The Cheating Jacket

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: House of Haggard
Jillie needs to come clean before it destroys her. But only Old Blue and the denim jacket know the real truth.

The Cheating Jacket was written for a writing prompt on Reedsy: Write a story about a character who buys a secondhand coat and then discovers something in the pocket.

My story The Cheating Jacket was published:

Submitted: December 10, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 10, 2019




The frayed denim jacket made its way to the "Donate" pile. She couldn't bear to have it around anymore. Not since the accident. Besides, it came from the Goodwill anyway. It fit his skinny five-foot-eight frame like a glove when he tried it on. He'd found that little green toy truck in the side pocket and said it looked like his green pickup. So, he got the jacket and kept the dumb toy. She hated his stupid old green pickup; it was a piece of junk. It was the truck's fault he died. Patting the pockets, she felt a lump. Reaching in, she pulled out a little blue toy truck, and a strange tingle ran across her hand. A small well-handled piece of paper came out with it that read LE and a phone number. She wondered, "Who is LE? Guess I'll call them." She put the blue toy truck back in the side pocket and tossed the jacket in the box to donate. "Hmmm, that's strange. He got the jacket because that toy matched the color of his stupid truck."


* * *


Old Blue hung there, front end down, suspended by two steel cables. Muddy river water pouring from his chassis like a redneck backyard fountain.

"Poor ol' blue truck, looked to be a mighty nice classic. Plumb shame 'bout it. Can't tell from this angle, betcha a '97, '96 even. Dang crash was so dern loud it 'bout knocked me out'ma lounger chair," hollered Shorty to Garland. Garland lived a few doors down, and he and his hound Rufus came to see what all the fuss was about. They sauntered through the barren front yard up to the porch.

"Verna come runnin' out the kitchen all flustered up and screamin' at me wavin' a dishrag. Thought the dern house done blowed up. Pert near kill't that poor woman ridin' in it," continued Shorty. He spat tobacco juice into an old rusty metal coffee cup. Shorty and Verna sat and rocked in rhythm on their weathered front porch. They had front-row seats to this vehicular mishap.

"Jus' a matter a time I kept tellin' Shorty. Jus' a matter a time for a accident like this'un here," said Verna to no one in particular. Rufus rolled around in the dirt seeking fleabite relief. And Garland sat on the first step shaking his head, adjusting his sweat-stained ball cap. Beer dribbled down from his mouth to his rounded belly as he tipped the can up for swig.

Verna sighed and said, "Folks who done planned this fancy bridge ought to feel real poorly right 'bout now. We done told 'em it weren't built up right. Them concrete sides weren't no higher than Shorty's bad knees."

Folks on both sides of the Patuxent River, or Pax, as the locals called it, watched the aftermath unwind. Old Blue, its occupants, and the dump truck dangling from the crest were all involved. Buddy's Towing set about securing the dumper in place, using extra sets of steel cables. Nobody wanted to fish two trucks out of the river's depths in this killer heat.

"Jus' a matter a time. Shame and all. Ya think that woman gone be all right?" said Verna, twisting the worn-out dishrag in her arthritic fingers.

Shorty studied Old Blue and said, "Seems to me I done seen that blue truck a'fore. Can't rightly place it jus' yet. Reckon it'll come to me sooner 'er later." The creases in his brow pinched together, forming a deep fissure. Scratching four-day-old white stubble, his faded blue eyes looked off in the distance. His lips parted to spit tobacco juice into his cup.

The sound of her scream carried across the river, forcing everyone to hold their breath.

Shorty and Verna lurched forward to grasp the rickety railing. Rufus jumped up and barked a deep throaty woof as Garland leapt to his feet. In that instant, Shorty remembered where he'd seen that old blue truck.


* * *


July twenty-fifth this year was especially oppressive in more ways than one to Jillie. Even the weathered shiplap walls in the restaurant soaked up the evening's mugginess. And the stifling heat left a sticky residue that masked the silkiness of bare skin. It caused Jillie to feel dirty, and she'd felt plenty dirty lately. She needed a fresh start to erase her misdeed before she suffocated.

Married for fifteen years, Jillie and Mason had a rock-solid marriage, in Mason's eyes at least. Their life together built on constants, the same old same-olds. Nothing different after fifteen years. Routines that forced Jillie to do things with wild abandon. But tonight would be different, to Jillie. She needed to go back in time and do all their firsts all over again. That first look, their first kiss, those first everything's. And the only way to do that was to tell Mason the truth.

