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The Sixty Sightings of Jacket Carrier

      First Sighting

Jacket Carrier was first sighted carrying a jacket. He was outside the Diamond Food in Multioak, and younger in those days. He was tall, wore black jeans, and the jacket he carried was brown. This was one of only two sightings in which he carried a jacket, but as the first sighting, the fact that he was carrying a jacket earned him his title. The couple who sighted Jacket Carrier on this occasion noted nothing exceptional about him except for the carrying of the jacket, if that’s exceptional, but they both noticed him and remembered him vividly even years later.


Second Sighting

Four teenage friends smoking weed around midnight in Seraphim Park in Dalcette saw Jacket Carrier carrying something other than a jacket: a bag. He carried the bag by its handles. The teenagers couldn’t tell what was inside the bag. Jacket Carrier seemed to be cutting through the park on his way to somewhere else. Some discounted this as a legitimate Jacket Carrier sighting, but the three friends who survived their teenage years insisted it was into respectable adulthood and beyond, and if sighters of Jacket Carrier aren’t taken at their word, how many sightings will withstand such skepticism? Very few.


Third Sighting

This was the sighting that confirmed that Jacket Carrier had a sense of humor. A woman driving home from work on a long, dry evening saw Jacket Carrier leaning against a wall in Multioak – she couldn’t remember the exact location – and he appeared to be laughing about something. The woman could not tell what was making Jacket Carrier laugh, but she described the laughter as “good-natured but not infectious.” This was also the first sighting in which Jacket Carrier carried nothing. His hands were empty, free. The knees of his jeans, which were this time pale blue, were worn through.


Fourth Sighting

A woman walking her basset hound before leaving for work in the morning spotted Jacket Carrier sitting on a curb two blocks from her house. For years, she told people that Jacket Carrier looked tired sitting there on the curb, with slouched shoulders and bags under his eyes. But on her deathbed, the woman recanted her original account and said that Jacket Carrier had not, in fact, looked tired sitting there on the curb. With a voice barely audible and eyes luminous in anticipation of approaching glory, the woman said that Jacket Carrier had actually looked quite alert, even energetic.


Fifth Sighting

Two brothers, raking leaves in the front yard at the behest of their stepfather, a despised character who they were obliged to call “Sir,” saw Jacket Carrier eating a Popsicle. It isn’t known if the Popsicle’s yellow hue denoted lemon or banana flavor. The boys paused their raking to watch Jacket Carrier walk past, biting at his Popsicle like it was a corn dog, and this pause, brief as it was, cost them their own dessert. Presumably, if their stepfather saw the boys pause their raking, he must have also seen Jacket Carrier, but he never testified to this fact.


Sixth Sighting

This was the infamous “Poison Kiss Sighting.” Tom Belting, a middle-aged man with a history of telling only plausible lies, saw Jacket Carrier, arms laden with wrapped packages, stoop to kiss a blooming marigold, which immediately wilted, withered, and collapsed. Tom said the most amazing aspect of this sighting was that Jacket Carrier did not drop his packages when he stooped to kiss the flower, but most people agree that the deadly power of Jacket Carrier’s kiss was a more amazing aspect of the sighting. After this sighting, some people who had wanted to kiss Jacket Carrier changed their minds.


Seventh Sighting

A person who wished to remain anonymous, but who was later discovered to be Rhonda Travino, spotted Jacket Carrier crossing the street parallel to the crosswalk. She attempted to follow him to see where he was going, to see what kind of destination would draw one such as Jacket Carrier, and she may have succeeded, too, if not for the fact that she was terrible at following people and soon lost him. She speculated that, based on the direction she had last seen him heading, Jacket Carrier’s destination may have been a house, store, public building, or other such place.


Eighth Sighting

A college student home visiting his parents saw Jacket Carrier, who was again carrying a bag, speaking to a man who was carrying a jacket on the corner of Waterfowl Avenue and Pippin Street. The man carrying the jacket was never identified, but it is assumed that Jacket Carrier was interested in speaking to the man because of the thing the man had chosen to carry, that being the aforementioned jacket. Others then attempted to lure Jacket Carrier into interactions by carrying jackets through the streets of Multioak and Dalcette, but to no avail. It was never a viable strategy.


