the orange vest

Julie only said positive things. If it was raining she’d smile and say the farmers were happy. On cold days she’d say that we needed the cold to appreciate the warm ones more….”

 

by amy corbin

 

Julie was the crossing guard that walked my children each day across Main Street. She was filled with a joy I had never seen before; she always smiled no matter the weather. Julie gently prodded the children along, holding her stop sign high. I only walked them on Fridays, as I worked from home then; the other days, my wife brought them.

At first, I thought I loved Fridays because I wasn’t sitting in traffic, but it didn’t take long to realize it was Julie I was excited for. Her ruddy cheeks and glinting hazel eyes made me feel giddy inside. I tried to think of witty things to say to her as I walked Sarah and Jeremy down the street and as soon as I saw the neon orange vest in the distance my heart would beat faster.

“Hey, Bob,” said Julie.

“Hey, Julie. Hard to believe it’s November with this warm weather.”

“I love it!”

Julie only said positive things. If it was raining she’d smile and say the farmers were happy. On cold days she’d say that we needed the cold to appreciate the warm ones more. She was so different from my wife whose glass was always half empty – with chemically treated water. Lynn was in sales, and I guess it was a lot more stressful than crossing kids from one side of the street to the other; but she’d never beamed like Julie, even back when we were in college.

In the beginning, I was energized on Fridays, popping out of bed at 6:00 am on my own, a full half hour before the alarm. But soon, all the other days seemed to take too long with Saturday feeling like dread, its distance from Friday too hard to bear.

One time, I even forgot Sarah’s lunch on purpose so that I’d have to run back home and this way I’d get a double-bill. I only did that once. I didn’t want Julie to think I was an idiot.

I started to think there was something magical about wearing that vest or maybe it was the color orange that made Julie so full of bliss. I bought Lynn an orange sweater, thought it might cheer her up. She just looked at me and said, “You’ve got to be kidding. Have you ever even seen me wear anything orange?”

“Sorry. I just thought you might like it.”

“Yeah, right. I don’t think you thought about me at all. If you had, you wouldn’t have come home with that.”

The next Friday I decided I was going to touch Julie’s vest, just maybe pat her back or casually brush my hand against it. I needed to know how it felt.

“Hi, Julie,” I said as I brushed my hand across her back feeling the polyester mesh under my fingers. My hand tingled and my insides felt all warm and cozy. I knew I wasn’t crazy the vest had mystical powers.

When I went home I thought about how I could get the vest for Lynn and what she’d say if I asked her to put it on. Even if I could find a way to get it the chances of getting Lynn to even look at it were bleak. All week I was obsessed with the vest, it’s magical qualities and how it might transform Lynn. Deep down, I think I knew it couldn’t really change her, but I felt inexplicably hopeful.

When Friday came, I devised a plan to distract Julie and cut a tiny piece of mesh from that striking crossing guard vest she wore. I thought I could put the scrap under Lynn’s pillow or maybe in her briefcase, and it might alter her. The plan was for me to drop two things at once and look frazzled, and then when she bent down to help me, I was going to snip a tiny piece of orange.

But, then I started to worry that if I cut Julie’s vest, it might lose its charm and she’d somehow turn back into an angry nag. Fridays were all I had; I couldn’t risk it.

Originally published:
Issue Sixty-Two
October 2011

 

(illustration: john richen)


Amy Corbin has had her work published in Filling Station, The Cynic, Ascent Aspirations, Shine, Every Day Poets, Every Day Fiction, Haruah: A Breath of Heaven, Ignavia Press, Flask and Pen, The Battered Suitcase, Flashes in the Dark, Short Story Library, Smokebox, Wanderings, Writers’ Stories, The New Flesh, Concise Delight, Calliope Nerve, Boston Literary Magazine, and The Smoking Poet. She was an honoree in the 2011 Binnacle Competition for her story, “Dear Mr. Barlow” and won third place in The Shine Journal’s 2011 poetry contest for her poem, “Close Your Eyes”

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