.

I fished the beer out of my trunk and Matt and Mandy and the kids each had their hands full as we trudged across the mown grass, up a hill and around the stand of trees down to the lakes edge. We’d be out of sight from the road, so truthfully, anyone wanting to find us could, but it might take them awhile. I estimated we were a couple football field lengths from the cars.

Mandy and the kids opened up the lawn chairs. Matt clicked on a flashlight and inspected my cooler.

“Coors Light,” I told him. “And a little something-something for us hard-core drinkers.” I pulled out a flask and handed it to him. Matt unscrewed the lid and sniffed.

“Scotch,” he said. “How old?”

“Older than you,” I said.

“Bill,” Mandy said, “you’re contributing to the delinquency of a major.”

“I know,” I said. “With malice aforethought.”

“Just so’s you know.”

I took the flask back, screwed the cap on.

“It’ll keep till later,” I told Matt and then tossed him a cold beer. “In the meantime, shut off that damned light so we can see.”

*****

You can see the stars on the water on a clear night with no wind, no tide and no moon. And the silence is its own presence.

“There’s one!” Suzie, the youngest Prescott exclaimed and pointed. Our eyes had adjusted, so we could see her arm.

A line of light lasting about half a second traced itself across the sky just west of Leo.

“Oooo. . . Ahh. . .” Stu said, clearly unimpressed. What more can you expect from a fourteen year-old?

“Shut up, Stu,” Matt said.

“Good one, Suze,” Mandy encouraged. “You be nice, Stuart.”

“Hey, Bill. You heard about that water truck we crashed out at the Extension Service?”

“Nope,” I said, and sipped my beer. “But I’ve got the feeling I’m about to.”

“You sure are,” Matt said, and went on for five minutes about how he orchestrated a fully loaded truck crash into a concrete barrier at sixty miles per hour and managed to catch video from ten different angles for study purposes. The whole time he talked I nodded, watched the sky, and kept Mandy’s perfume in my nose.

Three more lines came into the sky in rapid succession. This time the ooo’s and ahhh’s were real.

Then, for five minutes, nothing.

Matt was my best friend. I’d known him all our lives. But I wondered what Mandy saw in him that I didn’t. What stars in their courses had brought them together? And why were they still together?

Mandy had always kept me at arms length, but at the same time she had always treated me with a deference I could not fathom. A certain softness found its way into her voice whenever Matt wasn’t around and we had a moment to talk, which happened at least once every few weeks. She would never know that I lived for those brief encounters. And not for the first time, as I watched the night sky and breathed in her perfume and her presence not three feet away, I wondered if something was there.

“Say, Bill,” Matt said. “I brought something I meant to show you, but I left it in the van.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise. I’ll go get it.”

“Matt, can’t it wait?” Mandy asked.

“I’ll only be a minute,” he said and got up. “Stu, walk with your dad.”

“Oh hell!” Stuart said.

“Stu!” Mandy admonished him. “Do what your father says.”

“Alright,” Stuart said, the way only a fourteen year-old who knew everything there was to know on God’s green Earth could say it.

“Be right back,” Matt said, and the darkness swallowed them.

The silence came again.

I breathed in Mandy.

“Mom,” Suzie said. “I’m gonna wade in the water. Is that alright?”

“What do you think, Bill? Can anything get her?”

“Anything that could get her will run from her,” I offered. “Suzie, make sure you don’t go deeper than your knees. This lake drops off pretty quick out there.”

“Cool!” Suzie said and darted toward the shore, ten yards or more away.

Copyright© George Wier. All rights reserved.

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George Wier
By George Wier October 15, 2012 21:14
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