Mr Rideout’s Coat Hanger

As the year 1897 rolled into Boston, Massachusetts, the Industrial Revolution was booming. From commercial fisheries to a railway route that would allow travellers to journey from Boston to New York; Boston was the place to be. I had even heard whisperings of revolutionary automobiles that were to be powered by gasoline. Other rumours told of competing manufacturers in Europe sketching plans for another type of automobile that would be powered by electricity. Both of these advancements to the horse and carriage seemed ludicrous to me, more like something one would read in the science-fiction musings of Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

Despite these speculations about the future of road travel, it was evident that the Industrial Revolution would rapidly advance our present-day understandings of industry and technology. Yet, somehow, wherever one may take attendance, whether in their place of employment, at an event of societal prominence, or even in one’s own residence; there was always a shortage of coat hooks. When out in public, one would often have to fold their coats over a chair armrest. Whether travelling on a train or in a carriage, the coat would often be folded and placed on the seat next to the traveller. The creases were such a nuisance to straighten from the garments when it was necessary for the coats to be stored in such a fashion. 

I often contemplated if there was a logical solution to this problem, as yet, to no avail. That is until I was in need of visiting Mr Seamus O’Bradain at the Boston Fish Pier fish market. Mr O’Bradain was an Irishman, who had relocated to Boston during the Great Irish Famine. He was a kindly, gentleman who was a skilled fisherman and had quickly settled into employment with the John Nagle Company. As the trawlers docked at the pier to unload their catch, Mr O’Bradain often manned the John Nagle Co. fish market stall. There would be carts of tuna and buckets containing a variety of shellfish and oysters. The larger-sized swordfish would hang from hooks along a steel bar situated just below the canopy of the stall.

I was of the culinary opinion, that there was nothing better to eat than a quality tuna steak, and was a regular patron of the fish market. Mr O’Bradain’s stall in particular. Not only a skilled fisherman, with the best quality tuna on offer, Mr O’Bradain was also a pleasant mannered gentleman to hold acquaintance with. It was on this particular day, I cycled up to Mr O’Bradain’s stall, as was customary of my routine visits, that I held the conversation of a lifetime.

“Good morning, Mr O’Bradain, how was the catch today?”

“Mr Rideout,” he greeted with a nod, “mostly shellfish. I presume you are in want of tuna as is your usual purchase?”

“Indeed.”

“Unfortunately, tuna was of short supply…wrong season, I suppose.” Mr O’Bradain gestured to a swordfish displayed on one of his hooks, “swordfish in these parts are just as delicious as the tuna; might take your fancy?”

I moved to inspect the fish offered to me, but on this occasion, something else demanded my attention. I could not believe my ignorance at not noticing the hook before! This indeed could be the solution to society’s coat hanging shortage!

“Mr O’Bradain! Your fish hooks!” I cried, shocking the poor man with my excitable outburst.

“Y-Yes, Mr Rideout,” he replied with uncertainty, “the hooks are needed to hang the swordfish on display?”

“My dear good sir, the fish is of insignificance in this moment of clarity!” I exclaimed. “Are your hooks, by chance, demountable? Might I inspect one you have spare?”

Mr O’Bradain obligingly dislodged one of his hooks and handed it to me. The hook was of similar design to the coat hook invented by Mr O. A. North a few years earlier in 1860. Over the seven and thirty years since, Mr North’s coat hook had rapidly increased in popularity across the United States of America. It was, however, these hooks that were in short supply despite their appearance in all locations of employment, recreation, or otherwise. As I stood there, in the fish market at the Boston Fish Pier of all places, rotating the fish display hook in my hands, a revolutionary idea was formed. The hook was positioned in the centre of a flat, steel plate. The appearance resembled that of a head, neck, and shoulders. I envisioned coats hanging from such a contraption, remaining uncreased; a conveniently transportable sized hanger.   

“Mr O’Bradain,” I gasped. “What if every gentleman and lady could carry their own hook to hang their coats?!”

“Sir?” Mr O’Bradain was apparently more confused than ever.

I looked at his fisherman’s jacket, draped over one of his empty fish crates. I shuddered at the thought of the creases forming in the garment. “Have you ever found yourself short of a place to hang your coat?” Clearly, he had.

