The Chain Mail Jacket by Chris Leavens

By Chris Leavens
This is yet another of my Eli Lindy stories. My original idea was to use Eli Lindy as a psuedonym not only to expand the number of Pork Pony writers, but to write in a voice that sounded different from my own. I think that concept ended here. By the time I wrote this story, Eli Lindy and Chris Leavens became one again. I like this one quite a bit, actually. It's about the local eccentric and, the realitization that life's pretty boring without him. (CL)

To be honest, Jonathan kinda freaked me out at first. His jacket, woven of stainless steel, was clearly reminiscent of chain mail. He wore it to work every day. I guess this made me think he might be one of those 40-year-olds who still played Dungeons and Dragons. You know, the type the geeky little kids all lionize, the one they call the dungeon master. I mean he was pretty frumpy, wore poofy hats, and had those round, tortoise-shell glasses that were way too big for his face. Always a nice guy, though, always a nice guy.

That's why I asked him for a ride to work when my car was in the shop. Well that and I knew he lived pretty close to me. I figured if he got weird on me and tried, you know, to sell me Magic cards or touch my peter, I'd just kick his doughy ass and take the bus the rest of the way. Or a cab if I had the money.

But the day he came to pick me up that day in his 1979 Ford Thunderbird (the long, pimp Thunderbird with the squared-off front end), I changed my mind about Jonathan. I realized as he pulled up that I'd never seen the inside of his car because he had tinted his windows. More precisely he had self tinted his windows using a squeegee and that stick-on plastic stuff you buy at Pep Boys. That stuff never works. Always leaves bubbles. Nevertheless, it's dark and it makes it pretty hard to see inside of a car. The point I'm trying to make here is I think a lot can be learned from looking into someone's car. Jonathan and I worked in different departments, so I didn't know if he was messy or one of those really anal guys who aligns everything he owns in perfectly measured 90 degree angles. He didn't strike me as the kinda guy who lived a perpendicular life. The chain mail tipped me off. My guess was that he'd be a sloppy bastard and his car would be loaded with year-old remnants of fast food meals and empty Fanta cans. I was wrong.

The passenger side window's motor buzzed as Jonathan triggered its descent, "Hey pal you all ready," he said with a wink. That gave me the shivers. I shrugged. His chain mail jacket glistened in the sun. "Hop in."

I opened the long, heavy door and dropped onto the T-bird's vinyl bench seat. The front seat's armrest/divider was in the elevated position, giving his hands and body the ability to slide my way. He had a cache of Dum-Dum lollipop sticking out of his open ash tray. He offered me one. I declined. Now that I know him I hate to say this, but at the time all this stuff just screamed, "molester."

As the car began to roll away from my apartment building, I noticed an odor. It smelled like potting soil. I sniffed a few times as a smiling Jonathan watched me. "You smell my garden," he beamed with the satisfaction of a proud father.

"Your garden?"

He motioned toward the back seat with his head. It was amazing. Jonathan had transformed the back seat of his T-bird into a small garden on wheels. All styles of greenery existed there. "None of 'em need much light or water," he signaled a left turn by putting his hand out the driver-side window, "but they're just as pretty as the ones that do."

Now, if you had explained this to me, this idea of a back seat garden, I've got to say I think I'd tell you that it sounded pretty bizarre. But it was a work of art. The plants were beautifully landscaped, laid out like a miniature forest. They swayed as the air from the window rushed against their leaves. "It's incredible," I said, "but I've gotta ask: Why?"

"What do you see back there?"

"Well, plants. I mean, very well-cared-for plants."

"What do you see sitting next to you?"

"Uh, Jonathan, the guy from work."

"Wrong. Next to you is Jonathan, the guy who wears a jacket made of woven steel. The guy who asks for Shirley Temples when he goes to the bar. The guy who watches Doctor Who and genuinely enjoys it. The guy who actually eats using the spoon in his Swiss Army Knife." He reached over and opened the glove compartment. It was filled with 8-tracks. "The guy who listens only to 8-track tapes because he considers their unpredictability a sonic adventure." He took one out and shoved it into the in-dash player I had not previously noticed. Strange synthesized pops and whirs blasted from the speakers. I later found out it was music made by men named Perrey and Kingsley.

"I am the whimsical eccentric every office building needs to wonder about. I am the source of unfounded rumors for an entire community. I am completely harmless, yet I frighten most adults. I am the man-child, constantly at play. I am the greatest lover a woman could ever know, yet I am one of the loneliest men alive."

Never had I seen some one be so "The Man" and so "Not the Man" at the same time. He was confounding, hypocritical, absolutely perfect.

A tear rolled down his cheek, "Would you like some gum," he held out a pack of strawberry Hubba-Bubba.

"Sure," I took a piece out and popped it in my mouth.

"Let's skip work today."

"Um," he was giving off a little bit of that molester vibe again.

"Don't worry, I'm neither gay nor would I ever want to touch your peter."

Was he reading my mind?

"Have you ever been to the Shoe Museum?"


"Mustard Museum?"


"Your education begins today." With that said, Jonathan exited the freeway. He handed me a box. Inside was a chain mail jacket like his. "Most adults are total douche bags," he said, "can you blow a bubble?"

I blew a big bubble. It popped and covered my face.

"You're OK." We simultaneously laughed and stuck our hands out of our respective windows. Time froze and our movie ended.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris Leavens published on April 15, 2002 8:40 PM.

Breaking Away by A.S. Albright was the previous entry in this blog.

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