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The Hat
by R. I. Miller



The hat was a gift from an old friend, not fancy in any way but it was a soft but firm grey wool knit, pleasing and so caressing, I complimented it often.

I could pull it down and cover my ears with it, real warmth. I told it how much I love it. At first I felt a warm glow from it, a real attraction.

But as time went on I felt it shift to something like indifference. In fact I got the distinct impression that it did not want to be near me. It would lose itself. Now and then it would turn up in the wrong place. A place I was sure I did not put it.

The first time was in the back seat of my car, well, yes I could have tossed it back there. The next time it was under a couple of old baseball caps that I no longer wore, much to their annoyance. Initially I thought the caps were taking it out on the beautiful grey wool hat because I had neglected them. The first eye-opening moment occurred when I found my wool hat at the bottom of the laundry basket underneath underwear and smelly t-shirts. Never would I put that hat in the laundry basket.

Even so, as with many things I gave these events the benefit of the doubt. I had of late been a little more than forgetful, so perhaps...

The situation got worse, on more than one occasion it was nowhere to be found for a day or two, ultimately to be found under a couch, or behind a bookcase, another time it was actually in the trash can. How could that possibly be?

I thought I had been getting on well with it. Maybe it felt overwhelmed. Have I done something wrong I asked? Its attitude seemed to imply complete indifference almost hostility.

Then one night a real jolt. I decided to see a movie I’d heard about. I drove and parked my car about two blocks from the theatre. It was cold and I wore my hat pulled down over my ears, it kept me as warm as ever, but I thought I heard something, some angry mumbling. Did it come from a nearby couple? I pulled my hat up, the mumbling went away, then I pulled it back down over my ears, the mumbling returned louder. All I could make out were sharp angry sounds that seemed to be accusatory. The theater was just a few feet away and there was a short queue. I foolishly passed the mumbling off as a conversion I happened to overhear.  I took off my hat in the theater lobby and almost simultaneously I came across an old acquaintance who was seeing the same movie as I, we found seats together. After the film we continued to catch up on news and decided to stop at nearby café.

It had been a very pleasant evening. But when I got home I realized that I’d left my hat somewhere; so engrossed in the film and the conversation with my friend that I lost track of when I last had it.

I immediately searched my car, under the back seat, under the front seat, in the far end, nothing. I went to the convenience store that I’d stopped at on the way back home to get a container of milk. It wasn’t there. I returned to the movie theater. I parked exactly where I had parked earlier in the evening. I retraced my steps to the theater I saw nothing on the sidewalk, the theater was closed so I walked to the café, it was just about to close, but they had not found a hat, only an old scarf.

I even searched my apartment thinking that somehow I hadn’t actually taken my hat with me to the movie theater however improbable that was. Of course, my hat wasn’t there.

The next day I returned to the theater after work. “Do you have a lost and found?”

“Of course.”

I described my loss, apparently people leave an amazing number of things at movie theaters. After a minute or two, the clerk pulled out a grey hat. It looked like my hat. I took it, but even as I took it something felt wrong. I put it on my head quickly so as not to lose it again. It did not feel right. I took the hat off and looked inside, the inside label seemed wrong. Could that be? I looked again, the label seemed to be missing some information, but I couldn’t pin point what that might be. I put the hat on again. No, this was certainly not my hat. I turned around and went back into the theater and asked if possibly they had found more than one grey hat. The clerk kindly searched box of “founds” as she put it.

“Nope, nothing.”

“Are you sure?”

“If that hat is not yours, just leave it with us.”

Shock, surprise, misgivings, “No, no, it looks like my hat, but it’s just…thanks.”

Ever since that hat has been lifeless. It is not as warm and it doesn’t cover my ears completely. I’m certain it is not my hat, not the one I had when I went into that movie theater. I’m sure my hat went off with someone who was at the movie theater that same night and this bland cold imitation was left behind.

This hat causes no trouble, no mischief, and I always find it where I left it. But sadly, it has no spirit.

I could not bear to wear the false gray hat, so a week ago I started to wear the baseball hats, a different one each day. But the baseball hats snickered and laughed when I put one or the other of them on. “There’s justice after all!” I thought I heard one of them say.

I cannot stand the smug comments the baseball hats continue to make. I’d sooner die than listen to them anymore. Today I went out and bought a hoodie. “That’s not even a hat,” they said on my return. Let them sneer all they want. They’ll pay for it. I’m sure it was their nasty remarks that drove my wool hat away. Oh, yes, they’ll pay.




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