By the end of the night, a dozen foxes, several hundred ermines, and well over three thousand minks have passed through the arms of the coat-check man. His hands glow like a swimmer’s, fresh from navigating a cold river of furs. All over his body, the small hairs stand up from the static charge.


It’s the same old story: the bear comes into the cave and takes off his pelt. His wife smiles wanly at the familiar sight. Once the epitome of a brave, he has grown quite full of himself, both literally and figuratively. Soon he will pass out on the bed and sleep for four months straight. She’s sick of it. But her mother had warned her: He’s a bear! He’d eat his own children if they got too close.


He finds his car — one of the last three in the garage — and pulls out slowly, wary of drunks. The sky is just beginning to brighten ahead of him as he crosses the East River. He thinks of stopping at the club, but it’s too late. He thinks about dark, well-tailored suits, and how sad and vulnerable most men appear when they take them off. He thinks of everything but the home ahead and the boneless wife who nearly vanishes in his embrace.


She eyes the empty pelt lying beside him in the bed. No good. It doesn’t fit. He begins to snore, and she wrinkles her nose. Once the fecal plug forms, at least the air at the back of the cave won’t get too bad. But this time, she won’t be here to find out. Let’s fast-forward through the tender scene in which she takes her tearful yet resolute leave of his unconscious form. I’m going back to the riverbank, she whispers. She goes to the closet and pulls out her favorite coat: sleek and brown, with a delicious, musky scent.


He travels north, flying through the endless night of winter. There are no more trees. Land and water turn hard beneath him. Artificial mountains appear: the dwellings of the Stone Coats like longhouses on end, separated by paths that always meet at right angles, like the strands of a net. There’s a small circle in the middle of an intersection where someone has made off with a manhole cover. He dives through a hole in the ice and enters the great ocean.

10 Replies to “Coats”

  1. Cripes, Dave, this is really great.

    Do we really separate that much from each other while we’re asleep? Are we so unaccessible to our lovers when we’re dreaming our own dreams, wrapped up in our own coats?

  2. Thanks, Lori and Brett. I’m glad that you find these pieces as suggestive/disturbing as I did. Of course, I am in an especially bad position to answer Brett’s questions, being afflicted with chronic singlehood as i am! But from what my married friends tell me, i am tempted to answer in the affirmative.

  3. Just wended my way here via your comment over at Sam’s place, and wowza, what a find! If this post is representative of your regular writing, I’ve got me a new bookmark and some serious catching up to do!

  4. This is mysterious beyond my ability to comment upon. Love the Stone Coats. What a great name, what a great thing. I enjoyed a number of othert Seneca myths as well. Loved the violence and personification (sorry Ghandi). Lotsa killing makes for a good story.

    This cool name made me think of you– Faamu-Sami (a name signifying “To make the sea burn”) from Samoa read in this work:
    –hard sometimes to get away from stone as this beautiful name must refer to lava pouring into the ocea.

    In some of the Seneca/Cherokee stories a stone is the bringer of song and story.

    Thanks for all that…

  5. Lotsa killing makes for a good story.
    No argument there!

    Glad you’re getting a lot out of those traditional stories. I find them very thought-provoking too.

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