The Androgynous Coat, fiction by Nathan Graziano

I fin­ished my beer, took a hit off the bowl Toby left packed on the cof­fee table and grabbed my car keys. “Let’s hit the bar,” I called to Toby, who was in his bedroom.

Come here for a sec­ond,” he said.

Toby lived in a small sec­ond floor apart­ment, not far from the room I rent­ed after split­ting with my wife. Dev­as­tat­ed and still in love, I had resumed the behav­iors I had stopped when I got mar­ried and had a family—bar-dwelling and bare­ly eat­ing and a wide vari­ety of drugs. Like a stum­bling beast ris­ing from the ash­es of a cal­en­dar, in less than month, I had become some­thing unrec­og­niz­able to me. Toby told me that he went through the same meta­mor­pho­sis the year before, when he found out his ex-wife was sleep­ing with his cousin. Despite the fact that Toby—a for­mer body-builder—was short and wide-shoul­dered while I was the out­line of an aver­age mid­dle-aged man, we now shared the same shadow.

When I walked into his bed­room, Toby had crushed up a Val­i­um and cut it into two lines of fine blue pow­der on his dress­er. He hand­ed me a rolled dol­lar bill, and I went for it.

Look at this coat,” Toby said and held up a red and black-check­ered flan­nel jack­et that, at first glance, appeared to be a hunt­ing coat. “I picked it up at a yard sale,” he said, tak­ing the bill from my hand and snort­ing the sec­ond line. “What do you think?”

You’re ask­ing the wrong guy. Fash­ion-wise, I nev­er got over grunge.”

Look at this,” he said and put on the jack­et and raised his arms. “Look at the pock­ets on this thing. There are pock­ets under the sleeves, by my ribs, and four pock­ets on the front.”

That’s a lot of pockets.”

Fuck­ing right that’s a lot of pock­ets. The oth­er night, I put it on when Erin was here, and she told it was a girl’s coat.”

No shit,” I said and lit a cigarette—another bad habit I’d resumed. Erin, a twen­ty year-old junky who had been sleep­ing with Toby in exchange for pain pills,  had left a pair of silky black panties on Toby’s bed­room floor, and I picked them up and used them to clean my glass­es. “She would know bet­ter than either of us.”

But why would they make a coat that fits me if it’s for a girl? It doesn’t make sense. What type of girl fits into this coat?”

A big girl,” I said. As the Val­i­um mas­saged my tem­ples with its feath­ery hands, I sat down on Toby’s bed, closed my eyes then fell back. My cell phone buzzed in the front of pock­et of my jeans, a mil­lion tiny pins vibrat­ing down my leg. I grabbed the phone and saw a text mes­sage from my wife and opened it. ru @ the bar????

"Fuck it, I’m wear­ing the coat to the bar,” Toby said. “You ready to go?”

Melt­ed into the mat­tress, I nod­ded my head. While in no con­di­tion to dri­ve, I reached for my keys, not both­er­ing to respond to my wife.


 Toby and I took the two stools at the far end of the bar, beside a machine that played triv­ia if you fed it a buck. Toby kept the coat on, every now and then slip­ping his hand in a new pock­et. As I drank more, my head began to nod, and I was almost asleep on my stool when Toby punched me in the arm.

Oh shit, Ray. This is not fuck­ing good.”

At the entrance to the bar, my wife stood with a man. The guy looked younger than us—my wife, Toby and I were all forty years old—and he had a full head of black hair, com­pared to my thin­ning dome washed gray. He wore a styl­ish black pea coat and a scarf. My wife, on the oth­er hand, had on a blue and black check­ered flan­nel coat, Toby’s coat but a dif­fer­ent col­or. My wife and I looked at each oth­er. Hers were cold blue ice.

When I turned to Toby, he was tak­ing off his coat. “I guess that answers that,” he said.

I stared at my mug, want­i­ng to hurl it across the bar at the head of the fuck­wad in the pea coat. “It cer­tain­ly does,” I said and reached for my beer.
bio12Nathan Graziano lives in Man­ches­ter, New Hamp­shire. He is the author of three col­lec­tions of poet­ry—Not So Pro­found (Green Bean Press, 2003), Teach­ing Metaphors (Sun­ny­out­side Press, 2007) and After the Hon­ey­moon (Sun­ny­out­side Press, 2009)—a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, Frost­bite (GBP, 2002), and sev­er­al chap­books of fic­tion and poet­ry. A chap­book of short prose pieces titled Hang­over Break­fasts was recent­ly pub­lished by Bot­tle of Smoke Press. For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it his web­site at http://​www​.nathangraziano​.com/.


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