The jacket sits on the fence, listless and forgotten. Creepers stretch tendrils towards the imposter in their midst, testing its legitimacy, waging a war of attrition that it cannot hope to win. The snow is thick now, almost a foot deep in places. The jacket has its own jacket of snow, white on red like Santa’s suit. How many sunsets has it seen? How many frosts has it endured? So many questions left unanswered by the perpetrator of its demise. From time to time a passer by will stop, their eyes alighting on the arm that hangs limply from the fence post like a rag, or a fallen soldier on the edge of the battlefield. They will look around, frown and move on, it being quite apparent that the jacket’s owner has done the same.
What they don’t know is he hasn’t. He lies there too, beneath the foot of snow, his frozen hands clasped tightly as if in prayer. He was drunk, of course (at this time of year they always are), on his way home from the Christmas party. When they find him several days from now they’ll all be baffled as to why he removed his jacket when it was so very cold. In truth he would be just as baffled had he lived to tell the tale, for there was no logic to his whisky-addled thinking. And now there is no thinking at all.
The jacket had hung on the rail, unnoticed, for years, its once vibrant khaki shade now muted by a million tiny dust motes. On those rare occasions when a customer did venture to the far interior of the shop, their grasping fingers would probe the rail and yet somehow never find purchase in the jacket’s soft folds. Even the owner of the shop had neglected to update its price tag in his recent stock take. The jacket, it seemed, had been forgotten.
It hadn’t always been like this. When it was made a century ago the jacket had been stitched by deft and loving hands. Destined for war, it was a most important garment, for it bore not only the mark of its country but also the pride and honour of its countrymen. Such was its power the boy who wore it nigh-on fainted when it was placed into his trembling hands.
But once the war was over the reverence ceased to exist. The jacket was tossed into the dark recesses of a wardrobe, as though it were responsible for all the ills of the war. It wasn’t until the boy, by then an old man, had passed away that it was sold to a collector and brought here, to this place where time stood still and where the tinkling of the bell above the door grew more infrequent with each passing day.
The bell tinkled, and the door opened. Into the shop stepped a young man. He spoke in hushed tones to the elderly shopkeeper, who nodded and pointed to the back of the shop. Shuffled footsteps drew near to where the jacket hung. Fingers probed the adjacent garments, stopping just short of its location. But just as it seemed the jacket had been ignored again, the fingers probed still further and made contact with its arm, then its lapel. Soon the whole jacket had been pulled from the rail and slipped off its hanger and the young man was trying it on. He looked at himself in the mirror, smiled at his reflection and then at the shopkeeper.
The old man helped the young man out of the jacket and shuffled to the counter, brushing off the dust before slipping it into a bag and ringing up the sale on an ancient cash register. Moments later the bell tinkled again to herald the young man’s exit, and the jacket – with its new owner – re-entered the world.