From: (Matthew Skala)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Coathanger
Date: 1 Dec 1997 08:38:33 -0800
Organization: Ansuz BBS (250) 642-7820
Lines: 48
Message-ID: <>

I was one of only two or three passengers on the bus from the wilderness
park to civilization.  As I settled into my seat, I noticed an object
on the seat in front of me and, intrigued, picked it up and inspected it.

"Coathanger" would be my best guess on what its function might be, but I
can't believe that it was ever much good for that.  The object seemed to be
made of heavy cardboard, covered with the kind of pressure-sensitive vinyl
film that my American parents taught me to call "Mac-Tac".  It was
rectangular, with bevelled corners, and it bore a message in cut-out pieces
of heavy metal foil underneath the plastic film.  At the time, I thought of
the magnetic alloy strips used to prevent theft in libraries.  Later, I
thought of etched circuit boards.

There was a wire hook attached at the top, as if to hang it from a coat
rack, although I could not imagine the unreinforced cardboard actually being
strong enough to support a coat.  This was especially true because it was
yellowed at the edges.  The cardboard looked at least thirty years old, and
seemed in danger of falling apart at any moment.  The vinyl was somewhat
anachronistic; perhaps it was added at a later date.  All these thoughts ran
through my mind as I read the metallic letters, whose message burned itself
onto my brain:

              DO NOT REMOVE!  PENALTY$50 FINE (RCMP)

The first line had originally said "PENALTY $2", but the "$2" was painted
over in dingy yellow like an obsolete pavement marking, not concealing it at
all, and the foil characters "$50" had been pasted on top (but still
underneath the vinyl), presumably due to inflation over the years the object
had seen service.  Thus the lack of space between "PENALTY" and "$50".  I
worried for a while about what "the carotid gland" might be and why the FBI
might care about it, but could think of no sensible explanation.

I didn't memorize the message on the other side of the coathanger, if that
is what the object was.  That message was a military recruiting appeal, in
much smaller print and mixed case.  It wasn't clear for what nation, but it
included the addresses of seven recruiting centres in major cities
apparently worldwide, and it called for volunteers to serve in "the Vietnam
and Juneau conflicts".

I shivered, turned up my collar to cover my neck, and put the object back
on the seat.  I'd been out in the woods far too long.
"It was the suit that got me the gig/It was           Matthew Skala
 the tear that got me the girl/I'm a sheep              Ansuz BBS
 in this wolf's clothing/I'm a picture that          (250) 642-7820
 I'm holding/Of someone who is cool" - Odds