The Night I Stole a Tall Man’s Coat

By Erika Hoffman

Recently, I read Girl on the Train. I propelled through it as fast as an express about to veer off the tracks. I consumed it. I flipped the pages trying to discern if the alcoholic, seemingly harmless protagonist was indeed a murderess during her black-outs. She had no memory of what she’d done after a robust bout of boozing. The character Rachel in the British novel is a pub frequenter, which seems to be a national pastime there, and so her debauchery was more understandable.

I’m not sure if there’s a moral to this page turner other than the obvious one: Curb your consumption; booze can lead to bad judgment; or worse – you might slay someone and then forget you did and subsequently have to search for clues the next day to determine whether you’d committed the dastardly deed. “Black-outs are no fun” is an apt takeaway message for Paula Hawkins’s bestseller.

Most women aren’t going to relate to the unreliable narrator, Rachel, in Girl on the Train. But I can!

I’m not a lush. I seldom imbibe. Usually it’s just two glasses of wine, at most. I don’t party. Once, decades ago, I was a lively co-ed. But, I’m no longer young.

About ten Christmases ago, our family was invited to attend a good friend’s holiday party. At the time, our kids were in their early twenties. Our buddies annually throw a themed fete; yet, now I can’t recall the theme that particular year. I remember only snatches of the festive get-together. My grown kids scattered as soon as we crossed the threshold of our hosts’ English-styled home. I worried about the open bars – mixed drinks outdoors, wine in the kitchen, beer on the porch and who-knows-what upstairs. My husband – chit-chatting, jawboning, gee hawing –disappeared into a throng of men. I slipped from one gaggle of gossiping women to a bevy of gals whispering and imbibing near the laundry room, and later I ended up propped up along a window pane eavesdropping on a tete-a-tete between a pair of women who, if gossip is to be believed, had good reason not to talk to one another. Anyway, each time I tried to mingle, I found myself beforehand, grabbing a libation, hoping it’d make me more jovial, more relaxed and more apt to listen to drivel. The more meaningless chatter I heard, the more I slugged down liquid courage and the less I minded the giddy silliness of others.

It was a Christmas party, for heaven’s sake, and I strived to be of “good cheer.” Long after midnight, my husband corralled our besotted kids as I teetered toward the guestroom to find my black coat. I struggled to put it on. It felt heavy on my shoulders. The kids huddled in the SUV’s back seat, and my husband assisted me into the high vehicle, but the hem of the coat tripped me. I tumbled in.

En route home, I berated our 21-something and above aged kids about their intemperance – until I zonked out.

I’d relate the rest of the evening, but my memory hasn’t retained it. The next day I awoke feeling groggy. Nonetheless, I dragged myself down the stairs to grind coffee beans. That annoying noise was more than I could stand. So, I decided to leave the coffee preparation until later. Instead, I’d fetch the paper in the cold outdoors. I fumbled with the closet door to locate my coat. Outside, it looked like a frostbite-inducing morning.

I donned the black wool overcoat. The sleeves draped past my wrists. The garment hung to my ankles and the girth of it, at first, made me wonder if I’d lost poundage during the night’s slumber.

I trudged into the den.

“Does this fit me?” I inquired.

My husband glanced away from the tube and gave me a harried “once over” and said, “Seems long.”

I shrugged and reached into the pocket to get my gloves and instead pulled out a wad of keys. The logo was BMW. I dangled them in front of my husband.

“Whose keys?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Whoever is pretty tall,” I said peering down at the coat’s length.

“Better call our hosts.”

I phoned our friends. After the pleasantries and before I could inquire about the coat and keys, my pal said, “You know that new, young lawyer in town, the one’s who’s about six foot two?”


“Well, someone stole his overcoat last night at our Christmas party! And his brand new car’s keys were in the pocket! He had no way to get home. It was too cold to walk.”

“Awful, “I said. “Any suspects?”

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman is a mom of four, a grandma of three, a pal to a dozen or so great women, and she likes to write.

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3 Responses to “The Night I Stole a Tall Man’s Coat”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    You had me laughing all the way, especially at the end.

  2. Everyone loves a good mystery, even if they are the unintended source!

  3. Cora Brown says:

    Too funny!

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