by Jack Bristow
George Schmidt had been a number of things: a plumber, a machinist, a teacher, a zoologist, a groundskeeper, a haberdasher, a hairstylist, a craftsmen, a corporal in the Vietnam war, a pianist, a metrosexual, a doctor, a philosopher, a gubernatorial candidate in the state of Delaware, a Santa Clause impersonator over at the Valley View Mall, a rabbi, a comedian, a truck driver, a talent show announcer, an Elvis Presley impersonator, a freethinker, and a The Price Is Right contestant — during the Bob Barker years.
There was, of course, one thing George Schmidt had never been: A radical, right-wing christian fundamentalist.
And so Mr. Schmidt, determined to find out how to become one, pecked his wife Ruth on the cheek — Ruth made a living by making Native American-style pottery at home and selling it on E-bay — and exited the house and dutifully hopped on his bicycle, in search for the nearest library. By God, he would be a radical, right-wing Christian fundamentalist soon enough. But first, he would have to study up on the subject.
And study George Schmidt did. After six weeks of intense, grueling study, George viewed himself as the greatest and most well-versed radical right-wing christian fundamentalist in all of Kingston Valley — hell, maybe even the greatest right-wing christian fundamentalist on God’s green earth. He decided it was time to make changes, certain drastic alterations, to his lifestyle. He now would only have sexual intercourse with Ruth solely as a means of procreation. “Sex is not supposed to be pleasurable,” he told Ruth one day, wagging his forefinger at her. “Nor is it supposed to be enjoyable.” And when they would make love, George would very slowly, very tactfully of course, place a Vons’ paper grocery store bag suavely over Ruth’s head, lest he get any impure thoughts about his wife.
Soon enough, George started to immediately toss out any literature in his house that contradicted his new-found radical right-wing christian conservative beliefs. “We can’t have this book anymore,” George announced to a pleading Ruth, as he tossed The Tropic of Cancer into the wastebasket. “That book condones sexual intercourse as actually being enjoyable.” George yanked another book off the shelf. This one was a really, really bad, really really radical book, he informed Ruth. “But why?” Ruth responded, holding George by the arm, urging him not to dispose of one of her favorite books — she had done a thesis on this one in college. “Because Tolstoy was a radical left-wing creep, that’s why,” George calmly explained. “And a socialist. He gave all his money to the poor.” George slammed War and Peace into the wastebasket.
Fifty books discarded later, there were only two remaining on the bookshelf: The World Almanac 1964, and an unauthorized biography of John Wayne.
George slapped his hands together, looking extremely smug and satisfied with himself and his actions. “We have finally rid ourselves of all that liberal mind-controlling propaganda, Ruth. Hey now, come on: Don’t give me that look. I know what’s best for us in the long haul.” Ruth didn’t say anything, she just gave George one of her sad gazes. “Come on,” George took Ruth by the hand. “Now let us retire to our bedroom and procreate. The world needs to thrive with more of us radical, right-wing fundamentalists.”
When George wasn’t standing in front of abortion clinics and handing people — men, women, and even children — pro-life pamphlets with pictures of aborted fetuses on them, he was re-stocking their book shelves with literature and nonfiction books more conducive to their beliefs. “These books are written by true Americans,” George told a slightly skeptical Ruth, as she was molding her pottery at the kitchen table. And indeed, the men who had written these books were true heroes to George: Bill O’Reilly. Rush Limbaugh. Michael Savage. The hell with those old freethinkers like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr. By God, these new men told you what to believe, and you had better listen to them. Or else you are unpatriotic, and maybe even a socialist too.
At the dinner table, George would discuss the books with Ruth enthusiastically.
“You know what I really like about these books,” George would said, picking at his peas slowly with the fork.
“What, dear?” Ruth would say.
“They tell us exactly how we should think. We don’t have to think at all.”
The cuckoo clock clucked suddenly in the background.
George’s house had been modified significantly ever since his conversion to radical right-wing Christian fundamentalism some three months earlier. His entire record collection was burned outside with a showy display involving gasoline, and some matchsticks. The only record that remained was Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever.”
“This is good, wholesome music, conducive to a radical right wing lifestyle.”
“I still can’t believe you torched my Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band albums,” Ruth replied.
George looked at his Mitt Romney wristwatch. “Darn. It’s seven-thirty already. You know that that means, Ruth. It’s time for us to procreate.”
Ruth appeared uneasy. “Say, George. Maybe we could should just pass on…procreating tonight, huh?”
