Coat and Shoes
by Tania Hershman
So there I was, finding my way along streets I'd only glimpsed, persuading myself that my sense of the office would draw me. And there she was. Sitting on the pavement. Old, I thought. Lost, perhaps. And, as I came nearer, wearing only a nightdress, something thin, flimsy.
Off came my coat and shoes. That's not me, either. Not one to take off my coat outdoors, on a day like that. And shoes? Definitely not. But I looked at her, I took it all in and, without thinking, that's what I did.
I had to dress her. She was limp, like a doll, as I put her arms through the arms and her feet in the shoes. No-one said anything. I dressed her and she stared into the gutter.
When I finished, I almost apologized for that being all I had to give. I mean, I wasn't going to....Wasn't going to hand over my cardigan, my dress, my tights. It was windy. Not cold, or not if you're a person who's used to living in this damp, morbid place. The sun was out, spitting pitiful burns of warmth that ended as soon as they began.
"Do you...?" I asked her, the woman, still staring into the gutter, wearing my coat and shoes. "Your home.. is it...?"
She looked up at me. And I saw that now she wanted to know me, but I didn't say anything. She had my coat and shoes, wasn't that enough? I shook my head. She kept my gaze for another moment and then she dropped hers down again.
I stood for another minute, shifting from foot to foot, and then I raised my hand as if waving, raised it in a half-wave, then dropped it, foolish. Turned around and walked away. I didn't look back. I walked to my office without shoes, thinking of nothing except avoiding what you've got to be careful of on the pavements, what's left to be stepped on.
When I got there, to the office, I went into the toilets, shut myself in a cubicle. Would someone find her? Are they looking? And when they find her, when they help her back home, will they see that the coat and shoes... the coat and shoes aren't hers? What will they say? Will they say, "How strange. Someone dressed her. And whoever dressed her left her there like that." And will they think badly of me?
And if I told him? If I called him now, after our first night, what would he say to me? Would he say, "You should have...How could you...?" Or would he say, "Without shoes. You walked all that way...?" And if he said one thing and not the other, what would I say? If he said one thing, and not the other, what would I do?
All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.
Tania Hershman (www.taniahershman.com) is a former science journalist originally from London and now living in Jerusalem, Israel. Her short stories have been published in print and online in publications including Eyeshot, Literary Fever, Riptide, Cafe Irreal, the Hiss Quarterly, Front&Centre, Vestal Review, Steel City Review, Entelechy Review, and Transmission, and Riffing on Strings, an anthology of fiction inspired by String Theory. She has had three stories broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Tania is the European regional winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's short story competition and joint winner of the 2008 Biscuit Publishing Flash Fiction competition. She is the founder and editor of The Short Review, (www.theshortreview.com), a site dedicated to reviewing short story collections and anthologies. Her own first collection, The White Road and Other Stories (www.thewhiteroadandotherstories.com), is published by Salt Modern Fiction.
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Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.
|Issue Twenty-Three (December 15, 2008):
Ants by David Aichenbaum «»
Earthrise by Christopher Bundy «»
The World Before This One by Jon Chopan «»
Ghost Bike by Thomas Cooper «»
The Sway of Trains by Lydia Copeland «»
Impressionists by Debra A. Daniel «»
Danseuses Nues by David Harris Ebenbach «»
The Head Fields by Terry Ehret «»
Shadows by Sherrie Flick «»
Heroin Girl by Larry Fondation «»
She Doesn't Ask Where He Goes by Stefanie Freele «»
Caved In by Barry Graham «»
Chicago World's Fair, 1893 by Kyle Hemmings «»
Coat and Shoes by Tania Hershman «»
Thirteen by Tai Dong Huai «»
Phoenix by W.P. Kinsella «»
Nearly Free by Dorianne Laux «»
Alien Lunch by Liane LeMaster «»
The Society for the Preservation of Everything by Kuzhali Manickavel «»
216 East Boalt by Jeannie Vanasco «»
Potatoes by Spencer Wise «»
David Aichenbaum «»
Christopher Bundy «»
Jon Chopan «»
Thomas Cooper «»
Lydia Copeland «»
Debra A. Daniel «»
David Harris Ebenbach «»
Terry Ehret «»
Sherrie Flick «»
Larry Fondation «»
Stefanie Freele «»
Barry Graham «»
Kyle Hemmings «»
Tania Hershman «»
Tai Dong Huai «»
Dorianne Laux «»
Liane LeMaster «»
Kuzhali Manickavel «»
Spencer Wise «»
Cover Art "morpheus" by Marty D. Ison «»
Letter From the Editor