Ninth Sighting

A man who had cried so hard that he passed out in his car awoke to find Jacket Carrier looking in at him through the driver’s-side window. Jacket Carrier’s eyes were as deep as holes bored into the Earth through which men hoped to pump oil, his parted lips were like opposite rims of a canyon, his teeth were unremarkable, his chin seemed hewn from soft wood, his nose seemed hewn from soft stone, each nostril a separate work of art, his forehead was a blank canvas across which a masterpiece would never be painted, his ears were borderline childlike.


Tenth Sighting

Two girls playing hooky from their fifth-grade class saw Jacket Carrier crossing a strip-mall parking lot. He seemed to notice the girls, and they were stricken with the sudden worry that he would rat them out to their parents, but after a week passed and neither girl got in trouble, they concluded that Jacket Carrier was not a snitch. They further concluded that Jacket Carrier actively approved of children skipping school, and they explained all of this to their friends, who then spread the word to all their friends, and thus Jacket Carrier became the local patron saint of truancy.


Eleventh Sighting

Three women saw Jacket Carrier ride a mountain bike into an alley in Dalcette. Their accounts of his bike-riding proficiency were not flattering. “Wobbly,” said one. “Unsteady,” said another. “Worrisome to behold,” said the third. Their assumptions about his character were less consistent. “Villainous,” said one. “Harmless,” said another. “He means well,” said the third. “But many of the rungs on the ladder descending to Hell are made out of good – even great – intentions.” But they were again of one mind on the subject of whether he was wearing a backpack when they saw him. They all said he was.


Twelfth Sighting

A construction worker backing out of his driveway almost ran over Jacket Carrier, spotting him in his rearview mirror at the last second. The idea that he had almost become the man who killed Jacket Carrier haunted the construction worker for months. Why had Jacket Carrier not noticed the truck, the engine of which was very loud? Had he been preoccupied by thoughts of going on a date with an attractive woman? The construction worker wished he knew. He also wished he had honked his horn better and more promptly rather than issuing a stuttering beep ten seconds too late.


Thirteenth Sighting

There was a vivid rainbow. All the people of Multioak came out of their houses to look at it. Jacket Carrier, as it turned out, was not immune to the pleasures of seeing a vivid rainbow, and a woman named Missy saw him rest one arm atop her mailbox and look up. He gazed upon the vivid rainbow for several minutes, and then moved on, at which point Missy realized she’d spent more time watching Jacket Carrier watch the rainbow than watching the rainbow itself, and now it was significantly less vivid. Missy vowed to never sight Jacket Carrier again.


Fourteenth Sighting

Two days after vowing to never sight Jacket Carrier again, Missy sighted him again, which made her the only known person to sight Jacket Carrier more than once. In this instance, Jacket Carrier was carrying a box down the sidewalk, and as soon as Missy saw him, she averted her eyes, but it was too late, a sighting is a sighting, even if it’s a brief sighting, and her vow had been broken, and if that vow could be so easily broken, what other vows could she break? She divorced her husband and went back to sending strangers threatening letters.


Fifteenth Sighting

A man avoiding going home because he didn’t want to reveal to his family that he’d lost his job and very much deserved it brooded on a bench outside the Multioak Public Library. Sitting with his head in his hands and pondering the sidewalk’s countless imperfections and his own countless imperfections, the man heard footsteps approaching and thought that perhaps these were the footsteps of that Jacket Carrier person he’d heard people talking about, and the closer the footsteps came, the more convinced the man became, and then he looked up and there was Jacket Carrier breezing right on past.


Sixteenth Sighting

Jacket Carrier was carrying a bag again. This was the third time he’d been sighted carrying a bag – the fourth if one counted the backpack worn in the Eleventh Sighting. But at this point, he had only been sighted carrying a jacket once. So people were starting to wonder if Jacket Carrier was more of a Bag Carrier, if that title suited him better. But then a boy, young and impetuous, confident beyond his years, the same boy who had sighted Jacket Carrier on this occasion, settled the issue with a pointed question: “What if there’s jackets in the bags?”


