March 08, 2019
For this week, the challenge from Flash Fiction Friday was to write about a coat. Your favourite coat, but that you ended up donating to the local thrift store. We had to write about how it then affected the life of the next person. So I 'gave away' my comfy winter coat. I wanted to explore a different ending too, avoiding a cliche. Feedback always welcome of course. Maximum was 1000 words, I did about 900.
It was a nice coat, sort of. Boring brown, with a canvas look to it, jacket length, fleece lining, and a basic hood.
"It’s kind of plain, hun. Not really me."
"Sure it is, Dan," she said. "When we met, you had a coat almost exactly like this. This one was a real deal at the thrift store."
"That was back in college," he said, "five years ago. I need a new image for my new job."
Dora was right, this used to be his style. He still avoided ties, preferring sneakers, jeans and a t-shirt. Clean, not tattered, of course. But if he was going to move up in the world, it wasn’t enough to act the part; he had to look the part.
"I can’t go into work looking like I belong back on the loading dock," he said. "I’m in management now. I know my new suits are a little expensive, but soon we can pay off our debts and start moving up, planning a family. I like the looks people give me now, too."
"But you said you only see your boss and three office mates—no customers."
"One of the guys told me it’s all about image there," he said. "He warned me there’s a lot of behind the scene politics I have to watch out for. For one thing, you have to look like you could even fit in the boardroom."
She laughed. "Sorry dear, I’m sure you could manage it, just not right away."
"It might take me a quite a while," he admitted. "It's just my first week, but it's pretty clear already that I’m a very small cog in a very large machine. I’ll wait a bit before I consider top executive, in a three piece suit, cigar in one hand, glass of cognac in the other. " He chuckled. "Can you imagine?"
Dora shook her head. "Just try the coat dear. Wear it tonight, for your darts league."
He’d darts played in college, so had joined a group at the local pub. However, he was finding it difficult to fit in with the crowd there. He had been working on his new casual, dressy look, like he'd seen in GQ magazine, but tonight he wore his gently used coat, with jeans and a sweater. Maybe it helped, as his new friends seemed to finally warm up to him. He even made some good shots.
Dora was still up when he got in. "So? How was your night?"
"Pretty good. And thanks for the coat, I do like it. Not really for work, though, just around the neighbourhood."
"Didn’t you say tomorrow was dress down Friday?"
"Well, yes," he said. "I suppose I could wear it then."
Dan realized he might have made a mistake as soon as he walked through the main building entrance. The security guard took one look at Dan’s drab coat, baggy sweatshirt, and jeans, then motioned him over. He insisted on checking Dan's ID twice to make sure Dan actually did work there, and was to be allowed into the front offices.
Word of the new guy's arrival spread quickly. By the time he reached his own work-group, heads had been popping up over baffles and phone cameras clicking like his own paparazzi. He thought he actually heard someone say, "Dead man walking".
His workmates were all dressed in what was obviously the official casual style. No tie, shirt with the top button open, casual loafers, well-pressed slacks, and a sports jacket. Definitely fancier than casual Dan.
He'd brought a lunch, so he figured his best bet would be to hide out at his desk for the day, then leave after everyone else had gone home. Hopefully, his boss wouldn’t see any of the photos.
Unfortunately, the VP of Marketing had decided that today would be a good day to tour the building. When he reached Dan’s workgroup, he stopped, raised an eyebrow, nodded a curt "Gentlemen" and walked on. Dan’s boss, right behind the VP, just glared. As expected, Dan was called into his boss’s office. And as expected, he tore a strip off Dan. One more slip and he was out.
As soon as Dan got home, Dora knew the day had not gone well.
"Stuck-up assholes" were his first words. Once he’d told his story, and she’d given him a big hug, she stood back.
"So, now what?" she said.
Dan shook his head. "You know, maybe this look is still really me, not the phony suits and office politics. I heard they were still looking for a warehouse manager for our east end location. It would be closer to home and out of the office. I’m betting my boss would go for it, as he knows I’d be good at it. Maybe I’ll ask him."
"And the pay?" she said.
"Not much more than my last job. Definitely less than this one."
"I suppose we can make do," she said. "Let me get back to making supper here. Would you mind popping out for a bottle of wine?"
As Dan was passing the thrift store he decided to just pop in and look around. Maybe they had some more used books in, maybe some sci-fi. As he walked by the clothing racks an overcoat caught his eye. Very nice. He checked the label—Burberry. Very very nice. And the price? He whistled. $100. Easily worth ten times that. This would certainly get people looking, looking with respect.
"Great deal," said the cashier. "Need a bag?"
"No, I’ll wear it."
"For your other coat then?"
He took his plain brown coat off and handed it to her.
"No thanks, it's a donation. Hopefully, someone can put it to good use."
Dan is caught between the two worlds. He wants to be the real "Dan', and yet he wants to be the corporate 'Dan'. Unfortunately, he wants to be both of them at the same time. He learned the hard way that's not going to be possible. For a moment, it seemed as if he'd made the choice to reject the phoniness and the I'm-better-than-anyone attitude, but the 'being looked at with respect' angle seems to have won. He doesn't yet realize that they aren't necessarily looking at him with respect, but at the outward show he's putting on. Should have kept the plain brown coat, Dan. It was you.
Posted by: Joyce Juzwik | March 08, 2019 at 12:54 PM
Thanks Joyce. Glad it worked. I was trying to show that our characters don't always make the final choice that they should. As in real life.
Posted by: Ravens | March 08, 2019 at 02:30 PM