The Suit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Bumbling George Honeywell buys a vintage suit... with disasterous results.

Submitted: July 23, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 23, 2008



By Charlie Aden

The Suit

George Honeywell was worried about his house. An 1913 clap-board affair, it now  showed its age.Chalky white paint peeled. Some strips had fluttered to the ground, nestling next to litterings of leather-brown leaves from backyard trees.
On this morning the ground was shot through with a deep frost crust; pushing up and pockmarking patches of exposed, fleshy brown earth. George  wandered into the bathroom, his slippers patting across the cold wooden floor. He looked out of the bathroom’s small window, peering out over the lower pane that was patterned so no one could see in. He saw the lawn with its stiff, silvered blades of grass. George decided he didn’t want to go out today.
He’d had the house painted only three years previously  Was the problem moisture? His fretting was an anxious hum, sharing space with the worry that the furnace was old and unreliable and that the stationwagon now made an odd pinging noise.
He stared in the bathroom mirror at a roundish face topped by tufts of toffee-coloured hair. George washed his hands, then  rubbed his stubbly chin, wondering whether to shave. No — it was the weekend. Maybe grow a beard? He washed his hands once more, this time rubbing up a frothy lather of soap.
His wife, Peggy, called from the kitchen.
“Yes... I’m in the bathroom.”
“George. I’m making your list now.”
“Your list. I’m - writing - out - your - job- list.”
“Yes, um. I’m in the shower. Can’t quite hear. Um... sorry.”
George nipped into the shower stall with surprisingly alacrity. He was somewhat chubby, with skin that glowed white and pink like a boy’s. He turned on the faucet, howled in surprise, then hopped out. George  waited patiently, softly repeating the samesyllable obscenities. He tested the stream with his palm until it warmed, then re-entered cautiously.
At breakfast, wearing  a stained terry-cloth bathrobe,  he read the newspaper and sipped black coffee.  George's doctor forebade him to drink coffee, as it exacerbated a mysterious gastric condition that, at its most fierce, triggered frequent night-time visits to the bathroom. As he drank from his favourite cup — canary yellow with a painted blue flower — George could make out the sweet, sliding song of a fox sparrow in the backyard.
He began to hum a tuneless, made-up song. Peggy walked in. She noticed George’s coffee and frowned.
“I’m not...” said George, quickly folding the paper. “I mean, yes, yes, I know, I know. I’ve just had a few sips.”
“Just a taste, really.”
“George, if you do one thing from your list, it should be painting the house. What I mean is, at least get a start on it. Like preparing the walls or buying paint. And please, throw that horrible bathrobe in the wash.”
Peggy was a good woman, and George loved her very much. She was a social worker, a gifted gardener; the sort of  person who, at Christmas, volunteered for soup kitchens. Peggy was also a great one for organization. She was a list-maker whose lists were then sorted into sub-lists. These, in turned, were divided into daily job schedules. She chipped away at these with dedicated zeal, taking satisfaction as each task was neatly checked off with a pencil stub. While Peggy realized that George was of a  different temperament than hers, she could not imagine how he functioned without such a system. It seemed her husband drifted about in his free time aimlessly, like a boat cast from its moorings or those curious floating abstractions in a Miro painting.
“I’ll get right on it. Don’t worry,” said George. He bit into a triangle of toast. He listened again, but the bird’s song had vanished.
It seemed Peggy was exerting greater pressure on him than usual to tackle the weekend job list. If so, the reason was probably connected to the previous evening.

