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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Story: The Phoenix Suns Coat

And now it’s time for storytime with Austin. Today's story: The Tale of the Phoenix Suns Coat.

When I was in Fifth Grade, I had a Phoenix Suns coat. It was a pretty nice coat, as coats go. It was purple and orange, and had a shining basketball on the back. It was probably a hand-me-down, but I liked it. My coat didn’t have a zipper—it was one of those pullover-style coats with a hood. Basically like a hoodie made of the slick, snow-resistant coat material.

My coat kept me warm at recess, but it was too hot to wear during lunch. Besides that, because it was so bulky, I didn’t like carrying it or draping it over my shoulder while getting my food tray and eating at the tables. At my middle school, the lunchroom was in the hallway on the way to the doors to the playground. Going down the hallway toward the recess doors, the lunchroom doors were on the left, and on the right were the pop machines next to the gym doors.

Every day on my way to lunch, I would pull off my coat and leave it next to the pop machines. After I ate my food, I would come out the exit doors a ways down the hall, put on my coat, and head off to the snowy playground. I don’t know why exactly I put it by the pop machines every day. I can’t remember the first time I thought they were a convenient and safe place to store my coat. I just remember that being the routine for most of the winter months of school. That way, I wasn’t inconvenienced during lunch, and I could be warm as I played outside every day.

Have you ever experienced that sort of hopeful ignorance you get when you’re doing something you know you could get in trouble for? It’s not even just a one-time emotion—it’s an attitude, a habit; a routine that you know could blow up in your face any time. It’s like speeding, or going outside without sunscreen, or not having a spare key under the mat on your porch. Somehow, with this ignorant hope, we just go on in life, fully realizing we’re balancing on a tottering pinnacle, fully at the mercy of Lady Luck, when we could be in control of the situation with a little less laziness. But since each day turns out okay, that small bit of extra convenience seems to be worth the risk.

Anyway, one day when I came out from lunch, the coat was gone.

I remember being pretty distraught about it. Not enough to skip recess, of course. A kid’s gotta do what he can, even without staying warm. I may have told my teacher or looked in the lost and found, but as far as I remember, I just had to accept the sad fact that somebody had stolen my Phoenix Suns coat, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Months passed, and I wore a different, less warm jacket to recess every day. I never left it near the pop machines, but that may just be because it was light enough to take into lunch.
Eventually, it was Easter time, and the school was abuzz about the upcoming Egg Drop. Each student would be given an egg to be put in a package. The principal would drop the boxes from a cherrypicker, and whosevers egg remained intact would win McDonalds coupons. I can’t remember if that’s the year I encased my egg in jello, or attached a makeshift parachute to my box. Either way, the day finally came when our entire Fifth-Grade class got to get out of class for the Egg Drop.

The principal got into the cherrypicker, and as it slowly rose over the students, I saw a familiar set of colors on the opposite side of the blacktop. There in the crowd was my Phoenix Suns coat, worn by some punk from another class! I told my friend Jake about the coat being the same missing coat I had lost months earlier. “Are you sure, man?” he asked. “I’ve seen Phoenix Suns coats like that before.” But it all made sense. That cretin had taken my coat from its usual place by the pop machines that fateful lunch hour, and had the audacity to wear it himself at a grade-wide event!

I told my teacher, Mr. Peterson, who also asked me if I was sure. Of course I was sure. The hood, the pullover-style, the purple and orange color scheme… that was my coat! Besides, what was the kid going to do when he was confronted if it was my coat? Deny it? Fifth-graders are too dumb to do that, at least to a teacher’s face.

I enjoyed the Egg Drop as much as I could, while glancing over repeatedly at that kid flouncing around in my coat. When it was over, Mr. Peterson disappeared into the crowd. At this point, I panicked. What if he pointed over to me as body language for “That kid is that coat’s rightful owner”? I was a small kid, and the other guy was too, what with him fitting in my coat and all, but what if he had bigger friends who would come beat me up? (I was kind of a worrier when I was younger) I hurried with my friends inside, avoiding any eye contact.

I went to the restroom, and when I emerged, I saw it—in the arms of a female teacher (the jerk thief’s, apparently), my glorious coat lay draped. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of triumph at seeing the coat presented like that—unworn. The teacher had no idea it was my coat; she was just on her way to leave it in the office for its owner to pick up. She gave me a polite smile as she walked by. I later would pick up my coat at the office and wear it for as long as it would fit me. But as I looked out at the woman’s class fanning out behind her, I found it interesting that, without the coat, the coat-stealer kid was unrecognizable.

All throughout high school, when classes were no longer divided, I never could make the connection of who the coat-stealer was. Perhaps he moved sometime after the Egg Drop, or perhaps I later unwittingly became good friends with him. Regardless of who the living, breathing soul was who really did it, I like to think of that kid I saw wearing my coat as someone I’ll never see again—someone who no longer exists, save in my memory. As far as I know, I was the victor on Egg Drop day, and Coat Stealer’s plan was thwarted.


The End

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