George was dumbfounded. Procreation was, of course, extremely conducive to the Christian Conservative lifestyle they both were both now living, the doctrine they were adhering to.
“Why don’t you want to procreate, honey?” George said, his voice overwrought with emotion.
“Because I don’t even feel like your wife. It’s not even fun to have sex anymore. It is like I am an object of yours. A trophy of sorts. You know what I’m talking about? This past year sex between both of us has been so impersonal. I just feel like a piece of meat, I guess is what I’m saying.” Ruth sighed.
“Oh, sweetie,” George said. He placed his hand over Ruth’s shoulder placatingly. “I love you more than anything in this world. Without you, my life would be desolate and obsolete. You are my sunshine. You are the one love of my life. You are the only woman I’d ever want to procreate with on earth because I love you.”
Ruth’s mood brightened considerably. “You really mean all that, George?”
“Of course I do, sweetie,” George assured his wife, massaging her shoulders tenderly. And then he gave her a good slap on the rump. “Now shake a leg and and go get us that Vons’ bag. The O’Reilly Factor is on in fifteen minutes. “Chop-chop!”
Ruth rolled her eyes, and made her way for the kitchen drawer, where all the Vons grocery store bags had been neatly and methodically stashed the week before.
“The Tell-Tale Hat”
by Nathan Poling
When I was around thirteen, my friend Rob told me that he collected hats, but by collected he meant he stole them, usually from public places where old men had left them with their coats, back when old men still commonly wore hats. A couple of times I went with him. Although thievery did not come naturally to me, as it appeared to for Rob, I was highly suggestible, and since Rob was older and cooler than me, he influenced me greatly for about a year during which I joined him in some pranks and petty thefts that would have been, had we ever gotten caught, incredibly shameful to me and deleterious to my idea of myself as basically moral and would have come as a shock to my parents who, because my sister was sort of a trouble maker and had actually gotten caught in a few small instances of criminal behavior, relied on me to be the good kid to maintain their own self-image as essentially competent and successful parents.
Our modus operandi was this: we would go to place where old people gathered, a community center, or, at least once, our own church, and scope out the coat rack. The old men would usually put their hats on top of the coat rack, and we would nonchalantly check out the ones that looked particularly cool or unusual, walking back and forth like we were waiting for or looking for someone. When I say we wanted a hat that looked cool, I don’t mean to suggest that we would ever actually wear one. No one our age wore hats, nor did anyone our fathers’ age, which is why we had to go to places where old men gathered to have any hope of finding a good one. We preferred tweed flat caps, but we might take a particularly stylish fedora in a pinch. We would wait until the old people were busy doing whatever it is they were doing, usually playing bridge or bingo, and we would simply reach up and grab two or three hats that caught our fancy and walk out. It was not a very complex system, admittedly, but the stakes were not high and the risks were low.
The time we stole hats from the parishioners of our church was even simpler. We sat in the last pew during the service, as was common and traditional among the youth of our church, where we could whisper and write notes to each other on the weekly bulletin without disturbing too much the people who were presumably there for spiritual edification. During the final hymn, Rob and I snuck out the back and went quickly down to the church basement, where the top of the coat rack was packed with choice headwear. As we could still hear singing coming from the sanctuary, we got to take a little more time than usual to make our choices, and so I found a very sharp light blue denim cap that had a slightly longer bill and higher crown that the tweed caps I usually took. We took our hats out the back door and hid them in some bushes, then went around to the front door of the church where we mingled with the congregants who were exiting the service.
We were still socializing with the rest of the youth group, when, about ten or fifteen minutes later, Abraham Klein, one of the church deacons, approached me and Rob.
“You boys haven’t seen my hat, have you?”
“I don’t thinks so. What does it look like?” asked Rob.
“Just a regular cap, blue color.”
“Haven’t seen it,” I said, “but I’ll keep my an eye out for it.”
Mr. Klein stood and looked at us for a minute, then walked away sullenly.
It hadn’t occurred to me that someone was actually going to miss that hat. I had an urge to go get it from its hiding place and put it back on the rack, but there were too many people around now and it would have looked highly suspicious, so I just told myself that Mr. Klein probably had ten hats just like it and resolved that this would be my last act of millinery larceny.
Rob and I went to fetch the hats that night. I hid mine deep in my walk-in closet underneath an old quilt that my grandmother made for me when I was young but was considered too precious to actually use. There the hat stayed until I went away to college and my parents moved, and I did not look at it again until during my senior year of college when, while I was home for Christmas break, my mother handed it to me.