Mr O’Bradain followed my gaze to his jacket, “Yes?” His brows furrowed questioningly as he looked back to me.

There was no time to spare poor Mr O’Bradain with an explanation. I rushed away from the fish market, mounting and pushing off on my bicycle; peddling as fast as I could. I arrived at my Suffolk County townhouse. Dropping the bicycle as I dismounted, I hurried inside. I placed the fish display hook at the corner of my desk, still observing the hook’s specifications as I pulled out my inkwell and paper to draft a diagram of what I had envisioned.

Satisfied with my diagram, I then bent a length of wire into shape. Fashioning circular wire hinges set into the nape of the hanger. I held up my prototype. A hook with shoulder-shaped corners that could be folded to fit into a lady’s handbag or a gentleman’s briefcase: The Portable Coat Hanger!

I must return that fish hook to Mr O’Bradain, I thought as I hung my coat on the revolutionary coat hanger.

The Bridge

When he was a young boy, Max would play imaginative games with trolls, goblins and the Troll Slayer. Max, of course, was the gallant troll slaying knight, rescuing villagers from mortal terror. The boy Max would use everything within his reality for his games. Tree branches would become bridges and castle turrets, all the better for him to overlook the villages he was relinquishing of monsters. Cardboard boxes would become Max’s breastplate, shield, and helm. A stick found on the ground would become his sword.

As he grew into a man, Max’s playful imagination faded into logic, statistics, and facts. The man Max could no longer hear the goblins’ growls and the villagers’ screams. Max was a businessman, his childish antics a distant memory. His life was now a rhythm of routine. This day was no different from the rest. Alarm sound at 6:00am. Morning workout until 7:00. Shower. Breakfast. Get in the car, drive. On the road, Max’s ringtone suddenly sounded. Sighing Max glanced at the phone, it was a business call. Reluctantly, Max reached for his phone. As his fingers skimmed the phone, Max heard the piercing sound of terrified screaming. 

Max pulled onto the shoulder of the highway. He saw a rickety old bridge tangled with leaves, branches, and vines. He could just make out the shape of buildings with hedge fences. On the far side of the bridge. Max hesitantly stepped out of the car, squinting to see better. The screaming was clearer outside. Max gingerly started across the bridge, grabbing at the branches and vines to steady himself. Nearing the end of the bridge, Max paused. It was as if he was taken back to a medieval time long forgotten. The buildings were village huts, the hedges unkempt. There were creatures of indescribable horror galloping and soaring maliciously through the village. Villagers were screaming, running, and fighting with stakes, pitch-forks, and shovels. It was terrible chaos.

Looking back across the bridge, Max could see his car parked on the side of a highway; the outline of a modern city in the background. Returning his attention to the village in peril, Max recalled his childhood duty as Troll Slayer. In need of a weapon, Max pulled at the branch he was holding until it snapped into his hand, he now had a sword. Looking down, his business suit became a shiny silver suit of armour. Ready for battle, Max charged into the village mayhem. As he entered the violence, the screams became cheers as the villagers celebrated the return of their hero. To chants of, “Troll Slayer has returned!” and “Hail, Troll Slayer!” Max vanquished the monsters in bloody battle just as he had done years ago. His old friends saved, Max left the village across the bridge.

Halfway across the bridge, Max heard the sound of busy rush hour traffic: whirring of car motors; the swishing of vehicles passing through the wind; and enraged drivers impatiently thumping their horns. Hurrying back to his car, Max’s sword became a branch, his armour became business attire. In the car, Max’s phone was still ringing. Answering his call to business, Max’s thoughts returned to statistical data. Driving, Max smiled to himself. No one would know of his gallant adventure as he returned to the rhythmical routine of life. But all he had to do to remember was imagine.

The Dingo and the Wolf

Solitary, prowling in the arid outback, the dingo spots a kangaroo bouncing in the distance. As the kangaroo nears, it senses danger and abruptly halts. Ears pricked, nose twitching, the kangeroo hesitantly hops forward. Unseen, the dingo lunges. Miss! The kangaroo darts to safety. Then chattering and laughter catches the dingo’s attention. Smelling a familiar aroma of sizzling, juicy meat, the dingo heads in the direction of an easy meal.