Seventeenth Sighting

And then, as if to disperse all doubts, as if he knew, Jacket Carrier carried a jacket again, one final time. It was Missy alone who saw Jacket Carrier carrying the jacket in both hands as he cut through her back yard at 2:30 in the morning. Missy was awake and staring out her patio door in a daze because her vow-breaking frenzy had ruined her life. On the occasion of this, her third sighting of Jacket Carrier, Missy renewed her vow to never sight him again, and this time it stuck, although her life improved in only marginal ways.


Eighteenth Sighting

With his title no longer up for debate, Jacket Carrier was sighted resting on the beach at Lake Wellwash, solitary on the sand as snow flurried and the lake stiffened. An old woman noticed him there, thought he looked cold, and hurried home to make him a thermos full of coffee, but this was an hour-long process, and by the time she returned to the beach, Jacket Carrier was gone. The woman had the frightening thought that perhaps the Rapture had happened and only Jacket Carrier had been taken, but no, there were his footprints leading out of the sand.


Nineteenth Sighting

Junior Briggs insisted that Jacket Carrier had been working out. Junior said that he had seen Jacket Carrier down by the fairgrounds, and that he looked ripped now. Pecs, traps, delts, biceps, triceps, abs, the works. Yes, Jacket Carrier had been wearing a shirt, but it was form-fitting as if chosen for the purpose of showing off his new physique, and boy did it, because Jacket Carrier looked chiseled, he looked cut, and not just toned, but bigger, noticeably bigger, not that Junior had ever seen Jacket Carrier before, but based on what other people said, yeah, definitely, definitely bigger.


Twentieth Sighting

Jacket Carrier was sighted in silhouette, backlit by a curious moon. A man pulled his car into the Brigolek Elementary School parking lot to devote his full attention to a phone conversation with his girlfriend when he saw Jacket Carrier’s figure perched atop a slide out on the playground. The man described the scene to his girlfriend, narrating Jacket Carrier’s stillness, attempting to read Jacket Carrier’s intentions in his posture. Would he slide down or climb down? If only his facial features were visible! Then Jacket Carrier slid down, and the man and his girlfriend’s spirits were buoyed for weeks.


Twenty-First Sighting

A girl walking to the Everyhour Convenience Store on her 12th birthday to blow a ten-dollar bill from her aunt on a small variety of chips not only saw Jacket Carrier, but touched him too. He was walking too slowly on the sidewalk in front of her, and she shouted, “Move!” and barged past him, shouldering him into a streetlight. On her way home with her bags of chips, the girl started to worry that Jacket Carrier was lying in wait for her, that he would pop up next to her and shove her into a streetlight, but he didn’t.


Twenty-Second Sighting

Dr. Jansie, a veterinarian, saw Jacket Carrier sitting in her clinic waiting room. He did not have an animal with him that Dr. Jansie could see, but patients sometimes carried small rodents or birds in their pockets even though Dr. Jansie warned against this practice. Dr. Jansie wanted to speak to Jacket Carrier, but first she went to blow her nose in the bathroom, and when she came out, Jacket Carrier had departed. Dr. Jansie was disappointed. She had hoped to find out what kind of animal guy Jacket Carrier was. Lizard guy? Cockatiel guy? Or tropical fish guy, maybe?


Twenty-Third Sighting

Because of this sighting, a teenage girl from Multioak came to believe that Jacket Carrier had a mother who never shut up. The girl was at The Clothes Heap Thrift Store with her mother looking for a Halloween costume, and her mother would not shut up, and the girl became so exasperated that she fled the store shrieking, and beneath her own shrieking she could hear her mother continuing to not shut up behind her, and as she burst through the door and out onto the sidewalk, there was Jacket Carrier, and he met the girl’s eyes with perfect understanding.


