Mornington shook his head sorrowfully.
You can’t go looking that, he said.
What’s wrong with it?
You look like an old git.
I am an old git, George said, and he shrugged splaying his upraised palms. Besides, he added, I look like an old dude. Mornington couldn’t see the difference. George named an actor from so long ago the film might have been in black and white. Mornington had never seen the film. He hadn’t even heard of it.
You might call it retro, George said.
I might call it something else.
I’m comfortable in it, George said. I feel at home. I’ve had this jacket for nearly twenty years. When I bought it, I didn’t think I’d live for another twenty years.
What’s comfort got to do with it, Mornington snapped. It always unsettled him when George referred back to the episode with the Big C. You’ve got lots of jackets, he said. I don’t know why you have to have so many.
I like jackets, George said.
Then why not wear one of the others?
I want to wear this one.
At least dump the hat, Mornington said. George slowly raised his eyes to Mornington’s knitted bobble and drew in a long slow breath.
The hat, he said, goes with the jacket, and he lifted his hand and tilted the hat slightly.
George looked in the hall mirror and turned to one side. He smoothed down the arm nearest the glass with the back of his hand. It was a suit jacket, but he’d worn out the trousers long ago. Gentlemen, he knew, would have had two pairs of trousers with their suits, and three pairs of suits. Two light weight summer suits, two medium weights, and two heavier winter weights. One to wear, and one at the cleaners. George was not, however, and never would be a gentleman, and he wasn’t going to throw out his favourite jacket merely because he no longer had the trousers. Besides, it was his ‘survival jacket’.
All the way down the High Street Mornington contrived to walk half a pace ahead of him. George followed meekly, not trying to catch up. Passers-by looked at the two of them: a pair of middle-aged men, perhaps even elderly, but still fit, the one dressed like a slob, the other in a classic white jacket, and a neat Panama, old but beautifully kept. An odd couple.
Their wives strolled a few paces behind, arm in arm, laughing. We’re not with those two.
At the pizza place Mornington leaned in front of George and waved his fingers over his shoulders. You know George, he said. Mornington’s new stepdaughter leaned too, to get a closer look.
Cool jacket, she said. Then she added, Wilfred Hyde-White, North West Frontier, 1959. George beamed.
Katy Darby is the author of the novel The Unpierced Heart (Penguin) and co-founder and director of Liars’ League (www.liarsleague.com), the award-winning, internationally franchised live fiction event where actors read brand new short stories every other month. Their next event is Trick & Treat, a selection of uncanny tales for Hallowe’en, on Tuesday 9th October at The Phoenix, Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PP..