Hymie the Tailor’s Clothes Hanger

hymieThe clothes hanger at the front of this picture is not any old clothes hanger. It comes from Hymie the Tailor’s shop in 48 Lower Marsh, London, S.E. 1.

You can just about make out the slanting word Hymie on the little plastic plaque.

An identical clothes hanger, bequeathed to Jay Halprin by his great uncle, played a role in helping Jay, the protagonist in my novel Out of Such Darkness, connect with his family history:

Jay takes the jacket down and, with all the exaggerated stealth of a cartoon burglar, leaves the bedroom and tip-toes across the landing to the bathroom. He closes the door, flicks on the light switch and squats on the toilet.

He removes the jacket from its clothes hanger and absent-mindedly drapes it over the side of the bath. Now he’s holding the clothes hanger by its metal hook and he caresses its shoulder as if it’s an artefact plundered from a museum. He imagines Great-Uncle Hymie himself describing it.

‘Look at the hook in your left hand, Jacob. See the gauge of that steel wire? It’s over-engineering, but such quality. This hook is never going to straighten out. No matter if it’s carrying an extra-outsize, double-lined astrakhan coat with mink collar. And the bobble on the end, Jacob. That’s it. Pass your thumb across it. Even a mistress’s tender skin would not take a scratch from such smooth.’

Jay runs his palm down the flank of the arm. ‘Slick as a rabbi’s blessing, Jacob. Only a dense-grain wood could take such sanding. No suit lining, not even my finest silk, could pick a snag from such a finish. Notice how I have designed an angle to the arms. This way the jacket drapes just perfect. A customer could only be impressed with a jacket on such a clothes hanger.’

Tears cascade from Jay’s chin onto his shorts as he hugs the hanger to his chest. The chamber echoes with his low moan. Great-Uncle Hymie’s voice fades, ‘Thank you for keeping my clothes hanger, Jacob. A blessing upon you for this.’

The faux-ivory plate pinned across the join where the two angled arms come together captures Jay’s attention. There’s an old-style telephone number, Waterloo 5561, and then the word ‘Hymie’ in slanted, black script across the centre. To the right of this in red are the words, ‘The Tailor’ and an address, like the telephone number in smaller, black font, ‘48 Lower Marsh, London, S.E. 1’. Jay traces the indented characters with his fingertip.

Great-Uncle Hymie’s clothes hanger will never again be the silly joke of a dying old man. Jay places it reverently on the windowsill. He will find a proper place for it in the morning.

An extract from Out of Such Darkness (Patrician Press 2015).

 

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Robert Ronsson

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11 2016

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