Twenty-Fourth Sighting

And so we come to the little-loved “Butterfingers Sighting.” Two friends sitting on a porch saw Jacket Carrier strolling down the tree-lined avenue carrying a short-handled shovel. The friends were enjoying their sighting, smiling, shooting each other meaningful glances, and drinking in the moment when Jacket Carrier, for no discernible reason, dropped the shovel. It hit the pavement with a jarring clatter. He bent to pick up the fallen shovel, but bobbled it and dropped it again. The friends were embarrassed for him, their faces reddened, and on their way into the house, they heard the shovel fall once more.


Twenty-Fifth Sighting

Four guys ranging from their late teens to their early 30s said that Jacket Carrier watched them play 21 at the basketball courts by the old elementary school in Dalcette for nearly 15 minutes. They said he stood at the north end of the courts facing the fence with his fingers curled through the links and seemed invested in the outcome of the game. One of the guys said that while Jacket Carrier was watching, he couldn’t miss, but once Jacket Carrier wandered away, he couldn’t hit anything. The other guys said, no, he shot badly all night, as usual.


Twenty-Sixth Sighting

An employee at Grand Beede’s Chicken in Multioak stepped out the back door for some fresh air and thought she saw Jacket Carrier on the other side of the parking lot. She was sure it was him, it had to be him. But then the headlights of a departing car illuminated him and the employee saw that he was not Jacket Carrier, but rather a man with an uncanny resemblance to Jacket Carrier. And then there was Jacket Carrier, walking right past the man the employee had mistaken for Jacket Carrier, and she saw that they did not look alike.


Twenty-Seventh Sighting

Tilly Cross received a steady stream of emails asking her what it had been like to accidentally bonk heads with Jacket Carrier when they both went for the same courthouse drinking fountain at the same time. For a while, she responded to these emails by explaining that it was hard for her to say because she had not realized it was Jacket Carrier she had bonked heads with until she later looked at the pictures her husband had taken of the incident as it happened. But then she stopped responding. And then she moved away from the Multioak area altogether.


Twenty-Eighth Sighting

This is the only sighting to have a song written about it. The bassist for Multioak prog-rock band Heaving Immensity saw Jacket Carrier poking a dead blue jay with a broken-off car-radio antenna and decided to write a song about it. The sighting could not have lasted more than ten seconds. The song was 13 minutes and 29 seconds long, but its title was “13:26.” Like many things about Heaving Immensity, it’s difficult to distinguish blunder from purposeful obtuseness. There are many who hope and pray that Jacket Carrier never heard the song, or at least not all of it.


Twenty-Ninth Sighting

When Mason Trishin’s wife saw Jacket Carrier sizing up a truck for sale on a neighbor’s lawn, Mason slipped into a deep pout. He had seen the Multioak Upright Lake Ape 112 times, yet it was his wife who got to see Jacket Carrier first? It seemed incorrect, as if Fate had made some sort of clerical error. He knew the pout appeared childish, but he was powerless to pull out of it, and he was powerless to explain to his wife how justified it was. His memories of his many Multioak Upright Lake Ape sightings did not console him.


Thirtieth Sighting

On a Sunday morning at New Pinnacle Church in Multioak, a 13-year-old girl ducked out of the service to use the bathroom. She took a circuitous route back to the sanctuary, exploring and snooping. While in an empty classroom sniffing dry-erase markers with their caps off, this girl saw Jacket Carrier walk past a window. The girl thought, well, if a well-respected figure like Jacket Carrier can wander around during church, then so can I, and she continued doing what she would have done anyway with the exact same amount of guilt she would have felt anyway, which was none.


Thirty-First Sighting

Jacket Carrier got sick. A nosey man followed the sounds of coughing and sneezing to a portable toilet in the driveway of a house undergoing extensive remodeling. He waited to see who would emerge, and was richly rewarded when none other than Jacket Carrier came stumbling out, his complexion ashen and waxy, his eyes dulled by the glaze of illness. The man offered Jacket Carrier a cough drop, but was waved off. Insulted, he muttered a wish for continued poor health at Jacket Carrier’s retreating back, but it’s worth noting that the man then prayed his wish wouldn’t come true.