On that particular night, Peggy’s parents, Stan and Jessica, had come over for dinner. Before retirement Jessica had been an interior decorator; Stan was a mechanical engineer. George liked them both fairly well, but suspected Stan viewed him with suspicion. He’d have preferred his daughter to marry a doctor or a lawyer ...or a mechanical engineer. George was a journalist — a  suspect career choice in the eyes of his father-in-law. Not only that, he wrote about entertainment — mostly theatre and music — as opposed to something substantial like politics or business. Even sports would have been more satisfactory to Stan, who, early on, had made  fruitless attempts to talk to George about the Toronto Maple Leafs before realizing his son-in-law was unschooled in that or any other athletic endeavor.
His father-in-law — blessed with a thick thatch salt-and-pepper hair that George secretly admired — was a man’s man. He knew, for example, how to build things from scratch, completely unaided. Toolsheds, for example, or a two-car garage with a remote control door.George could not really build anything, unless it was a birdhouse or a flower planter. And even then, his carpentry skills were sketchy. His birdhouse, assembled without plans in a burst of enthusiasm that ebbed quickly, was clad in rough, rustic bark. Unfortunately, birds considering the bark box as an  abode soon discovered the inside was pierced by the thin grey nails George used to attach the covering. So far, no birds had dared take up residence, no doubt fearing impalement.
Before dinner he had badly irritated Stan, although George believed it was not entirely his fault. Peggy had left the living room to mix gin-and-tonics. Her parents, sitting on the sofa, gazed at him impassively. Stan shifted his position on the love seat, then made an ambigious noise. George wished his wife had not left the living room. He hated these awkward social moments. He suspected his in-laws would have absolutely zero interest in him if it weren’t for his status as their daughter’s husband. Stan put his hands on his knees and leaned forward, as though aiming to vault forward in the manner of a football player.
“Did you know,” George said finally, “that many of the people I work with never use deodorant?”
The week before,  he'd gotten into a conversation  with people at the office on this very issue.  George had raised it after taking the bus to work — a rare occurrence, but neccessary, as he’d been unable to start the Volvo. A bearded man in a John Deere cap  had stood in the aisle ahead of him, clutching an overhead strap in one hand and a black plastic lunchbox with the other . After a few minutes, George  detected a distinct and unpleasant scent coming from the John Deere man. It was body odour, combinated with that overripe cheese (or was it sour milk?) smell of the person who views showers as either unneccessary, or a penny-wasting extravangance.
Later, at the newspaper, George described his experience to the business writer in the desk next to him. Carl, a slow-talking ex-Virginian who always wore the same blue-grey suit,  retained a tangible Southern drawl despite 24 years in Canada.
"I can't believe somebody wouldn't use a deodorant in this day and age," said George, summing up.
His deskmate raised both bushy eyebrows and turned around slowly, pushing down on his desk with both hands and moving his entire body. It was as though the subject required a physical as well as verbal response.
"George, what the hell are you talking about?" Carl said. He appeared to project a combination of scorn and loathing. In fact, this was Carl's customary method of communicating to others, be they princes or paupers, copy boys or managing editors. George admired this immensely.
It transpired that not only was Carl a non-user,  most of George’s other workmates were abstainers as well.  At least, most of those sitting in their corner of the office: Dave the city-hall reporter, Sebastian the classical music critic who loved the Grateful Dead, Perry the wise-cracking features writer who’d left his wife after she discovered he’d been having an affair with a receptionist in the office half his age.  Carl attributed George’s own scrupulous deodorant use to a distrust of his own body, a repressive hold-over from the atom-bomb-shelter-in-the-backyard 1950s. The others hinted darkly about the dangers of aluminum. Sebastian said his wife used eschewed deodorant in favour a a new-age solution — rubbing a crystal underneath, but not touching, her armpits. George took it all in while absent-mindedly rearranging the items on his desk in geometrically precise patterns.

