Ten-Dollar Mules and a Hundred Dollar Coat

I grew up reading Dick Tracy in the comic strips, reading spy novels and, once we actually got a TV, occasionally watching movies about detectives and spies and other shadowy figures. To me, the absolute epitome of sleuth, sophistication and steel cold nerves was the black fedora and matching trench coat. Plus, in the bitterly cold winters of the netherworld, there is nothing that rivals the double-breasted trench coat for stylish, well-dressed protection from sub-Arctic wind chills. Church, weddings, funerals, state galas and diplomatic soirees, you’d have to go full-length brushed cashmere to top the black trench coat. And with the cashmere, you lose the steely-nerved effect.

So, when I saw a like-new double-breasted black trench coat at the Goodwill store about fifteen years ago, I snatched that thing up like a duck on a June bug! I didn’t care that it was a size or two large for me. Then, I went straight to Penney’s and bought myself a nice black fedora. When the wind turns to the north and I must go forth in a well-dressed state of affairs, I bring out the black.

Yesterday was such a day. With the wind chill barely above zero, I didn’t think I was overdoing things.

I came home from the office needing to get to Saint Joseph as quickly as possible. I had to go by the drug store and out to the mall and then to the grocery store before heading over to Legends Bar & Grill for my Thursday night trivia contest as the rookie member of the defending champions, Sons of Answerarchy. I was in a hurry but there were a couple of things I had to get from the bedroom upstairs to take back to town with me.

So, I switched out my casual dress loafers for my Wal-Mart special camo-colored “mules” before heading up to walk on the new carpet. In case you’re like me and a couple minutes behind the current phraseology, “mules” are quick slip-on shoes that have a completely open back in them. I keep a pair for “indoor use only” to help protect the carpet and my noggin from not-so-subtle reminders from Randa. “Don’t forget to put your other shoes back on,” she called in a smirking voice as I darted up the steps. “Hah!” I thought, like I’d do that. Again, this quickly after accidentally wearing them to the elders and deacons meeting on Sunday afternoon…

My next memory of that conversation was twelve minutes and ten miles later as I was crossing the Pony Express Bridge and happened to notice that my feet felt unusually relaxed and comfortable for a drive. Yep, sure ’nuff! At the opposite end of the black fedora, well below the black trench coat with the stylish flap across the back and the belt across the middle: camo mules. I laughed so hard I almost thought it was funny. Actually, it was a comical dilemma.

I didn’t have time to go back home and get my errands done. Really, it wasn’t that hard a decision to make.

So, five minutes later, I walked right into to Rodgers’ Drug Store, head held high, daring anyone not to look me in the eye. I had to ask for help to find the Blistex that Randa needed and then stepped up to the counter and asked for her prescriptions. Got ’em and left promptly, not daring to look behind me.

Next to Sears to return the Dockers socks that looked great in the package and had the elastic qualities of your usual piece of cold spaghetti. As soon as I put on the first pair, they felt as loose as your big brother’s jacket. They started sagging down by the time I got to the bottom of the stairs. I walked across the parking lot in my very comfy mules and stepped up to the first register in the store, which happened to be in the tools section. The young man quietly and quickly completed my transaction, somehow keeping a straight face the entire time. I thanked him in my best Jimmy Cagney voice and then asked him, “Where are the men’s shoes?” He pointed, “Back there in the left corner.”

I could handle walking in and out of the drugstore, walking across two parking lots and through Sears on an early Thursday evening. But there was no way I was sitting in a bar for two-and-a-half hours wearing a black fedora, trench coat and camo-colored house shoes! I don’t always drink humility, but when I do, I prefer less than Dos Equis.

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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