Thirty-Second Sighting

This was the only Jacket Carrier sighting to occur through an authentic 18th-century spyglass. Jacket Carrier was carrying a towel this time, but other than that, it was mostly the spyglass which made this sighting stand out in any way. The towel didn’t capture many imaginations. And even the authentic 18th-century spyglass was soon upstaged. The man who sighted Jacket Carrier through the spyglass saved a kid from drowning a few years later, but some people did not like that he stripped off all of his clothes before jumping into the river. His name was James. Or Jim. Jim something.


Thirty-Third Sighting

A woman concerned with honesty once tested Jacket Carrier. She saw him chewing gum under a strip mall awning in Dalcette, just out front of the Better Suds Laundromat. The woman strolled past Jacket Carrier and dropped a 50-dollar bill at his feet as if by accident. As she continued toward her car, she listened for the sound of the way he cried “Ma’am!” She liked the variety of ways that honest men cried “Ma’am!” When she got home, filled with disappointment at Jacket Carrier’s silence, her husband found the money stuck to her back with a wad of gum.


Thirty-Fourth Sighting

A dog inside of a fenced-in yard sighted Jacket Carrier walking on the opposite side of the street and began to bark with peculiar viciousness. Ms. Callie Vaughn, the dog’s owner, could tell the dog wanted to kill Jacket Carrier. Callie had always judged her dog to be a good judge of character, but if it wanted to kill Jacket Carrier, to de-neck him with spike-like teeth, how good a judge of character could it be? And what did that say about her own ability to judge the character of dogs? She wished she had not named the dog “Evaluator.”


Thirty-Fifth Sighting

A customer saw Jacket Carrier in Forton’s Foods on a slow, rain-beaten day in mid-autumn. Water droplets clung to the hairs of Jacket Carrier’s head, so he couldn’t have been inside long. He pushed no cart, but instead, born carrier that he was, carried a basket, which was empty but for one item, difficult to identify. Overcome with curiosity, the customer pulled an authentic 17th-century spyglass from within his coat and aimed it at Jacket Carrier’s basket from the opposite end of the beverage aisle. The item was an unripe pear. Thus, the 18-century spyglass of Sighting 32 was upstaged.


Thirty-Sixth Sighting

A wedding on the lawn of the historic Brunette House in Multioak had already exceeded the guest’s expectations when the officiant, in the middle of announcing the bride and groom as husband and wife, interrupted himself to say, “Oh, hey, there goes Jacket Carrier.” And everyone craned their necks for a fleeting look at that rare man as he disappeared from view, a flash of elbow, a glimpse of heel. The couple took Jacket Carrier’s appearance at their wedding as a blessing, as if a dove had hovered over their unity candle or a swan had alighted on their DJ.


Thirty-Seventh Sighting

Who cut Jacket Carrier’s hair? There was not a barber in Multioak or Dalcette who would admit to it. True, he’d never been seen carrying hair clippers, but maybe Jacket Carrier cut his own hair, peering into a mirror, sighting himself every time he got a little shaggy. Then, on a chilly afternoon, he was sighted in a vacant lot engaging in a ritual to prevent hair growth. That’s what the lady who saw him said he was doing. She saw the striped barber pole, the barber cape, he had scissors in each hand. To some, this was an answer.


Thirty-Eighth Sighting

A sophomore member of the Multioak High School dance team, The Marionettettes, said that her mother, who had recently re-entered the dating pool after a difficult divorce, had gone out to dinner with Jacket Carrier. She said that Jacket Carrier drove a nice SUV, brought flowers, and returned her mother to the house two hours later, escorting her to the front door like a gentleman and driving into the night. She later admitted that what had actually happened was that her mother had sighted Jacket Carrier eating a hot dog from Pad’s Hot Hot Dogs, and he ate it daintily.


Thirty-Ninth Sighting

During The Diminutive Strangler’s strangling spree, some suggested Jacket Carrier should be the prime suspect. Who in the Multioak area had proven to be as elusive as Jacket Carrier? Only The Diminutive Strangler. Perhaps they were the same man! But Jacket Carrier was not short. Still, the police wanted to talk to him. Then a man claiming to be The Diminutive Strangler called in to The Paper’s Speak Out column to brag that he had sighted Jacket Carrier while strangling his latest victim. Not definitive evidence in Jacket Carrier’s favor, but it did turn out that he wasn’t the killer.