He wondered why it took Peggy so long to mix four gin and tonics. He wished he’d volunteered to be bartender, partly in order to make his a double.
“Yes,” he continued. “It’s true. I use deodorant every day. Peggy uses it too. But I’d say, uh, about four out of five people don’t.”
Stan and Jessica said nothing. George experienced a panicky, tipping-the-canoe-over-the-waterfall feeling.
“At least,” he added, “that’s if my work-mates are any real indictor. We talked about it the other day. At length.”
After four seconds, Stan cleared his throat and said, “I don’t use deodorant.”
“No. I don’t. Don’t see the need. I shower. Jessie here does too. Neither of us uses the stuff. Waste of time. Goddamn waste of money, too.”
Stan now peered intently at his son-in-law, as though auditioning for the role of a  court prosecutor who’d caught a dodgey witness in a lie.
“Yes... yes,” said George. If only he could sprint into the backyard and unleash a howl. “I see. I wonder where Peggy is with those drinks... Peggy? What are you doing?”
Things went more smoothly afterwards,  still, the rest of the evening had a stilted quality. Later in bed he mentioned the deodorant conversation to Peggy. She put aside her book — Tuscany's Most Beautiful Villages — removed  her reading glasses and looked at her husband.
“Why on earth did you bring that up?” she said. “Dad never uses deodorant. He has very strong feelings about it.”
“No. Never.”
“How was I to know?” said George.
“He probably though you were implying something. That he doesn’t smell good. Something like that.”
“Well,  he doesn’t always. Just in the summer. You know, on really hot days.”
Peggy didn’t talk to him again until the next morning. That’s when she seemed unusually interested in assembling his job list.

After  breakfast, George sat at the computer, reliving the most excruciating moments of the dinner party. At the same time he sifted through an on-line auction site, where it was possible to bid on practically anything, used or new. He imagined desirable rareities laid in wait for him in exotic locales: Brazil or Italy. He sighed and drank his coffee.
Vintage items  fascinated him. He especially loved the oddly stilted  advertising illustrations of the 1950s  — generically handsome men in fedoras and children with slicked back hair or frilly dresses. George could appreciate the existential weirdness of old, battered Dick and Jane books, with their painted illustrations and haiku dialogue: "See Baby Sally, see Spot run." He also loved the vivid designs of neckties from the 1940s. He was particularly fond of geometric ties, with  bold swirls and zig-zags that reminded him of Lauren Harris late-career paintings.
From this site, several months ago, he’d purchased a 1963 Ray Charles poster. “Presenting The Genius, Ray Charles, King of the Piano,” read the big block letters. A black-and-white photo pictured Ray Charles at his piano. The Raelettes, wearing form-fitting cocktail dresses, smiled out of the lower corner. The poster was pistachio green, the colour of a 1950s Thunderbird. It was badly yellowed, with staple holes and one corner torn clean off. These imperfections only added to George's  joy; it was his most cherished possession. Thinking about it, he experienced felt a wisp of anxiety. He went downstairs to see if it was hanging straight. It was, but George adjusted its position anyway, taking comfort as his fingers felt the coolness of the metal frame.
He returned to his computer, tunelessly humming Drown in My Own Tears. He clicked the keys, selecting an auction category titled: “Clothing - vintage.” George was on a mission — he wanted to buy an old suit.

Victoria, where he lived, was  a city perched on the southern-most tip of Vancouver Island, on the Canadian west coast. Whereas most of the country was crisp and frozen in the winters, the deep green coast was thick with rain-splashed trees so lush they seemed almost tropical. It snowed only a day or two each year— large soft flakes like cotton batting. George’s hometown was a sleepy locale dotted with gnarled Garry Oaks and arbutus trees that writhed and twisted extravagantly.
In his free time, he played organ and electric piano in a band called The Soul Survivors The other musicians, like George, were in their forties. Although they performed occasionally and were paid of it, it was a strictly recreational endeavor. Their specialty was soul music, old '60s songs by Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. Rehearsals were held in the basement of the guitarist, an architect. There they played and sang and drank cold cans of  Labatt’s Blue. For some reason, the room was never cleaned by the architect or his wife. The floor was littered with dust bunnies, guitar picks and fragments of a broken tambourines. This made George feel uneasy, and he was always glad to return to his orderly home.
For performances the Soul Survivors — inspired by period photographs of their musical heroes — dressed up in suits and ties. George sometimes wore a suit jacket once belonged to his father, but it was too hot. He had his heart set on buying a 1950s or ‘60s suit. George wanted one with a boxy fit. He wanted baggy trousers and belt loops lower down, the so-called Hollywood waist, just like old-time movie stars.
Today was his lucky day; there was likely candidate on the auction site. The jacket had narrow lapels. A close-up photo revealed a label in the lining that said “Made in 1950.” To George, it looked like something Muddy Waters might have worn. The suit was described as being in excellent shape. He bid, then, rethinking his strategy,  made an even higher bid.
Peggy poked her head into the study.It was now 10:34 a.m. Her hair was up in a kerchief, as it always was when she scrubbed the kitchen floor.
“I’m investigating paint prices,” said George, shifting up his right shoulder to block her view of the  screen. “There’s some very good deals in town. Very good, in fact, for... oil paint.”
“We need latex paint,” said Peggy.
“Yes, I meant latex. I’d better get back to this. No time for chat.”