“I think this hat is yours, sweetie. We found it in your closet back at the old house, although I don’t recall you ever wearing it. Where did it come from?”
I recognized it immediately and felt a sharp jab of guilt in my abdomen. I took it from her and examined it.
“I don’t remember,” I lied. “Oh yeah . . . My friend, Larry, might have given it to me.”
“‘Who’s Larry? You didn’t have any friends named Larry.”
“Sure I did. Your remember: LARRY.”
“If you say so. Well, it’s a nice hat. You should wear it. It will be good for the cold.”
“I think I will,” I said. I put it on and looked at myself in the decorative mirror that hung above the table where we kept our telephone. It looked ridiculous. I already have a somewhat large head, and the hat made it appear even larger and gave my face the contour of a tubby triangle.
“I like it,” said my mother. “It makes you look very mature.”
“Good. I’ll keep it.”
I decided I would wear the hat while I was at home for break, then chuck it when I returned to my college.
When I returned to my dorm room after break was over, I took off the hat and went to throw it in the closet. While it was still in the air I heard someone say, “Please don’t.”
I looked around me, but no one was there.
“Is someone in here?” I asked, expecting one of my friends to jump up behind me in some lame attempt to scare me.
“In here,” I heard someone say from inside my closet.
I stepped into the closest and looked around, then looked down at the hat I’d just thrown on the floor.
“Yes, I’m the one talking,” I heard, although I could not see anyone speaking.
I reached down and picked up the hat and looked at it closely. The bill of the hat, I noticed for the first time, actually split into two parts. Some sort of hidden compartment? I wondered, and went to put my fingers into the space. The bottom part of the bill moved slightly and I heard: “Watch your hands, buddy. I don’t know you that well yet.”
I froze and stared at the hat.
“Sorry,” I said. I held the hat up and looked into the space between the two bills for some sort of hidden speaker, but saw only the same denim fabric that covered the rest of the hat. I looked behind the bill into the crown itself, again looking for some sort of electronic gadget that would explain the human speech emanating from this pile of fabric. My good friend Aaron was an engineering major, and I imagined it would be relatively easy for him to MacGyver such a contraption for a laugh.
“Nothing up my sleeves,” said the hat.
“Why are you talking?” I said, sotto voce.
“For the sole purpose of communicating my thoughts,” said the hat.
“But you’re just a hat.”
“How much do you actually know about hats?”
I felt a tightness in my chest, which made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. I looked around my dorm room again, scanning the walls and furniture for some sort of sign, although I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I looked back at the hat.
“I don’t know much,” I said. “But I know you can’t talk.” At that, I threw the hat back on the floor of the closet, grabbed a large dictionary from my bookcase and dropped it flat on the bill of the hat. I heard what sounded like a dog earnestly whining for attention, but I shut the door to my closet, put on my earphones, and turned the volume up on my iPhone until all I could hear was the incoherent mumbling and screaming of Kurt Cobain.
The prestigious private college I attended had a January term in which you could take short seminars designed to focus on more specialized and unique subjects than the regular curriculum could accommodate. The administration encouraged students to use the Jan Term, as it was called, to explore topics that were outside their major, thus providing some intellectual breadth that students might otherwise be lacking. I was signed up to take “Swimming as Sculpture: Synchronization and its Discontents,” a course that was cross-listed between the PE and the Art History Departments, but I had injured my shoulder in a minor hazing incident at the end of the previous semester, and needed to find something less physically challenging.
At the registrar’s office, I looked over the list of Jan Term courses that still had open spaces. I was tempted by “A Brief History of Grime: The Physics of House Cleaning,” but it required a graphing calculator, and I really didn’t want to bother with math at this point in my college career. There was also “Porno for Phyllo: The History of Erotic Baking,” but I knew that my ex-girlfriend was already signed up for that, which would have made taking it awkward and dangerously arousing.
As I looked down the list, I noticed a class I hadn’t seen before called simply The Depiction of Hats in Modern Fiction and Film.
“Huh,” I muttered.
I realized that, in spite of the time I spent pilfering them in my early adolescence, I knew very little about hats. Perhaps they held secrets of which I was unaware, secrets that were only revealed to those about to enter adulthood. Perhaps there were hidden forces in the world with which I was not familiar, forces that I should explore in a three-week college intensive.
