by Jon Sindell
“This is my dragon–slaying suit,” Mr. Brooks told his eight–year–old son, who gaped up at his dad’s charcoal–gray suit. “Corporate dragons,” said Mr. Brooks with a grin that Mrs. Brooks mirrored and Kenny mimicked without understanding. Mr. Brooks hoisted his soft–leather briefcase and marched out through the paneled mahogany door. Kenny squeezed his mother’s leg in supplication, and she spent the morning transforming box–cardboard into a suit of armor. Kenny slew the elm overhanging the pool with a terrible slash of his plastic sword, then lost his balance and fell into the pool. Restricted by the cardboard suit, Kenny flailed underwater for nearly ten seconds before his mother crashed in and saved him.
Mr. Brooks’s suit enchanted Kenny, who watched his father dress every morning. Mr. Brooks appointed Kenny squire, and allowed him the privilege of presenting the caddy from which Mr. Brooks chose his cuff links each day. Kenny would marvel as his father executed a flawless Full Windsor, then thrill when his dad swirled his suit jacket up over his head and back around and down to settle upon him in one magic movement.
Kenny acquired magic words: Worsted. Double breasted. Pinstripe. Gabardine. But the boys at school were ignorant of them, for it was the 90’s, and few dads wore suits. His dad called them losers, these class–envious men who raised mean sons who pushed his son around. He set his hands on Kenny’s shoulders, and they looked down at the school from their hilltop home. Mr. Brooks’s woolen sleeve smelled like manhood.
Ken got his first suit at sixteen for a country–club wedding, but it didn’t hang right. It’s the cut, said his mother with a doubtful expression, but his father blamed it on Ken’s odd physique: his bony, tilted shoulders, his back too swayed despite years of admonitions to stand proud. Ken glared sourly at girls so misguided as to dance with the swaggering sons of non–members; and when he spied a girl deep–kissing one beneath a vined arbor, bitter acid rose in his throat.
“Time to slay a few dragons of your own,” Mr. Brooks told Kenneth the day he was sworn in as a lawyer. Kenneth’s father had secured him an associate position at a prestigious corporate law firm, and given him a three–piece, charcoal–gray, pinstriped power suit. Yet Kenneth felt oddly powerless as he walked to his office past a guitar–playing loser in a patched denim jacket playing for change, and lounging bike messengers mindlessly laughing, and some fool in a garish multicolored Rasta-cap dancing to nothing, and myriad other losers to whom Kenneth was invisible, but who were maddeningly visible to him when he stared down from his eighteenth–floor office, touching his woolen sleeve to his nose.
published 16 March 2016