In the afternoon he drove into town. It was raining hard and George — who detested getting wet unless he was showering or washing his hands — pushed open a black umbrella for the short walk between his car and the glass doors of Paterson Paints. Inside he was approached by a young clerk who wore a blue shirt that said “Ted” and an ink-stained pocket protector.
“Hi Ted,” said George.
“My name’s not Ted,” said the clerk. “My name’s Don.”
“It says Ted on your name tag.”
“Ted retired two years ago. I just got his shirt.”
On Don’s say-so, George bought a scraper, brushes, primer and eight gallons of white paint. Driving home, he mulled over the clerk’s advice. Take the job a little bit at a time, he’d said. An excellent idea. At home, George arranged the paint cans in two rows, one on top of one another. Then he shifted them so there was one inch gaps — measured with a ruler — between each two-stack. Then the cans was restored to their original side-by-side row of eight. The paint cans gave the basement a workman-like aspect, a look of efficiency and purpose.  He turned off the light, shut the door, opened the door to check if the light was indeed off, then closed it again.
That evening, George discovered he’d won the suit auction for $52. To celebrate, he stirred himself a martini with five olives and then, after a moment’s consideration, popped three more into his mouth. He spit them out. The olives were stuffed with  jalapenos.
“Hey Peggy,” he said. “Guess what? Guess what I bought?”

The suit arrived from Platteville, Wisconsin,in a craft paper package. It  was a dark green, indeed, considerably greener than in the photo on the computer auction site. When George slipped the suit on, the trousers were  roomy at the waist. He studied himself in the bedroom mirror. He mimed playing a guitar. He pretended to hold a microphone. The trousers slipped to his knees.
George put off getting the trousers altered for almost six months. He meant to take them to the tailor's, but kept forgetting. The suit finally made its debut one night when The Soul Survivors played Hermann’s Bar and Grill.
The owner, Hermann, was a German who loved Dixieland jazz. George  first met him at a raucous New Year’s party several years ago. During their first conversation, as noise-makers honked and revellers danced in conga line formation to South Rampart Street Parade, he’d told Hermann that he was in a band. It was just to make conversation — George had never danced in a conga line before, and felt awkward.
“Oh yas, a band?” said Hermann. The club-owner was intent on retaining a firm grip on the ample waist of the bleached blonde woman ahead of him while simultaneously clutching an enormous mug of lager.George was directly behind Hermann, gingerly holding the man’s hips. It was not his choice — the conga line had broken and reunited, thus disrupting the man-woman-man pattern. He told Hermann about The Soul Survivors, and mentioned that their repertoire included a medley of Louis Jordan songs.
The din was terrible. Hermann, swigging from his lager, thought George said Louis Armstrong.
“Yas, yas. I love Louis. You mas play my club sometime!” he shouted. His breath was ripe with some toxic European delicacy. He wore a T-shirt that said “I love Dixieland.” The word “love” was represented by a heart.
Hermann smiled, then slipped heavily to the floor. Somehow, he managed to fall without spilling a  drop from his mug, held aloft like a trophy.
The Jordan/Armstrong misunderstanding soon came to light. But by then, Hermann  decided he liked George. The Soul Survivors entered into an agreement to play Hermann’s Bar and Grill once a month. It was a down-market club that smelled of stale beer. Inside were small round tables covered in  red terry-cloth, Spanish-style arches and black ironwork.

