Winter fiction

I go to a store to try on coats. Slipping on one after another, I look at my reflection. What does this coat transform me into? Am I flashy, realistic, prosaic, magic or speculative? Is it a perfect fit or slightly too big? Are the sleeves a little too long? Are the seams showing just a bit too much? I am confused, and leave the store.

I go back. The shop assistant gives me one of those stares. You again.

This time, as I try on the coats, I do not look into the mirror. This is not about me, after all. This is about the coat. I concentrate on the fabric of each piece. I run my fingers along the textured surfaces. I think of the hands behind the making, concentrate on the wondrous stitching performed in hundreds of rooms around the country and around the world.

I try on coat after coat after coat – so many options, so many ways in which to see.

I force myself to narrow down the pile, stand still in one for just that fraction longer. I wonder if I can live with this covering for a long period of time. If others want to touch it too, will I become more appealing for having chosen this adornment?

Oh. I suddenly stop.

It has become about me again. I leave the store. The shop assistant sighs and begins reassembling the mess I’ve left behind.

The third time – or, perhaps, the fiftieth time – I come into the store and the shop assistant has armed herself. She has lines on her face which match my own. The same pattern of contemplation and deliberation. Only four, she says.

There are only four, lying like selected seals on the shiny floor.

When I try them on and look again at my reflection, I see that, finally, I have disappeared. The coats stand alone, suspended in space.

They have a certain strangeness about them, something lurking beneath their different surfaces. Depending on your angle, they shine in odd and familiar ways.

The shop assistant and I stand back to let them breathe, patting each other on the shoulder.

The coats tremble and quiver, before shooting off into the sky. Far away from their own making, they are luminous.


Read the winter fiction issue:

Australian crawl’ by Shannon Burns
If he woke up’ by Kalia Forde
Blue boy’ by Joshua Kemp
Ford Forth is infinite’ by Emma Rayward


Rachel Hennessy

Rachel Hennessy’s novels are The Quakers (Wakefield Press, 2008) and The Heaven I Swallowed (Wakefield Press, 2013). She teaches creative writing at the University of Melbourne.

More by Rachel Hennessy ›

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