Hannah takes the gift in her arms.
Right away, it feels too heavy. She strokes the thick, bilious green fabric. It prickles against her fingertips.
Her mother loves the four-seasons coat. She found it on special.
Hannah says thank you.
Her mother waits for her to try it on.
Hannah obeys. She chafes and smothers in the synthetic pelt.
Not that she’s ungrateful.
She never asked for it. Never chose it.
And, it drags on her teenage shoulders.
Late that night, in her bedroom, she works with the stealth of Mata Hari, snipping off the sleeves. She tries wearing it as a long tunic. She can almost swing her arms, but it still pulls and clings in all the wrong places.
And, the acrid fabric burns the back of her throat. Her nostrils flare, it smells so sharp.
Like the gas-station forecourt. Or, the clear vinyl covers on her grandmother’s new recliner-rocker.
That afternoon, she trims back the hem, thinking she’ll wear it as a dress.
No-No-No-ooooo! You are not going out in that! shrieks her mother, who hates opera, but still does an excellent impression of a diva.
Hannah smiles, unshackled. She leaves the house wearing her jeans and biker jacket.
The next day, Hannah takes to the thick pile again. Her scissors graunch and snag as she trims and tucks. She stitches the constraining sheath into a serviceable, slightly shaggy waistcoat.
Hannah stares into her wardrobe mirror. It’s lighter than the coat, but it’s still ditchwater-dull.
She shrugs off the waistcoat. Total mismatch. She’d rather wear...Astroturf. However it’s cut, she can’t - won’t - wear the coat another second.
On her way to school, Hannah detours down King Street, swinging her lumpy plastic bag.
She chomps on a couple of pellets of Juicy Fruit to displace the coat’s lingering chemical tang.
She drops off the remains of her bargain gift at the fusty charity shop. Hannah skips out the door before the nice old lady behind the counter can make her take it back.
The coat never fitted her, never suited her. It doesn’t even go with anything she likes.
And anyway, that big, rough, nylon label gave her a rash.
She’ll tell her mother that she had an allergy to the coat.
Which is kind of true.
published 9 March 2016