The tailor had done a fine job. The trousers now fit snugly at the waist. The vintage suit felt good. George’s band-mates took notice as they gathered on stage at Hermann’s.
“Nice,” said Dan, a red-haired dentist who played trombone. “Cool suit.”
He assessed George from shoulders to feet. “It’s pretty green though, eh?”
“Vintage,” said George. He tapped at the front of his suit, as though testing a watermelon for firmness. “Check out the lapels. Very narrow.”
“Yeah,” said Dan. “Nice. You don’t see a lot of green suits these days.”
“That’s for sure,” said George.
Throughout the week, the city had been host to a dixieland jazz festival. Busloads of  tourists made the rounds of legion halls and night clubs, including Hermann’s. A free bus service made it convenient for the jazz fans, mostly senior citizens. Some used the bus service as an excuse for heavy  drinking.
With little preamble, the Soul Survivors launched into Howling Wolf's 300 Pounds of Fun. A table of white haired women in styrofoam boater hats and “I love Dixieland” T-shirts looked at each other in amazement. The  Survivors were as loud as a rock band. Without a word, the boater-hat brigade stood up and departed en masse. Other patrons gazed at the stage without expression. Finally, a bald man with a rust-coloured complexion wobbled to the dance floor and started to bob  around. He moved carefully, even delicately, so as not to spill his plastic beaker of beer.
It wasn’t long before George noticed something was amiss.  It was an aroma so acrid, it actually seemed to assault his senses like a physical object — a tire iron or a toilet plunger. Absolutely vile. It was as though a platoon of hobos was being squeezed through a giant wringer. He scanned the room, trying to identify the source. An unhygenic dixieland devotee perhaps, or a band member unacquainted with the daily shower concept.
He caught Dan's eye. The trombonist  elevated his chin and  sniffed. At that precise moment, George experienced a small and shocking revelation. He now realized who the offender was. It was him: George Honeywell. Or more accurately, it was the suit. George, both hands still on the keyboard, pointed his nose in the direction of his left armpit. He inhaled. God almighty.
It had seemed perfectly fine when he’d put it on. But as his body heated up, the garment must have somehow released the previous owner’s body odour — microscopic scent capsules accumulated over decades of copious sweating. Didn't  they have deodorant in the ‘50s? And if so, why had't the suit’s owner availed himself of any?
When the song ended, George removed the suit jacket and placed it over the back of his chair. He smoothed the front of his white shirt and smelled his hands.  Dan regarded him quizzically. The band’s singer, Nigel — a garralous auto salesman — grabbed his nostrils between thumb and forefinger.
“It’s not me,” said George. “It’s my suit.”
“Right,” said Nigel. “So I smell.”
He and Dan laughed, as if a choice bon mot had been dispensed. Damn it, thought George.