Fortieth Sighting

Imagine an elderly man selling sweet corn at a roadside stand just outside Dalcette. Imagine he’s sitting there with the humid day drooling all over him, and customers keep mentioning his sign says “sweat corn” instead of “sweet corn,” and imagine they’re telling him they aren’t pedants, but they think his business would improve if he fixed it because people wouldn’t be envisioning sweat-soaked corn. Then imagine that Jacket Carrier comes along and buys corn without mentioning the sign, imagine how refreshing that would be, like limeade on crushed ice. Fred Kramble didn’t have to imagine it; he lived it.


Forty-First Sighting

The scroll running across the bottom of the TV went from tornado watch to tornado warning, and then the sirens went off as rain fell from an enveloping layer of green clouds. The citizens of Multioak and Dalcette retreated to their basements or their neighbors’ basements. The power went out. A little girl sitting on her father’s lap, their similar faces candlelit, asked, “Does Jacket Carrier have a basement?” “No,” said her father. “But he has a network of secret tunnels. I saw him coming out of a dirt-covered trapdoor in a vacant lot just this morning. So he’s fine.”


Forty-Second Sighting

A school bus full of second-graders stuck at a red light on their way to the sewage treatment plant for a field trip saw Jacket Carrier studying a flyer stapled to a telephone pole. Jacket Carrier held a tolerant cat up to the picture of the missing cat on the flyer and looked back and forth between the two. The second-graders pounded on the bus windows and shouted, “That’s not the missing cat! That’s the wrong cat!” Even from a distance, it was obvious. The second-graders became frenzied, and they were ultimately too worked up to absorb any sewage information.


Forty-Third Sighting

A lonely man in his early 20s heard his doorbell ring. Answering the door, he found a bicycle on his porch. At the end of his front walk stood Jacket Carrier, motioning for the man to take the bike, to keep it and cherish it. The man nodded his gratitude to Jacket Carrier and wheeled the bike inside his house, noticing then that the tires were flat. He tried the horn affixed to the handlebars and it didn’t honk, it wheezed. A wrinkled bill reading, “Amount owed: 12 dollars” later came in the mail, but there was no return address.


Forty-Fourth Sighting

A woman out house-hunting in Multioak saw Jacket Carrier in a cul-de-sac pantomiming shooting baskets on a portable hoop. After a while, Jacket Carrier’s motions changed, and the woman realized that he was now pantomiming basketball errors: losing his dribble, repeatedly trying to tip in his own misses, lowering his shoulder and then throwing up his hands when whistled for an offensive foul. Then he began to pantomime not understanding the game at all: carrying the ball with both hands, strolling out of bounds behind the basket, naively handing the ball to opponents. Afraid of what would follow, she left.


Forty-Fifth Sighting

A huge man camping at Chippertwig Campground over Memorial Day weekend – this man was 6’8” and weighed 410 pounds – had stayed up by the fire while the rest of his family bedded down in the pop-up for the night. He was enjoying a beer and using his phone to record himself rapping his new favorite song when he heard the crunch of tires on gravel. There came Jacket Carrier in a golf cart. The ensuing exchange is the only recording of Jacket Carrier’s voice. “That cart’s a Jacket Carrier Carrier,” says the huge man. Jacket Carrier’s iconic response: “Shut up.”


Forty-Sixth Sighting

In the midst of record snowfall, a homeless Multioak woman seeking shelter from the elements sighted Jacket Carrier leaving a bag under a bridge straddling the Runoff River. He then disappeared on foot within the white-out. The woman hurried to examine the bag, certain that others would be interested to know what it held, maybe interested enough to pay for the knowledge. She looked inside the bag, then reclined with the bridge overhead, waiting for the storm’s end. No one else ever found out what was in the bag. She wanted millions. People liked Jacket Carrier, but not that much.


