The Hat by Karen Jones

Ian acquired a hat in the hope of acquiring a personality. He stood in front of the mirror, posing the hat with different outfits. Would he need an entirely new wardrobe now that he had a hat, a life? Should his colours be bolder, his cut designer, his price tags pleasingly just beyond his means?

Or maybe this hat could breathe its fabulous fashioned felt into even his saddest beige, polyester, over-washed piece of attire. Should he stop ironing creases in his trousers? Accept that car coat had seen its day -- that its day was March 15th 1973 and it was no longer -- in’?

He pushed the hat to a jaunty angle and became mischievous; his upward glance playful, beckoning. He tilted the brim forward, watched a shadow cover his over-sized nose and magically sculpt it into something more streamlined. He pushed it back, exposing his ears. He shuddered and jiggled it back to jaunty. Jaunty -- that was who he had become. Definitely jaunty.

He searched through his wardrobe for something worthy of the hat, but nothing worked. He found his suit. The hat looked uncertain, perched on his head as though it wanted to throw itself onto the bed and weep at its mismatching. The suit joined the pile of rejects on the bed.

The poor light in the basement apartment made his appraisal more difficult. The low ceilings felt oppressive above the hat; it needed more space. He had to go out. But what to wear?

Leaning further into the cupboard, reaching into the darkest corner where only spiders and memories survived, his hands touched leather. That one time, that one week when he was young, before she rejected him, left him shamed in front of the whole class, that one week before he chose to be the geek forever, that week he had worn leather.

Could this be the match for the hat? He had lived with so few excesses Gandhi would probably have told him to get a life, so he knew it would still fit his incongruously youthful frame. The leather felt heavy, he had to straighten his shoulders to take the weight. He felt taller. He threw the hat up, caught it on his head, let it fall where it felt right.

Ian turned and faced the mirror. A stranger peered back. A handsome, confident, mysterious man. The man found his keys, strode out the door and took the stairs to the street two at a time. A blue sky, higher and wider than any he had ever seen, spread above the hat. The man set the hat to its perfect jaunty angle and let it lead him to his fate.


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