The next morning, George swept the bedroom floor, sprayed one area with a cleaning product, then wiped it with paper towels. Then he washed his hands twice.He  laid out the green suit on the floor, smoothing it so no wrinkles were visible. He sat on the bed, considering. He then picked up the trousers, using his thumbs and forefingers. Smelled OK. More cautiously, he sniffed the jacket from a two-foot distance.  Cabbages? He put his face close.  Nothing. He inhaled directly under the arms. God. George staggered backwards and sat heavily on the bed.
He examined the jacket’s lining, and  noticed the underarms were badly stained. It was as if a corrosive substance had dribbled down the shiny fabric.  How could he have missed this before? The odour from this vicinity was horrendous. George imagined the suit’s previous tenant must have had an extremely peculiar diet.
The very next day he took the suit to the dry-cleaner’s.
“Excuse me,” George explained. “There’s something wrong with my suit.”
The man behind the counter looked at him, then at the suit. He was in his 60s, perhaps even his 70s, with the wrinkled face of someone who’d seen plenty. George thought he looked like a freeze-dried riverboat gambler.
“Yeah?” said the dry-cleaner. “What exactly is the problem?”
“My suit is especially smelly,” said George. “In fact, probably smellier than any suit you have thus far encountered. Do you have any special cleaning products you can employ for the purposes of... cleaning?”
This explanation seemed awkward. George wished he had not used the word “thus.” During stressful moments, his diction often became oddly formal, as though addressing a town-hall meeting or a high-school reunion.
The dry-cleaner looked down at the suit, expressionless. He glanced up. He inclined his head back down towards the garment, sniffed, then frowned. He seemed vaguely irritated,  even insulted. Perhaps, thought George, in the rareified sub-culture of dry-cleaners, the word  “smelly” is considered a profanity.
“What's the story with this suit?” said the dry-cleaner.
“Nothing,” said George. “Well, I wore it. But it’s not me. That is, the smell is not me. Uh, mine.”
“No. It’s the smell of another guy.”
“The smell of another guy,” repeated the dry-cleaner. “Sure it is. Sure it is. Here's your ticket. Pick up is Tuesday.”
Driving home, George felt somehow humiliated. The suit had left a musty scent in the car. Although newly repaired, the engine still made its pinging noise. He rolled each of the windows down  three inches, then switched on the radio. It was Frank Sinatra, singing I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

When the suit came back from the cleaners, it looked cleaner and better pressed, but seemed odiferous as ever. Clearly, the problem had no easy solution. George decided to write a letter to the seller in Plattville, Wisconsin.
“Dear sir,” he wrote. “I have a problem with the suit you sold me. It seemed perfectly fine at the beginning. But after I wore it, it started to emit an unpleasant odour. It is unconnected to me, as I shower on a daily basis and also have access to a reliable deodorant.I regret to say, the previous owner must have let his personal hygiene lapse.”
George hesitated, chewing the cracked end of his plastic pen.
“Perhaps he was an infrequent bather, or even suffered from a skin condition. In any case, might I return the suit for a refund? Sincerely, George F. Honeywell.”
The seller wrote back. He accused George of sullying the suit himself, or possibly lending it to a malodourous acquaintance. How could someone not notice a bad suit smell until almost half a year after purchase? What kind of a fast one was he trying to pull? The seller added a few unflattering remarks about Canadians in general. George felt that were uncalled for.
He sent a follow-up letter in protest, but received no response. The suit was his, for better or worse. George considered reselling it on the auction site, but he could not bring himself to inflict such a calamity onto another buyer.
"Just throw it out, George," advised Peggy. "It's an awful old thing anyway."