In the beginning, they fit together like the only two pieces of a passionate puzzle. Now those pieces had worn edges, slight bends, and faded but well-memorized patterns. Jillie had to put their puzzle back together, mend it. She was ready to rewrite the ending of their love story, the way it should have been all along. Jillie had been such a fool this last year. She could tell a total stranger what she'd done. But telling Mason would be so much harder, telling him she had fallen from grace. Jillie wondered if his eyes could see into her soul. If he could see the betrayal. There was no turning back, she had to tell him.


* * *


Old Blue awaited their return in the restaurant parking lot, quiet, taking it all in, like always. He was a big old dented up 1996 blue Ford truck with cloth seats that had seen better days. A temperamental snorting buck, his door locks had a mind of their own. Scratched up leaky windows stuck when they got rolled down too far. And that old radio played static far better than it could play any country music song. Climbing into the quirky vehicle, they rolled the windows down anyway without care. They laughed about the potential evening thunderstorm and Old Blue getting soaked inside. He sure could use a good cleaning. Yes, he could. Old Blue hoped the rain would wash away the sins of the flesh.

Mason's brown wavy hair, chiseled nose, and broad shoulders still took her breath away to this day. Like the first day she saw him walking out of Beeman's hardware store seventeen years ago. His large six-foot muscular frame still caused the womenfolk to blush. This past year, she'd watched his wrinkles deepen, worry lines, she thought. Those lines were her fault. Her secret aged her far more.

Headed home, they crossed over the Calhoun Bridge, a mile-plus long graceful arch. A beautiful piece of architecture with a 140-foot high center peak. With no shoulders and low concrete side barriers, some locals never dared to cross it. Fears of falling over prohibited them. "Crazy fools," she said under her breath. She loved looking out across the river.

Jillie, her arm resting on the door's edge, was taking in the picturesque beauty. "Sure is a pretty evenin'," said Mason. She took in a long, slow breath, enjoying the spectacular view tonight. Folks brave enough to cross the Calhoun got to see the glorious Chesapeake Bay to the east. Twilight crept in with its ethereal violet hue as they reached Calhoun's peak. She could do this, she would tell him the whole thing, it was over. Jillie watched as storm clouds blew in from the west.

Speeding dump truck headlights were all she saw at the crest. Large, bright lights barreling towards them. No screeching brakes or sound from her mouth carried in the evening air. Only the sounds of crunching metal, crumbling concrete, and shattering glass rang out. It seemed like slow motion, but the truck hit the water hard. Old Blue bobbed like an old metal rowboat. Terrified, she felt completely safe with Mason next to her.

Climbing out of the passenger side window as the truck floated on the river's surface, the water was warm. "Come on Mason, we can do this," she called out. Old Blue's dark color melted into the river's tones. It would be a long swim to reach a small sandy beach where they'd picnicked at the end of the boardwalk. Deep, ominous, black-purple hues pushed away the intoxicating violet sky. Thunder rolled off in the distance.

Halfway to shore, she heard the sirens, the peaceful night pierced by their sounds. Each blaring out a different tone like the horn section of an orchestra tuning up. Red, white, and blue flashing lights made their way to the bridge, coming from both sides to meet in the middle. A race to some patriotic finish line, no matter how horrific.

Cool, damp, and welcoming, the sandy beach felt safe. Panting and exhausted, she crawled the rest of the way up onto the beach and rolled to her back. She reached out her hand for Mason and whispered, "I love you so very much."

Jillie looked up at the emerging stars, closed her eyes, and before she drifted off, she heard, "I love you, darlin'. You're my world."


* * *


"She's waking up!" cried out a young man's voice. Her leaden eyelids struggled to open. Shivering from wetness and shock, Jillie knew she was in an ambulance. Words were slow to form, and making any sound at all took considerable effort. Touching the arm of the young man seated next to her, she mouthed, "Where is he? Where is my husband?" His confused hazel eyes stared back at her with a blank expression. Jillie frowned as her eyes searched his face for answers.

"What's your name, ma'am?" he asked in a slow southern twang.

"Jillie," she managed in a hushed tone.

"You were by yourself, ma'am," he replied while looking at her in disbelief.

Throwing off the blankets, she pushed past the baffled EMT and stumbled out of the ambulance. Dizziness and a searing pain immediately shot through the right side of her head. Her trembling hand touched the spot, and she felt a large bandage on her forehead. A large dressing encircled her right hand as well. The storm edged closer.

Jillie had to find Mason and confess her sins tonight. Travis had never meant a thing to her; he was a mistake. She felt trapped by the weight of her lies. Mason deserved to know her ugly truth. She'd had an affair, and it was over. Mason was her soulmate for all time. She would tell him how sorry she was for hurting him. They could begin again, she had to find him.

