Coats by Gary Fincke

The morning of the company president’s Christmas party, my wife Christine read me a story from the newspaper about a woman found hiding in a neighbor’s bedroom closet. “She was a stranger,” Christine said. “She doesn’t live anywhere near our street.”

“Crazy?” I said, but my wife didn’t nod.

“Interesting,” she said, as if being huddled in a closet a hundred miles from where you live is an experiment. “She was in among a rack of men’s coats and jackets.”

“Wear this shirt,” Christine said, as we dressed for the party. She slid it off its hanger and held it against me as if we were in a store. “And these pants,” she said, lifting them into the light.The president’s house was enormous. There were a hundred guests, and the president’s wife told us to just go ahead and lay our coats on the bed in the upstairs master bedroom. “We’re not private,” she said. “You’ll find the door wide open.”

The coats were piled six and seven high on the king-sized bed. “It’s like a big, flat closet,” my wife said. “Look at all those coats. We don’t know which ones go with anybody downstairs.”

An hour later Christine laid a hand on my sport coat sleeve. “I was right,” she murmured. “You look good in that color.” Her fingers tightened on my arm. “I have to get something I left in my coat,” she said. “Come along and help me find it.

By now some of the coats had tumbled to the floor. A few people had laid theirs over chairs. My wife lifted a woman’s wool coat from the bed and held it in front of her. “How’s this look?” she said.


“Heavy?” Christine said. “It’s winter.” She shrugged the coat off and dropped it on the floor. She picked another coat, a full-length leather one, and pulled it tightly around her. “Is this heavy?” she said.

“Not at all.”

“That’s better,” she said. Dressed in the coat, she lay down, her body so awkward on the unstable stacks of coats that her skirt rode up her thighs. “It’s like being the woman in a closet,” she said, “surrounded by the clothes of strangers.” Her thighs seemed to shimmer in the light from the open door. “Put on a coat,” she said, “and let me look at you.”

I knelt on the pile of coats, spreading my knees a bit to keep my balance as I pulled on a dark top coat. “Who do you feel like?” she said, unzipping me. “Are you someone else?”

“What are you doing?” I said, but I could feel myself stir.

“There’s no question what you’re doing,” she said, and she scooted under me to take me in her mouth while I closed my eyes.

Just as I came, I heard the sound of heels on the hall’s hardwood floor and opened my eyes to see somebody in the doorway. Christine kept me in her mouth, but the woman didn’t enter. She seemed to pause long enough, I thought, to confirm what she was seeing inside the shadowed room. I pulled out and zipped up as the heels clattered down the hall to the stairs.

It was only when we found our coats that Christine agreed to leave the party. “Ok,” she said, pressing her lips to mine, pushing her tongue into my mouth. “Did you taste yourself?”

Coming downstairs with our coats on our arms, we were a couple who had to leave early. Perhaps one of us was sick. Maybe we’d arranged a time with a young babysitter. Who knew?

But I was sure one of the guests was watching the stairs. Some woman who worked with me or was married to a colleague was waiting to discover who she’d seen among the coats on the bed.

Walking past those possible witnesses, I knew that my wife was about to leave me.

Gary Fincke’s latest collection of stories, The Sorrows, will be out from Stephen F. Austin in February. Michigan State published his most recent collection of poems, The Infinity Room, earlier this year. He is currently co-editor of the Best Microfiction Anthology Series.

Vintage photo of a man's legs touching a woman's legs
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