Classic Jagged Check Motif

On her twentieth birthday, Mary-Kate models her new coat and shoes for friends and family at the family home in Los Angeles. Even empty, the pool ripples like a cerulean slushie. Her father archly chides her to take it off as she struts around, pouting at the heat. She slinks out of the coat and tosses it in his lap.

A new Range Rover, blacker than unscuffed patent leather pumps. Marc Jacobs spectator pumps, two pairs: Black with ivory and their inversion. A houndstooth coat with big pearl buttons. In a coat so swingy, she'll have to brush and straighten her hair. She'll have to pluck her eyebrows into pinkie-width thin arcs. She'll have to learn how to apply fake eyelashes and then she'll have to learn how to properly apply mascara to false eyelashes, to do so without making them look fake. (A man whizzes by on a bicycle in a goldenrod shirt and slim jean shorts, cut just above the knee. His long brown hair, stringy curls like garland, streams out behind him.)

She dreams of wearing the pumps and the coat, legs chalky white and smoother with the dull feel of paperback book covers. In any town, a man with hair so gnarly becomes more than a man. If she were to see him in her coat, the pink silk lining would seal her into a scene from a film. The pearl buttons would gleam a little more and maple leaves, disseminated like confetti on the ground, would crunch beneath her tapered heels. In one movie, she'd wear a mod, A-line shift beneath the coat, a gray wool jumper with a moderate neckline and pockets that would hit her upper thighs. Real life or cinema, she'd never put anything in those pockets. She'd pass the man on the bicycle and cover her mouth with a black-gloved hand as she gasped at his indecency: So little clothing in such weather! Her lips would be pale pink, iced watermelon, a blushing nude on the rocks. Fast forward and she's hung the coat carefully on a cherry coat rack, the sort in tall Victorian homes and quaint bed-and-breakfasts. Of course, she's on a blind date, a tastefully planned affair, and she's meeting the gentleman at a classy supper house. She's craving a New York strip steak and she's craving it rare. Lo and behold, yellow shirt man cleans up quite nicely and there he is when she walks in the dining room, her spectator pumps silenced by the plush burgundy rug. His hair's been pulled back and smoothed. He pulls out her chair.

In another movie, she's walking down the street and Indian summer sun warms her copper hair. A man in a shirt the color of buttery sweet corn trickles past her. Outside her apartment building, potted flowers with petals clumped in a globular mess caramelize and sizzle before her, a bouquet of burnishing, rusty colors. The doorman drags open the heavy glass doors, she walks towards the elevator, she listens to the indolent hum of machinery as she stands in the lobby with the flames of outside creeping beneath her coat. As the door opens, she notices a chip in the enamel of her top button. No one else joins her for the ride up. She lives on the top floor so she presses the second to highest number. On the roof, she could play tennis if she had an arm for it. Her arms strain just considering a racket. From speakers hidden in the walls, brassy trumpets fill the elevator. She resists sitting on the leather couch. She loves the idea of sitting and moving at once, as if every trip home could entail a flight. Pretend she doesn't stop time a little longer with each passing floor and that the door to her apartment is before her. She reaches into her left coat pocket and removes a ring of keys, immediately finds the appropriate one, and slides the warm brass into the slot. Before she can step inside, though, footsteps pound down the hallway and she turns around to find the golden boy, hair cropped and slicked to his head like a suave spy. He stops a safe three feet from her and says hey baby why don't you take it off. He's wearing a pair of black swim trunks, short and revealing dark, muscular thighs. If you insist, and she thinks demure as she says insist, and slips the coat and then she's just standing there in a black bikini, bandeau top and low cut bottoms, three inches taller in black spectator pumps, and then he's kneeling before her, oh please, oh please, if you insist.

About the author:

JoAnna Novak is currently attending graduate school in St.Louis. Her work has most recently appeared in the DIAGRAM all-fiction issue.