“Night of the Smelly Coat” by Cole DeNardo
We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. If you have ever had a smelly coat, then you’ll be able to empathize with this week’s narrator. Or maybe not.
We present our Feature Story: “Night of the Smelly Coat” by Cole DeNardo
I’m driving home when I realize something isn’t right. My left coat sleeve smells like spit and beef jerky. Like the sweaty upper lip of someone who ate fried food. My dog must have bit my coat when I wasn’t looking. Now, I’m trapped.
I can pull over, but it’s dark out.
What if a rabid animal bolts out of the trees and takes a chunk out of my arm only to leave me disabled in a pool of my own blood? But at least that would get rid of the stink. What if an insane person abducts me and keeps me in a shed behind his house feeding me greasy chicken nuggets? A balloon grows in my throat and I begin to hyperventilate.
It’s only a twenty-minute ride to class. Should I pull over and take off my coat and risk death by the many possibilities in the forest or leave the coat on, smelling like disease with no sink nearby?
I contemplate forgetting class and turning around, but realize I don’t have a choice. I have to take a final and if I don’t I’ll fail and if I fail I won’t graduate and then I won’t get a job and then I won’t have money. And if I don’t have money, I’ll never be able to buy a new coat.
I can’t breathe. Oh, crap. I’m going to die. I’m going to die right now and there’s no one on the road to help me. Or maybe there is someone, but that person could kidnap me, cut off my tattoos so no one could identify me and then sell my body to science.
I remember the yoga class I took at the gym this morning. “Take deep breaths and exhale the negativity. Just let it go.”
It doesn’t work. My breathing becomes a pant. Mistake. This thought reminds me too much of the stink on my sleeve.
What if the smell seeps through? I think of skunks and bathing in vegetable juice for hours. Visions of gingivitis, halitosis and herpes crowd my brain.
I’m driving with one hand, shaking the left, seeing flies swarm around my diseased arm Lord of the Flies pig head on-a-stick style.
A siren blares behind me. The loud, unexpected noise makes me swerve onto the shoulder. A cop is after me. I need to move. Can’t stay here. I sway my body back and forth.
What if he puts me in jail and I can’t take a bath? Or, worse yet, I can only take a bath when told? I think of plowing the gas pedal, seeking to take back control of the situation. Fight or flight. I try to remember the last time I had control of anything.
The cop comes to my window. I roll it down.
“License, insurance, registration…” he says.
I can’t think straight, but my sweaty hands manage to hand them over.
All I need to do is take off this damn coat….
I get out of the car and pull my arm out of the sleeve of the furry tomb. I immediately feel better as I begin to remove the thick coat.
“Get back in the car!”
I get back in. I should know better. My coat feels like a straightjacket. I think of throwing it out the window.
He comes back. “Did you realize you were driving erratically?” the cop asks me.
My scarf is choking me. I rip it off like it’s a poisonous snake.
“Are you alright, miss?”
He shines his flashlight in my eyes. I’d go blind. If there’s anything worse than being in jail it’s going blind. Blind people need to rely on others. Not something I want to do.
I want to say “All I need to do is take my jacket off, officer…” That’s it and I’ll be fine.
When I don’t answer he asks, “Where are you coming from?”
“My house. I have to go to class.” As I speak, I realize I can breathe. Maybe I can survive.
“Why do you keep sniffing your coat?”
I try to seem normal. Seeming normal is hard when you’re not. “It’s nothing.”
“I’m going to need you to step out of your vehicle.”
I exit the car, trying to not look at the speeding cars that could squash me like a bug at any second. I cringe. I’m pressed against the cop car as he pats my coat down.
My arms are up on the hood in clear stink territory. My arms flail up.
He pushes me back on the hood. “Don’t move.”
It’s my coat! Get this evil thing off of me!
“You’re sweating. Have you been drinking?”
No, I just don’t want this coat anymore. Take it away!
“Noooo…” My voice is shaking. I try not to cry. Claustrophobia sets in and I feel violated against the car. The scenery around me seems to wrap me up in a tight ball.
“I’m going to need you to take off your coat.”
My heart slows a bit.
I focus on the big “M” of the McDonald’s nearby. I run an escape route through my head. Slow your breath. Act normal. Get through the night.
The officer checks the inside pockets of my coat.
“Miss,” he says. “Be careful, it’s very dark out.”
It takes me a few seconds to understand that he’s letting me go. He goes to hand me the coat.
I put my hands up. “You can keep it.” It was like a detox getting that coat off.
“Miss, it’s freezing out.”
It is. I’d die of frostbite or even worse hypothermia. I’ve heard of a cure for hypothermia that consists of sharing a sleeping bag naked with another person to absorb body heat. Germs.
I take the coat as if it were a dead rabbit. I get back in the car, but don’t put the coat back on. Instead I drape it over my legs like a blanket.
“Drive safe, miss.”
I turn the ignition on. The flies are now nesting in my lap, but I keep going. The cop follows me for awhile. I smile as I make my way down the highway.
I’m still here.
As this thought sinks in, the coat seems lighter as if it’s not there at all. It may be only a small step. Men have walked on the moon.
But I have survived the night.
Cole is a Renaissance girl who likes to explore everything once. In addition to writing short stories, novels and plays, Cole wants to start a pickling company, open up a sanctuary for homeless animals and write a musical. In her spare time she likes to visit Wonderland and hang out with the Cheshire Cat, her hero. She has previously been published in the ALL THINGS GIRL E-Zine. She can be found on Twitter.
Tags: cole denardo, metro fiction, short stories