Old Blue, with his tail-end up and engine down, was on a slow ascent for depositing onto a barge. His filthy silt covered body all lit up by the biggest searchlights she'd ever seen. Hooked to heavy winch lines, he rose up higher from the depths of the Pax. Murky water poured out of him from every window and door crack. She remembered them laughing about rolling the windows down all the way a short time ago. And how Old Blue could use a good cleaning.

An ever-growing group of emergency personnel and eyewitnesses had amassed around her. These rubberneckers needed to get a good look at the woman who went off the bridge. Their perverse desire to be in-the-know growing by leaps and bounds. They had to convey gruesome details to friends and family. Searching their shocked faces for someone familiar, he wasn't there. Mason was absent. Dark storm clouds gathered overhead.


* * *


Shorty looked down at Garland and drew in a ragged breath. "I told yer I'd seen that blue truck a'fore. I seen it a couple times a week, parked right a'hind that pine tree grove over yonder, right next a yer house. Showed up late afternoon times. Gone on about five years now, give a take." Rufus began to snore, bored with this entire event. And Garland scratched his belly and belched.

"Shorty, how can that be? I work right up till the shop closes up at five. Then I swing by Gus's to shoot some darts and have a cold one before I come on home," said Garland, confused. "Why would that old truck be coming around here? You sure it weren't parked over near Travis's trailer?"

"Nope, I's plumb sure it were parked right where I'd done told ya it were parked." Shorty spit into the cup, Rufus licked his paw, and Garland took a sip of beer. The smell of looming rain hung in the air.

A sudden gasp from finger-pointing gapers erupted in a synchronous chorus. One quick glance back at that old, blue, troublesome truck was all it took. Jillie's morbid guttural scream filled the air. It erupted from her, enveloped her, and left her laid bare. The sound stretched out like a shock wave, blasting across the river. It returned to her and her alone, yet it chilled the bones of everyone who heard it. Contorted into a mask of pain, Jillie's face depicted a thousand unspoken words.

Jillie finally found Mason. Still buckled in Old Blue's driver's seat, keeled over, slumped out of the window, dead. That frayed denim jacket clung to the windshield for dear life. Mason never made it out of the truck. Her apologies forever drowned in the summer waters of the river.

Old Blue came to rest on the rusty barge, water still trickling out from the cab. Soaked through, his baptism in the muddy Pax river washed away the lust and guilt-ridden shame.

"Dern shame and all, poor ol' truck looked to be a mighty nice classic," said Shorty. Spitting into the cup, he wiped his chin clean from a bit of tobacco juice drool. "Dern shame." Rufus got up and gave his body a good long shake, and Garland took the last swallow of his warm beer.

"Thinkin' Rufus and me's gonna head on home now, see what Missy Lynn cooked us up for supper t'night." Garland let out another belch, scratching his beer gut. He and Rufus sauntered back down the road to the pine grove. The rain started beating down on Shorty's barren front yard, beating up dirt puffs.

As Jillie's scream echoed from the river's edge to the other side, another cry rose up under it. A soul-wrenching wail from the lips of Missy Lynn, Garland's wife, escaped for her ears only. Collapsing to the ground, she reached out for Old Blue. Submerged under the current of her own life for years, she floated there, unable to free herself. Millions of shards replaced Missy Lynn's heart. Fiery lightning crackled across the sky.

Day in, day out, time and time again, tucked in the pine grove, Old Blue waited with the patience of a saint. Trying to conceal his ulterior motive, he stood by. Solemn and silent while the unfaithfulness continued. Old Blue was as cold as steel, while Mason Cutter coveted the flesh of Missy Lynn, another man's wife, year after year.


* * *


Jillie tossed Mason's frayed denim jacket into the "Donate" pile. She couldn't bear to have it around anymore. Not since the accident. Besides, it came from the Goodwill anyway. It fit Mason's husky six-foot frame like a glove when he tried it on. Mason found that little blue toy truck in the side pocket and said it looked like his blue pickup. So, he got the jacket and kept the dumb toy. She hated that stupid old blue pickup; it was a piece of junk. It was Old Blue's fault he died. Patting the pockets, she felt a lump. Reaching in, she pulled out a little white toy truck, and a strange tingle ran across her hand. A small well-handled piece of paper came out with it that read ML and a phone number. Jillie wondered, "Who is ML? Guess I'll call them." Jillie put the white toy truck back in the side pocket and tossed the jacket in the box to donate. "Hmmm, that's strange. He got that jacket because that toy matched the color of Old Blue."

© Copyright 2020 Karen Haggard. All rights reserved.

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