Notes for an Upcoming Christmas Tale: Dead Man’s Western Wear

A few days before Christmas, an old man dies in his old RV in a disheveled RV park in a remote part of Oregon.

A dissipated and disgraced doctor is holed up in the park for the winter, in a gleaming Airstream, trying to become the next Chekhov. It’s not going well. He can’t get at the current human condition through his stories. He’s trying to get at it though health insurance bureaucracies and policies. No wants to read that! He doesn’t, but he keeps writing them up and submitting to little magazine and even smaller web sites. He’s never received even a rejection.

He thinks about his ex wife a lot. A nurse. He blew it. He always blew it. She supported his dreams of becoming a writer. He didn’t give her support for any of her dreams. She wanted to sing in a local rock and roll band and he just scoffed.

The doctor has to launder his clothes. The park has a laundry room. It’s Christmas morning and he figures the rest of the residents will be sleeping in or sleeping it off and he’ll have the washers and dryers to himself. He can bring paper and pen and start on another story. He could listen to the Christian station on the radio in the room for Christmas music. It’s the only station that comes in.

He enters the laundry room carrying his dirty clothes in a basket. He sets the basket on the table. Something is very different about the room. It’s become a tiny thrift store with clothes on hangers hanging from a pipe on the ceiling and pots and pans and a coffee maker, a toaster, and rugs and cutlery and VCR cassettes and DVDS.

He gets his laundry going, turns on the radio, and decides to check on the clothes.

It doesn’t take him long to realize that on this Christmas morning, he has stumbled upon an incredible collection of vintage Western wear, all Wrangler, from the 60s and 70s, in mint condition, most never worn, many still with tags or encased in dry cleaners’ plastic. He also discovers a Pendleton wool coat, plaid, hand warmer pockets, cuffs, brand new except for that it’s probably a half century old. Made by union women in Portland.

The doctor doesn’t get it…what is all this stuff doing here?

Then he gets it. He’d heard someone had died in his rig a few days ago. This is his stuff. For free.

The doctor in him wants to know why the old guy died. That might be a good story. There’s some real human condition in this death. The guy had style. What was his name?

He tries on all the shirts. They fit perfectly. The coat is last and it makes him feel like a new man. Maybe he is in this coat, a Christmas coat from a dead man. He slaps his thighs like a hick and laughs a cornpone laugh. He’s not taking off the coat.

Crank up that Jesus Christmas music on the radio!

The doctor holds up one shirt. It’s shiny black with yellow sequins. Embroidered accents. White pearl buttons. Long sleeve. Huge collar. His ex wife would have loved it. It’s a kick ass-rock and roll woman-lead-singer shirt. You sing in front of an audience in this thing, you’ll kill it.

He decides to mail it to her tomorrow with a note. He sits down at the table, warms his hands in the coat’s hand warmers, and begins to write. The writing is different. Something interesting is happening. He can feel it in his fingers.