After registering for the class, I returned to my dorm room, eager to reexamine the hat that had earlier tried to engage me in conversation. I went into my closet, pushed aside the large dictionary, and picked the hat up off the floor.
“You know that actually hurt,” said the hat, which appeared to have a wrinkle near the front of its crown that had not been there before.
“I apologize, but I wasn’t prepared to hear you speak.”
“But you’re ready for it now?”
“Not really. But I’m going to try to keep an open mind.”
I held the hat in front of me, supporting it at eye level with my arms stretched out and my thumbs underneath it like I was holding a pair of binoculars.
“What should I call you?” I asked.
“My previous owner, Mr. Klein, called me Blue”
“So are you male or female, Blue?”
“That distinction doesn’t really apply. I guess I’m unisex.”
“And how, if I may ask, did you learn how to speak?”
“Well, Mr. Klein used to always speak to me. He wore me almost everywhere, and since he was an extremely talkative fellow, I guess I just picked it up.”
Blue and I spoke for the next several hours. I learned that he was born in a factory in Mexico, but his earliest memories are of a Carson, Pirie, Scott in Oak Park, Illinois. He thought of the man who purchased him there, Mr. Klein, as a father. Once Mr. Klein realized that Blue could speak, he took it upon himself to educate Blue, reading him long passages from the Bible, and watching the evening news with him every night, which usually led to long discussions about politics and history.
“I feel terrible,” I said. “I didn’t know when I took you, I was stealing a child. And then I just kept you in a closet for all those years.”
“You couldn’t have known,” said Blue.
“How can I make it up to you?” I asked.
“No need,” said Blue. “But if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love it if you would wear me. Show me around; I’d love to be out in the world again. I know I have a lot to catch up on.”
And so Blue and I both attended The Depiction of Hats in Modern Fiction and Film that Jan Term, which ended up changing both of our lives in profound ways. Blue, I think, came to see that he, like famous hats that came before him, could have more than a passing impact on the world around him.
“What would the Cat be without his Hat?” Blue asked me one day after class. “Nothing, really. Just another Cat. One could argue that his anarchic, rebellious joie de vivre had its inception in the leaning, multi-colored headpiece with which he chose, at some point very early in his babysitting career, to express himself. “
“I think you’re onto something there,” I agreed.
“And I also think it’s quite possible, though Arthur Conan Doyle never says it directly, that Sherlock Holmes’s powers of deduction could have derived in some ways from a dialogic union with his unique headgear, the Sherlock hat itself having bills facing both front and back, perhaps signifying an ability to see two directions at the same time, contributing, if you ask me, to his uncanny insights. In fact, I think it is highly probable that Holmes’s hat had the same capacity for speech that I have.”
“I don’t see any textual evidence for that,” I had to disagree.
“Perhaps not. But neither do we have any really good explanation for what makes Holmes so much smarter than everyone else, which definitely points to Holmes having access to a secondary, less conventional perspective that allowed him to make certain imaginative leaps of which his colleagues are incapable.”
While Blue was impressed with the important, albeit overlooked contributions that hats had made to literature, I found my own attention steered toward the darker aspects of the historical relationship between hats and people. Our professor had told us about la Semaine Sanglante in Paris during the week of May 21, 1871, in which Adolphe Thiers ordered not only the summary execution of members of the Paris Commune, but also began a systematic massacre of the Phrygian Caps that had been worn by left-leaning citizens since the time of the Revolution. Not only did the wearing of the Phrygian Cap become a punishable offence, but thousands of them were confiscated, stored for a brief period within the Bastille, then publicly disassembled.
Our professor, Dr. Krzjkl, pointed out to us that far from being an isolated event, the Phrygian massacre represented just one instance out of a long history of humanity’s wholesale eradication of “undesirable” head coverings, from the obliteration of the Pileus in religious rituals of Ancient Greece, to the spontaneous, drug-induced conflagration of skullcaps at a recent Coachella music festival. Having only just become aware of the capacity that certain hats had not only for speech, but for complex and passionate intellectual reasoning, I was horrified to learn of humanity’s callousness in advocating for and precipitating their annihilation.
Blue and I, our consciousnesses raised by the Jan Term course we were both attending, spent many hours discussing the special, but often troubled relationship between hats and humans. Blue was confident that humans would eventually come to recognize themselves in their hats, that hats, by offering to be a kind of mirror, could help humans evolve into people who were worthy of the hats they had manufactured. I was more skeptical, believing that humans would always be capable of cruelty and that their greatest cruelty tended to be elicited by the very things they loved enough to create.
