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Magen Toole is a student, fiction author and freelance writer from Fort Worth, Texas. Her short
stories have been featured in
Everyday Fiction, Kissed by Venus, Everyday Weirdness and others.
Magen Toole
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The Pea-Coat


Noam’s jacket was a heavy, beige pea-coat that was a size too large and broad in the shoulders. Elliot knew this because of the
way it drooped around his neck when Noam slipped it on him on rainy days, offering it without a word. The gesture always
brought a bashful heat to Elliot’s face, thinking of Hillel on the other side of the city. Sitting in the library surrounded by his
mother’s antique leather furniture or in the red light of his basement studio, alone in the brownstone castle his father had built.
For it, Elliot chewed his bottom lip like a knobby-kneed boy and tried not to feel guilty for what Hillel might have thought of the
sight, Noam’s long hands on Elliot’s shoulders, the fabric tote grocery bag growing wet as it sat forgotten between their feet.

“It’s a good thing Hillel isn’t here,” Elliot said, the words bubbling out of his mouth before he could muzzle them. Hillel wasn’t a
bad guy; he just wasn’t always a good one, getting that glint of silver in his smile whenever he saw someone lovelier than Elliot
on the street or at a party. “You know how he gets sometimes.”

“I wouldn’t know.” Noam’s glasses and Oxford shirt were speckled by rain drops. He never said anything, of Hillel or the
inconvenience of his wet clothing, and reached down to take up the grocery bag. It was becoming a pattern, it seemed. “But I
am glad that he isn’t.”

The coat was older than both of them, reasoned by the dates sewn into the tattered fabric tag inside the collar, the right breast
pocket torn slightly at its seams. It smelled a bit with the collar turned up around Elliot’s cheek by Noam’s fidgeting fingers,
warm with the scent of old scratchy things, like matchsticks and notebook paper. Elliot suspected that it was from all the notes
he kept finding folded up and slipped inside the breast pocket, whenever he patted himself down for the cigarettes he knew
Noam didn’t smoke.  The notes were of all manner of inconsequential things, names or phrases or dates, running off the page in
crooked smears of ink. Noam jotted them down in slips of paper torn from the notebook in his back pocket, twice folded like
neat little parcels. Strange thoughts, incalculable associations, all of which Elliot imagined strung together across Noam’s
apartment in tethers and cotton threads, gathered up in the living room in a great knot.

“Your notes are like puzzle pieces, you know,” Elliot offered as they walked, and made lazy gestures to illustrate his mental
pictures with the tip of his index finger. “Like maybe they’re all connected in these little strands. Kinda like, what do they call it,
string theory?”

Noam smiled. “Yes,” he said and shook his head, “something like that.”

The notes, Elliot decided, were to be kept tucked away for reasons he did not pretend to know. They were a part of Noam, like
the coat was, and the rain that seemed to follow them whenever they walked through the city on rubber soles that squeaked
when wet. It was the same way he pretended not to notice the way Noam that never corrected him when he was wrong, and
never looked Hillel in the eye. That was just the way that Noam worked, he decided, as they carried the groceries up the front
steps to Noam’s door. In the kitchen, Noam unpacked, humming under his breath and putting on the kettle while Elliot lay on
the living room floor in his borrowed coat and waited for it to steam. From the floor, he closed one eye and then the other,
imagining the strings of Noam’s life as ropes that tied them together. He only knew that Noam’s coat was the warmest he had
ever worn, and for the moment, that was enough.