The humans in sight, the dingo, patiently waits for food. After a while, patience is lost to hunger, the dingo inches closer. Eyeing the food being eaten and messily tossed to the ground. The dingo continues to approach. The humans notice the barbecue intruder, objects begin to fly at the dingo; hurt the dingo dashes away. The dingo has been here before, the humans will eventually tire and abandon the area. Guarding, the dingo waits near enough to sense the retreat but far enough not to attract the humans’ attention. The dingo begins to snooze as it awaits the much-anticipated feast.

The heat slowly cools as darkness seeps in. Chattering turns to clangs. The dingo awakes knowing that the humans will soon leave. Noises cease, darkness ensues all but the dull glow of the moon. The dingo rushes to claim the rejected food. Chomping, snapping; growling and snarling at the occasional scavenger. Hunger satisfied the dingo sits. Looking up to the now brightly shining moon, the dingo howls eerily. Perhaps another soul in another world will hear the cry. The howls left echoing unheard, the dingo solitarily slinks back to its den.

         * * * * * * * * * *

A wolf howls to the rest of the pack. Crouching low, the wolves separate through the forest brush — stalking, surrounding their prey. The stag munches at the mossy ground unaware. The wolves creep onward. Creak, snap! One of the wolves fumbled. The stag stops. Ears flicked back and forth, tentatively the stag steps forward. Searching, listening. The wolf senses an opportunity to strike. The stag tries to dodge and dart away. Another member of the pack is ready. The stag felled, there is a scrabble for food.

An authoritative howl sounds through the forest. The squabbling stops, the wolves sit quietly as the alpha nears. Growling, claiming the prize of the hunt, the alpha begins to eat. A brave young wolf attempts to take part in the meal. The alpha snarls, teeth bared and snaps at the disrespectful pup. The young wolf backs away. The alpha snorts and continues to eat. After eating its fill the alpha retreats, allowing the rest of the pack to feast. Proudly sitting nearby as the wolves devour the stag, the alpha looks up to the glowing moon. The alpha lets out a deep, raucous howl; the rest of the pack stop eating, look to the alpha and then to the moon, returning the eerie cry. The din echoes surreally through the forest. Alerted of danger, prey scurries to hide as the alpha returns to the den, ready to rest through the day.

Bookshelf Ornaments

The room was deserted, except for an object lying on the table. This object was made of green and gold material, shaped like an animal with a square body and a rodent-like head. Unexpectedly, the parcel started to unravel, revealing a golden box. The lid of the box was pushed open from the inside. There was blue material inside the box for padded protection. The material starts wriggling, juddering the box and a tiny wooden man topples out. He lays curled in a fetal position on the table, motionless. Meanwhile, the material continues to struggle in the tight confines of the box.

Victorious from his battle with the material, a second tiny wooden man breaks free. The man curls himself and rolls down the material, out of the box. Slowly the two woodmen start to uncurl themselves, stretching from the long time spent confined to the box. Standing, the two men take in their surroundings. They walk together side by side, making their way to the edge of the table and leap down to a towel covered chair. The first woodman moves closer to the second. After some gesturing, the second man leaps from the chair to explore the vast area of the room.

The first man climbed back onto the table, where the material remains of the parcel lay, to await the return of his friend. From the height of the table top, the little woodman took in the room from afar. He waited eagerly to hear the second man’s report. Suddenly, there was an unexpected noise. The woodman hurried off the table, back onto the chair, where he hid out of sight, listening intently. There is the scuffling of sleepy footsteps entering the room, then a faint crunch, and gasp of shock. The woodman peers round the back of the chair. Horrified, the tine woodman watched as a giant bent down and pick up his friend, exiting the room with the second woodman in hand.

When he was sure the giant had gone, the woodman climbed back to his position on the table. He waited, praying for his friend’s safe return. Hours past and the woodman eventually fell asleep at his guard post. It was a worried, dream-filled sleep. When he awoke, the woodman found himself standing on an unfamiliar shelf. He looked to left and saw an arrangement of precious ornaments, seeing nothing familiar, he turned to his right. To his delight, saw that he was standing next to the second woodman. But the second woodman was different, his wood was covered in brilliant gold. The first woodman looked down and saw that he too was no longer a wooden hue, but the purest white of a dove. Content, the woodmen, remained on the shelf, perched among the other precious ornaments.