A few weeks later, he sat at the breakfast table, drinking coffee from his flower cup and reading the newspaper. George inhaled sharply, put down his coffee and held the paper closer. One story reported on a new product, Smell-Be-Gone Techno Odour Eliminator. Apparently, this spray possessed the ability to eliminate any animal smell, no matter how fetid. It was scientically tested. Skunks, cat, dogs, urine, vomit, you name it. It was all within the awesome scope of Smell-Be-Gone Techno Odour Eliminator.
For $30 George purchased a cannister. By now, costs were totting up. He'd already spend $52 for the suit, $13.50 for alterations and $15 for  dry-cleaning.
The Smell-Be-Gone Techno Odour Eliminator arrived by mail order. He studied the directions . Then he sprayed in the direction of one of the suit's underarms. The nozzle was tricky — at first, George missed his mark. Smell-Be-Gone  foam shot across the kitchen and splatted on the refrigerator. It  landed on a his daughter’s high-school honour role certificate, scotch-taped to the door.  George wiped it off. The second time, bull’s-eye. Foam welled up luxuriantly out of the discoloured green lining. The effect was curious, he felt slightly alarmed. George sniffed. Seemed  OK.
Through the living room window he could see Peggy gardening. She was wearing gloves and kneeling on a rubber gardening pad.  Beside her was a neat row of purple and yellow pansies. George approached her, carrying his suit jacket gently, as one might transport a sick animal.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” said Peggy, smiling. She wiped her brow with the back of her hand, leaving a smudge of dirt on her forehead.
“Look,” said George, holding out the jacket
“Ah... right. Your jacket,” said Peggy. “That’s good.”
“ Yes. I’ve just been sniffing it. Having a sniff. Trouble is, I’m getting to the point where I can’t tell anymore. I’m losing all sense of context in this situation.”
“Uhuh,” said Peggy. She glanced back at her row of pansies.
“About whether the jacket smells OK or not, I mean.”
“So I’ve sprayed it with that new stuff. Can you sniff my suit?”
Peggy sighed and looked up at George. Then she inhaled.
“It still smells,” she said. “Like bad body odour. And now, something else. Some kind of acid-like smell.”
“Smell Be Gone,” said George.
“Smell — Be — Gone,” he repeated, slower and more emphatically.
“Yes George, “ said Peggy. “But it’s still there all the same.”

By now, she felt sorry for her husband.Peggy washed out the suit jacket’s underarms with a special detergent normally used for woolen sweaters. Then, as a cautionary measure, she sprinkled on a little men’s cologne.
After the jacket dried, it smelled like a combination of perspiration, Smell-Be-Gone Techno Odour Eliminator and English Leather. George imagined it was the sort of thing that might be worn by a sweaty lady’s man who worked in a chemical plant.
Peggy suggested, as a last resort, running the jacket through the washing machine. Naturally, the garment would lose its shape. But if the machine was on the cold cycle, it wouldn’t shrink. Since the jacket wasn’t at all wearable now, it might be worth the gamble. George agreed.
Two days after the final washing, he approached the suit jacket warily. It had completely dried out on a coat hanger in the shower stall. George felt he’d been down this road many times. He inhaled cautiously. No smell. Was this wish fulfilment? He inhaled more deeply. No, truly, he could not detect anything.
The trouble was, the green jacket now looked rather strange. When he slipped it on, it was all misshapen. It felt stiff and peculiar, like a suit of armour. George imagined he resembled a tramp from a Samuel Beckett play. He hated to admit defeat, but the suit was no longer suitable for the Soul Survivors. Peggy suggested it  might be best worn as a sort of coveralls when George painted the house. It looked odd, but at least it was loose fitting and not uncomfortable.

Stan and Jessica were invited for dinner once again that Sunday. At 4 p.m. they strolled up the driveway, hand in hand. Jessica might have arrived directly from the pages of a fashion magazine with her elegant, billowy slacks and silk blouse with the collar turned up in the back. Stan wore a linen suit and tie. They looked cool, elegant.
George was on the top of a step-ladder, scraping paint off the house. It was satisfying, in a way.  He did each single clapboard horizontally, which required frequent repositioning of the ladder.It was a dirty task.  The afternoon was unseasonally hot and sunny. His face was sunburned. To protect his clothes, George wore the old suit jacket His jacket and hair were encrusted with white dust and paint chips.
Noticing his in-laws, George stepped down from the ladder. Sweat rivelets  trickled  down his neck and back.
“Hi Jessica, hi Stan,” said George.
They greeted him. Stan surveyed George’s work, craning his neck and narrowing his eyes against the hard bright sun. His expression changed.
“George,” said Stan. “That deodorant you’re always using? The one you use every single day?”
“Bad news, son. It doesn’t work.”
For the first time since he’d known him, he saw his father-in-law bend his head backwards and laugh heartily. It was a real laugh, a deep-from-the-belly roar.
George, feeling like an actor in a bad bedroom farce, lifted his  arm and sniffed. Christ, he thought. This jacket's really starting to get on my nerves.

© Copyright 2018 charlie aden. All rights reserved.

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