The Price of the Coat | Rod Francisco

A coat and the price that was paid.


The Price of the Coat

Rod Francisco

The Hate and Coat Award


Many years ago, I made a decision. I knew that one day I would pay a price for that decision. That day had come. All I can say is that I may be named as the long standing ‘unknown source’. I am that person. My life, as it is now, has ended. As expected, the trail led to me. I don’t regret it. I make no apologies. I did what I did. When they ask, the public can rightly say they had no idea. No one did. That is why it took so long. In the end, when they knew they realised they had known all along, only seeing it play out in the darkest of shadows. No-one will ever know, as if it never happened. As if I had ceased to exist.

I was wearing a long, black, worsted wool gabardine coat that first day, that first betrayal. I still wore that coat, it fitted well both physically and morally. It was the coat that had been given to me by my father. “Wear it with pride son for you are a good man”.

It was true that my character had died the day I sold my soul. Even though some could claim redemption in this my second betrayal, I knew it would not be so for me. Some might suggest I had already sold myself out and that this me trying to buy it back. Either way, I knew that what I had done that day would never ever be undone. Many others would pay from that day on, eventually the list would narrow as each price was paid until the only name was left was mine. I knew that. Today I paid my price.

Today I was tired. A long time tired, playing a relentless game of betrayal and secrecy. The day my father gave me that coat was the last time I saw him alive, I grew up a lot the next day. Other men in coats had stood in our loungeroom and told me that my father was never coming home. I slept with his coat that night, drenching it with tears that seemed to have no end. When I woke the coat was damp and the sun was struggling to rise through the morning fog. Today the fog was slowly burning with the morning sun, as my fingers fidgeted with the secrets burning in my pocket. Many years ago, it had been a double sealed secret envelope that had been burning at my morality, today an encrypted hologram etched mini-disc.

Never make a deal with the Devil unless you are prepared to pay the price. There was never any doubt about that. Not only did I know the Devil, he knew me. Very well. Since I was a child. I had stood before him once, many years and declared that I would never betray him. “Over my dead body” was the exact turn of phrase, knowing that I never intended to do so. In making this deal I knew that it would be over my dead body and that betrayal would exact that price. He had taken a lead in my life at an early age in the absence of my father. I used to giggle at his accent, his funny smelling food and the strange words that men around the kitchen table would use. I grew to know him as nothing other than a friend, always there for me. He taught me many lessons, importantly one very valuable lesson: every man had his price, the smart one knew what it was. Today I was going to pay that price, I had known what it would be. Everything had been worth it. Betraying the Devil always is but you pay for the privilege and it does not make you a saint.

As I approached the end of the forecourt, another man stepped out of the gloom of dawn. Out of the shadows and silently into view, as he had done all his life. Expressing no emotion, he stood there with an open hand. There was nothing left to say, not that much had been said before. I pulled the coat from my shoulders and shoved it into his chest. “Here, take this. Take it to your grave.” The other man grabbed at the coat and pulled it into himself. At last, the warmth of his father’s coat, a man he had never known, given to him by a man who knew him too well, from the coldness of his heart. He looked intently at the man who had just given him the coat and stopped shivering.

I had been the older of us two, born before our father had died, him afterwards. I had known the man whose secrets had led to more secrets, resulting in both of his sons leading secret lives. Arguably, both of us in pursuit of good, arguably both losing sight of the real goal in the end. As our father had betrayed, so had we. We would both pay a price, today was my turn.

I shivered, not from the cold, but knowing the that coat, and my brother were gone from a life now finished and that I would find an early grave once I faced the Devil.

As I walked away, I could see my fate running up the steps to the forecourt. Minutes late, after many years in waiting. Men in equally dark coats and glasses. Like the men in the lounge room all those years ago. Men who had only one task to complete. Like I had done less than five minutes earlier, twenty years earlier. I could break into a run, but I had been running for a long time now. My grit was sapped. There was no more running today. The Devil would be faced. Paid.

It was easier for everyone for it to finish this way. Denial could still be declared. Secrets could remain. The coat would be worn again.