At the end of class on the last day of Jan Term, I approached Professor Krzjkl to let him know how much I gotten from his class. Before I could say anything, however, Dr. Krzjkl, looking at Blue, said, “That’s quite a nice specimen, there. It’s always gratifying to see students who are committed to the subject matter enough to make it part of their lives.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I’ve never been a hat guy, but, thanks in large part to you, I will definitely keep wearing this one.”
“Can I see it?” he asked, holding out his hand.
I hesitated, but it would have been uncomfortable to say no, so I handed it to him.
He turned it over, and looked closely at the tag sewn inside the back of the crown.
“Hmm,” he said. “It’s an unusual brand. I’ve never seen it before. Where’d you get it.”
“Uh, I found it, behind my church, when I was a kid.”
“Huh. Let me ask you something. Would it be alright if I kept it overnight?
“Uh, I guess. Why?”
“Well, you know, they’re sort of my passion and, since this is one I’ve never seen before, I’d like to examine it more closely, maybe look at the fabric under a microscope, take some pictures to send to some of my colleagues, see if I can determine its provenance.”
I hesitated, uncertain how Blue would feel about it.
“I promise I won’t hurt it,” Dr. Krzjkl chuckled.
I inhaled. “I guess that would be alright.”
“You can come by my office in the morning to pick it up. By the way, great work in the class. You should maybe think about continuing your studies in this field. UC Santa Barbara has a world class program in Millinery Studies. I’m friends with most of the faculty, so I can put a good word in for you if you’re interested.”
“OK. That would be great.”
I left the classroom and went back to my dorm, anxious and a bit lonely.
When I got Blue back the next day, he looked fine. I asked him how things had gone with Dr. Krzjkl.
“It was interesting,” he said.
“You didn’t talk to him did you?”
“What do you mean, not exactly? You either did or you didn’t”
“We communicated in other ways.”
I was confused. What “other ways” could Blue communicate with a human?
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, I guess, the nice way of saying it is, he made love to me.”
“What the hell are you talking about? You’re a hat. That is physically impossible.”
“Not completely. I do have a mouth.”
“Ewwww. That’s fucking disgusting.”
“It was actually quite nice.”
“What a sick fucking bastard! Dr. Krzjkl violated my hat?”
“Wait a second. I wanted him to. I practically invited him to. And what’s this with my hat?”
“Well, you are.”
“NO! THAT’S WHERE YOU’RE WRONG. I AM MY OWN HAT.”
“Fine. You’re your own hat! But don’t you see that you’ve been used. Dr. Krzjkl doesn’t care about you. He didn’t even talk to you. Just saw a good-looking hat and decided he wanted to fuck it.
“Don’t cheapen it.”
“How can I possible cheapen it, when it’s already the most disgusting, tawdry thing I’ve ever heard?”
“You think you know everything, don’t you? But as much as we’ve talked, you don’t really know me. You don’t know what I want. You don’t know what makes me feel good. You take one class and you think you know everything about hats. But you don’t know anything. And you never will, because when it comes down to it, you don’t have the capacity. You’re no better than Adolphe Thiers. I’m done speaking to you.”
“Blue, come on, that’s not fair.”
Blue was silent.
“Blue, really. Let’s talk this out.”
Nothing. I looked at Blue, and he looked just like a regular hat. For a moment, I thought maybe I’d gone crazy. Here I was yelling at a hat, and it just sat there like it had never said a word.
“Fine, we’ll see how long you can keep this up.”
I threw Blue in my closet and slammed the door.
I ignored Blue for the next few days. I considered confronting Dr. Krzjkl but wasn’t sure how I’d broach the subject. I was, for obvious reasons, confused by what Blue had told me. Imagining myself to be a relative expert on the relationship between hats and people, I wanted to know how common it was that sexual congress between them occurred. I found several obscure websites that hinted at such relationships, but I wanted more solid evidence. Finally, on a discussion board called Millinaphilia I found a thread labeled “Lubing Headwear,” which, although the discussion itself was somewhat vague in terms of why anyone would feel the need for such lubrication, one user included a link to www.meandmyhat.com, where various anonymous people posted pictures that seemed to indicate that Blue’s encounter with Dr. Krzjkl was a much more widespread occurrence that I could have imagined. Most of the pictures were of men engaged in a variety of unspeakable acts with their hats, although there were several “selfies” of women who also appeared to enjoy placing their hats in spots that were nowhere near their heads.