Forty-Seventh Sighting

Deep in the game preserve, a brother and sister, ages 9 and 11, used toy guns with orange-capped barrels to make-believe they were orphans fighting off strange, invading parents intent on adopting them. When they got home after three hours of this game, sweaty and dirty, their mom asked, “Did you shoot everyone who tried to adopt you today?” “Yes,” said the brother. “All but one.” “Who survived?” asked his mom. “Jacket Carrier,” said the sister. “He adopted us. We have to go back tomorrow to finish the paperwork.” They were not allowed to play in the game preserve anymore.


Forty-Eighth Sighting

Channel 2 in Multioak wanted to produce a baking competition show, and one of the higher-ups was fixated on getting Jacket Carrier as a judge. So Channel 2 repeatedly aired requests for Jacket Carrier to contact them. The on-air begging was so frequent that viewers started calling in to complain. The station settled for Hal Brigolek as their celebrity judge, which wasn’t a big get since he already hosted a show on Channel 2. But while filming the third episode, Jacket Carrier wandered onto the set before cameras were rolling and gave a sugar cookie a thumbs-up without tasting it.


Forty-Ninth Sighting

This sighting ended the longest gap between Jacket Carrier sightings since they had begun. People had begun to wonder if he had moved away or was now living among them in disguise. Some wondered if he had died. It was the first time they’d been forced to confront Jacket Carrier’s mortality, that he might not just carry on being occasionally sighted around the Multioak area forever. When August Mox sighted Jacket Carrier carrying a bag past the fire station on a clear fall afternoon, people were relieved, but not super relieved because August said Jacket Carrier’s hair had gone gray.


Fiftieth Sighting

A troublemaker known as “Buckles” because of his buckle-prone knees saw Jacket Carrier out in the country walking down a dirt road to a pond, barefoot and carrying a fishing pole and a live bait cooler. Most assumed that Buckles wasn’t telling the whole story, that he’d done something to make trouble for Jacket Carrier, but Buckles insisted he hadn’t. He later admitted he’d wanted to push Jacket Carrier into the pond, but couldn’t pull it off because his knees kept buckling. With better knees, Buckles likely would have been serving a life sentence long before he sighted Jacket Carrier.


Fifty-First Sighting

Something got into Evan’s trash cans. The padlock was sheared off, the chains were flung aside, and his very personal, very private trash was scattered all over his side yard. Worse, after he re-gathered the trash, much of it was unaccounted for. Evan started carrying the cleanly-cut padlock in his pocket so he could dangle it in the face of anyone who suggested the trash-ravaging culprit was an animal. A week later, Evan saw Jacket Carrier carrying an empty detergent bottle he said he recognized. His friends were not supportive. They said it could have been any empty detergent bottle.


Fifty-Second Sighting

A contingent of out-of-towners who had heard of Jacket Carrier because a guy in their group had a cousin who lived in Dalcette showed up in Multioak together in a van and declared that they were going to get Jacket Carrier to autograph their jackets. Everyone told them there was no way, but on the first day they went out cruising for Jacket Carrier, they sighted him watching a meter-maid ticket a car downtown from within a vacant storefront’s recessed entrance. They returned to The Multiple Oak Trees Inn where they were staying with all their jackets illegibly scribbled upon.


Fifty-Third Sighting

Everyone counts this sighting, but few want to talk about it. A woman said that Jacket Carrier called her to the big island in the middle of Glasseye Lake. She went at dusk via pedal boat, landing on the island’s eastern bank and following the trails westward until she discovered that a tall house stood where for decades there had been only a crumbling foundation. The woman looked through the window and saw Jacket Carrier inside. It wasn’t his home, but he was rearranging the homeowner’s hundreds of tacky knick-knacks. He looked so busy. Feeling enlightened, the woman pedal-boated home.


Fifty-Fourth Sighting

Karly Ponds was the youngest person to ever sight Jacket Carrier. She sighted him before she could speak, but remembered the sighting well enough to share it once her vocabulary developed. Her dad had been carrying her so she was looking backward over his shoulder, and she had seen a man who she came to understand was Jacket Carrier following them, and she had wanted to call out to him, but her baby tongue couldn’t do it, she could only grunt and whimper, and her father misinterpreted these sounds as expressions of a desire for him to feed her formula.


