Red Coat & Army Jacket

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Michelle Phillips

Red Coat & Army Jacket

I feel, for the most part, I am a pretty observant person. I notice my environment and I am always assessing everything around me. I see the faces of the homeless, I compliment people on their clothes and generally am able to describe the setting I’m in at a later date.

Lately one of the things I have been watching every day is my neighbors conducting a sword fight with what looks like metal vacuum cleaner tubes. They play out these makeshift swordfights daily, and their back yard is directly adjacent to ours. 

I first saw the pair, who look for be mid-teens, when I was standing over the sink washing dishes about two-and-a-half weeks ago. It seems I have been in that very spot a lot lately, what with the constant cooking going on during the pandemic. I have named them “Red Coat” and “Army Jacket” for their preferred attire during these bouts. 

In the beginning, Red Coat would often have Army Jacket backed up against the house, tossing his sword or beating him in a battle of strength, swords connected. I felt a little bit sorry for Army Jacket, always being bested by what I assume is his brother or other family member. I couldn’t help but wonder as I scrubbed the Crock Pot, “Is this the way it has always been between them?” I imagine them always fighting over toys, TV and favorite foods.

Over the past few weeks it seems the daily, sometimes twice daily, sparring has really helped Army Jacket improve his skills. In fact, I was out on the deck FaceTiming the other day when I saw the boys outside, engaged in yet another conflict. 

“Clink! Clink! Clang!”

Heather, my best friend who was on FaceTime, and I could both hear the battle, and though I tried to zoom in so she could view the fight, she could not see them. 

I decided to moderate for her–I have always dreamed of becoming a baseball announcer–and told her “blow by blow” what was happening. Now the young men had doubled their audience to two.

Seconds later, the man who I guess is their father comes out and makes it an audience of three. He sees me watching them and maybe even hears me commentate, and I turn away.

Very little time passes when I hear a loud, determined yell. Then an expletive. I looked over just in time to see Red Jacket pinned down in a white plastic patio chair, swearing at Army Jacket and screaming, “Get off me!”

He had done it, Army Jacket had beaten Red Coat.

I felt a little disillusioned, like a kid who sees a clown without its makeup, like Dorothy when she finds out the true identity of the Wizard of Oz, like someone given a straw with a hole in it. I no longer needed to pay attention to their battles because Army Jacket was no longer the underdog, and I always root for the underdog.

He didn’t need my silent support any longer, I told Heather, who was asking where all the swearing was coming from.

“Who?” she asked. 

“Army Jacket,” I replied.

“Man, I will be glad when we can leave the house,” she said, clearly implying that I needed to get out.

“Me, too,” I replied. 

But for part of the time during the quarantine I had live entertainment at least once a day right outside my back door.

I sort of feel as though I should offer my congratulations to Army Jacket, after all, he and Red Coat have kept me occupied and distracted for at least a few minutes a day. Maybe have a pizza delivered to them along with a note of thanks. But that would be weird, I thought. 

Or would it? After all, we are living in weird times. 


Editor’s note: I wanted to point out that the title of my last column, “Essential Meetings,” on April 9 was a little misleading. It really should have been titled “Essential Meeting Items” because that is where my concern lies. I don’t have a problem with essential meetings being held, my concern is with the items that are deemed essential, and in my opinion,  I don’t feel a public hearing for something that is not time sensitive is necessary.

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