Needless to say, I was horrified. I had become inured to descriptions of mass violence perpetrated on hats throughout the centuries, but the flip-side of that kind of abuse seemed almost worse. Something had to be done to stop this sickening behavior, and since I was pretty sure I was one of very few people with both a direct and a scholarly understanding of the issue, I felt a profound obligation to educate others about this despicable behavior. After educating myself thoroughly about the subject, I wanted to talk to Blue more about it, but when I looked into my closet, he was gone.
So I began what has become, over these last two years, an international movement, which started with StandUpForHats.org and now includes the very popular Twitter feed @StopHatSex, which received a special commendation from the United Nations. I am proud that I have been able to bring the issue of hat sexual abuse of to the world’s attention, and although, if anything, this behavior has become more common, at least the civilized world has come together to denounce it and make it unacceptable among peoples who say they care about hats.
I have also participated in several police raids of so-called “hatters,” establishments which present themselves as hat stores, but whose customers come to “fitting parties” in the early morning hours that inevitably descend into debauchery.
Until very recently, I thought that Blue was unaware of my hatvocacy, as I’ve come to call it. For a while, I thought I saw him everywhere. I stopped strangers walking past me who were wearing blue denim caps and asked if I could see their hats. Most were kind enough to let me examine them, though none of them turned out to be Blue; a few people looked at me strangely and walked away, probably imagining that I was some sort of sicko who liked to pick up strange hats on the street.
A few days ago, as I was leaving the barber’s, I saw a blue cap hanging on a rack at the entrance. As usual, I looked at it more closely, then heard a whisper.
“It’s me, Blue. Let’s go for a walk.”
I looked around the barbershop. No one was paying any attention to me, so I quickly grabbed the cap and walked out.
“You’re still pretty good at that,” said Blue.
“Where have you been?” I asked. “How did you get out of my closet?”
“Let’s just say I did you’re roommate a favor, and so he helped me out.”
“Sorry I asked.”
“I guess now what we did would technically be considered a crime. Thanks to you.”
“You’ve heard about that.”
“Of course I have. I had a few months of fun after I left you, but my recent owners have been too afraid of getting caught to truly enjoy my abilities.”
“I’m glad. I don’t think that sort of behavior is healthy for anyone.”
“Healthy, huh? What do you know about healthy? You have a girlfriend?”
“Not currently, no. I’m too involved in my work right now to really have time.”
“So you just want to make sure no one else is having fun, either.”
“You know that’s not why I’m involved in this issue.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s not really about anyone else, is it? It’s just about you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not satisfied with just being smarter than everyone. You want to better than everyone, too.”
“I just want to do the right thing.”
“If that were true, you wouldn’t need a webpage and a Twitter feed. What you want is not to ‘Do the right thing,’ but to prove to everyone else that you, and only you, know what the right thing is. Morality for you isn’t about principles; it’s about a showcase.”
“Morality isn’t a private issue,” I said, “It’s gotta be something we all share; otherwise it’s meaningless. I know you choose to engage in that kind of behavior, but not every hat makes that choice for itself. Someone needs to stand up and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
“And you think you’re qualified to do that?”
“Look, I don’t claim to know everything. But at least I’ve studied the issue, so I guess, yes, I’m as qualified as anyone.”
“Bullshit. The only thing that makes you qualified to say anything is your own arrogance. Take me back to the Barber’s”
I walked Blue back to where I had found him. I didn’t know what else to say, but I still wanted to explain.
“I’m only trying to help, Blue. I know you don’t appreciate it, but there are others who do. I know you’re a hat, and I’m not, but you’re not the only hat.”
“But the law will treat us all the same. I guess that’s fair.”
“The law is meant to protect.”
“I didn’t ask for your protection. And I don’t want it. Now, go away!”
I opened the door to the Barber Shop. An older man who was on his way out saw Blue and started yelling.
“What are you doing with my hat?”
“Sorry, I took it by accident. It looked like mine, but then I realized I wasn’t wearing one today.”
“Yeah, right. Give it to me.”
I started to hand it to him but felt an urge to look at Blue one more time, and pulled it back.
“Why are you staring at my hat like that, young man?”
“I just want to look at it, ” I said.
The old man grabbed it, and yanked it out my hand.
“You better keep your eyes in your head, or I might have to notify the authorities.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m very sorry.” I backed out of the barber shop and started down the street. It was a sunny day, and nearly everyone I passed was wearing a hat.