The Leopard Skin Coat


No customers tonight I say.

It’s cold. No-one comes out when it’s cold says Jean. Jean doodles stars on her order pad, says absently: No-one in their right mind. Roads too icy.

I don’t mind. It’s nearly 10. Let’s close up early.

The door opens. A blast of ice air. A woman closes it hard behind her.

Now that’s a coat. I want me one of those coats says Jean.

What would your husband say?

I don’t care – he don’t hafta wear it! I always wanted a coat like that ever since I was a little girl ‘n I saw Joan Blondell in… what’s that movie?

The woman in the coat settles into a booth.

How many leopards d’ya think woulda have to a died for that coat? I says.

D’ya think it’s real? Says Jean.

I’ll ask her.

Go on.

Coffee?

Sure says the woman. Thanks.

We was just admiring your coat. Me ‘n Jean.

The woman don’t answer.

It must be warm, I says, a coat like that.

Nothing keeps you warm on a night like this. Her voice is quiet, like she don’t want nobody to hear. I can’t place her accent.

It sure is cold, I says, gonna hafta scrape the ice off my windscreen later ‘fore I go home.

There’s a silence. The woman studies the menu. So I study her while I wait. She got fishnet stockings on and cowboy boots that look like she mighta stole ‘em off a dead man. Her hair is dyed all kinds of blonde and her red lipstick – stubborn round the edges of her mouth and smudged like she’s been kissed hard. She got a tattoo peeking from under her sleeve. Some kinda bird I think.

You come far tonight, I ask.

I got further to go she says.

Oh yeah?

Another silence.

There’s pie I say. One piece left. Apple. It’s good.

I’ll take the pie.

You seen her before? asks Jean.

Nope.

She say where she come from?

Nope.

Something happened to her says Jean. I reckon she on the run from somethin’.

You got an imagination lady, I say.

I heat up the pie. Jean wipes the tables all the while staring at the woman. The woman just stares out the window at the snow starting to fall now.

I like your coat ma’am, says Jean.

Thanks, says the woman.

It’s a coat for adventures, says Jean, I wish I had me a coat like that.

The woman smiles and watches the snow again.

I put the pie down in front of the woman and re-fill her coffee. She eats two bites and lays her spoon down. Me and Jean put things straight and go through our lock up routines.

I check in to see if another re-fill is required. The woman’s got her coat off now, she’s fixing her face. It is a bird. There’s lots of ‘em. All flying round and round her arm all the way up to the shoulder. Her black dress is torn in two places. She applies her lipstick and presses her lips together to seal the deal.

No more coffee she says. The check. L’addition, she says. That’s French she says.

I leave her bill on the table. She fixes it up and stands ready to leave.

Jean picks up her coat.

Ma’am, your coat. Don’t forget your coat, it’s cold.

You keep it.

Ma’am?

I had too many adventures.

I lock the door behind the woman and look after her till the snowy night swallows her tail-lights. Jean brushes her cheek against the coat, buries her nose in it. Here smell, she says. Do you think that smells like Chanel?

Could be, I say.

 

by Alice

My coat for adventures
My coat for adventures
Joan Blondell
Joan Blondell