Fifty-Fifth Sighting

Some said the sightings were losing something. Some said they were gaining something. Perhaps these were two ways of noting the same phenomenon. A separation was occurring, a divergence. There had been a certain tonal consistency to the sightings for a long time, but less so now. Or had that consistency never been inherent to the facts of the sightings, but imposed by the sighters? Regardless, a Multioak High School science teacher saw Jacket Carrier remove his left hand with his right, blow on it, polish it on his shirt like an apple, and reattach it with no blood spilled.


Fifty-Sixth Sighting

A couple on a movie date saw Jacket Carrier slip into an awards-bait period piece in theater 5 as they were on their way into an unfunny comedy in theater 6. After the movie, as the couple stood in the lobby opening and closing their mouths to relieve the aches resulting from clenching their jaws for 2 hours straight, a man approached and asked if they had been able to hear the guy wailing in theater 5. The couple said they had not, but they wondered if the wailing guy been Jacket Carrier? “No,” said the guy. “It was me.”


Fifty-Seventh Sighting

Having heard the bizarre elements of a few recent Jacket Carrier sightings, a frightened young man thought of ways to avoid seeing him. He decided to train himself to be less observant. It could have worked, maybe, but his practiced obliviousness caused him to hit Jacket Carrier with his truck. This focused the young man’s attention on Jacket Carrier, and he witnessed what happened next with absolute clarity: Jacket Carrier’s body, instead of sprawling on the blacktop, glided away down the street and disappeared around a corner as if steered by a pilot. This sighting haunted the young man forever.


Fifty-Eighth Sighting

Jess erected a lemonade stand on her front lawn. Jacket Carrier came by and tripped on a crack in the sidewalk, jolting him out of stride, stopping him. Jess’s parents had been denouncing Jacket Carrier for years. They said he led people astray. They didn’t like his initials. They said their family did not find him interesting. So with Jacket Carrier paused in front of her, his facial features bubbling and running, his legs sinking to mid-shin in the sidewalk, his arms coiling around his torso like constricting serpents, Jess watched him with as little interest as she could manage.


Fifty-Ninth Sighting

The Death of Jacket Carrier. They saw him carrying a coat, bulky and unwieldy. It was a big coat, but he seemed unduly burdened by it, even for a man of his apparent age. Gone were his bold, effortless steps, replaced by those of a shambler. They saw him stagger and collapse. They were hesitant to check his breathing, his pulse; surely something weird would happen, they were being baited. On their way home from dinner, Jacket Carrier remained where they’d last seen him, the coat a lumpen shroud. They called 911 and an ambulance came to fetch the body.


Sixtieth Sighting

The city of Multioak paid for Jacket Carrier’s funeral at Thickery Funeral Home. It was open-casket, of course. Many people showed up to participate in this final sighting, most of them carrying jackets in tribute to the fallen man. Then one guy stuffed his jacket into the casket so Jacket Carrier could carry the jacket into the afterlife, and then everyone wanted to do that, people were circling back and the casket couldn’t accommodate all the jackets, and when Mr. Thickery tried to stop them by shouting, “He wasn’t Jackets Carrier, plural! Jacket! Singular!” he was swarmed and struck down.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever sighted someone carrying a jacket? Do you think it could have been…?

  • Do you think that if you were a resident of the Multioak area, you would have ever sighted Jacket Carrier? Does that feel like something that would happen to you?

  • If you found out that you were your town’s Jacket Carrier, the person whose every sighting was tracked and analyzed, would you take steps to ensure that those sightings became increasingly bizarre, then die?

  • Have you ever titled and defined someone based on your first experience with them, thereby forever condemning them to be known as something like “Wallet Forgetter” or “New Menu Item Noticer?” If so, what was their resulting title and perceived identity?

  • How much worse would this story have been if each of the sections were exactly 101 words long?