Lost Chapters: Old Hat

Lost Chapters header

Extracts torn from forgotten books

Old Hat

by David Bussell

I sat alone in that silent, gloomy attic for so very long. Except for a solitary sliver of daylight that razored between the shingles and tracked past me from east to west, the only sense I had of the passage of time was the ever-increasing weight of dust that settled upon my back. Dust that wouldn’t have been stood for on Harold’s watch.

Harold wasn’t a rich man, but what he lacked in money he made up for in class. No matter the occasion, Harold always dressed the part. Even if it were only to take his newlywed, Brenda, for a night out to the Dalston picture house, Harold would fix his hair with a light touch of pomade, polish the tips of his brogues to a warm glow, and carefully brush the lid of his hat to keep it immaculate. I should know, I was that hat. Harold’s prize fedora.

I was Harold’s trademark, a gift from his late father, worn with pride. In the rare times I wasn’t sat atop his head I could be found hanging from an iron hook in his porch, near enough to the front door that he could grab me on his way out of the house, but not so close that the sunlight from its oval window would bleach my fabric and spoil my look. Spoil our look.

But like I say, that was a long time ago. Back then the house was lit by gaslight – that’s how many years have gone by since I was last worn. Since the world went to war and I was put out to pasture. Since Harold left to serve his country and put on a different kind of hat.

For years I hung from my hook, waiting for Harold to walk back through the door with the oval window, but he never did. Eventually a time came when Brenda, who’d gone from being Harold’s newlywed to his widow, plucked me from my hook, carried me upstairs and shut me away where the sight of me couldn’t upset her anymore.

The dust on my back had grown thick by the time I saw the next face. It belonged to a young man, Harold’s age but not Harold. He was dressed in the style I was accustomed to, a wide swing necktie matched to a single-breasted waistcoat. He wore a waxed moustache with his hair trimmed to a short back and sides, and when he lowered me onto his head I was pleased to catch a familiar note of Brylcreem.

But when he brought me down from the attic I found myself in a fresh new world. A world lit not by gaslight but by electric. A world of plastics and microchips and glowing rectangles – glowing rectangles that my new owner watched through the matching rectangle lenses of his designer glasses. This was a world where everything flashed by at speed, except for the people, who propped and sat and slouched all day.

My new owner, I was to discover, was what was known as a “hipster.” His attire wasn’t tailored, rather it was assembled from second hand shops and worn ironically with the express intention of proving that he was different. This, I learned, was his sole contribution to the world. The man who sat beneath my brim was not a man at all but a sloppy reconstruction of one, and I was his unwitting accomplice.

The world outdoors was, for the most part, a hat-free place – at least outside of my owner’s clique; an insufferable set of clownishly dressed twits jockeying to show society which of them cared less. They had no jobs, yet could somehow afford to spend the working week doing little else than discussing music and drinking expensive coffee. They had no manners, keeping their hats on no matter the occasion or company. They had no class.

One day my owner’s aimless meandering led him to a vintage market where he took a fancy to a selection of war medals. More antiquities, shut in the dark for decades no doubt, relics like myself. He plucked a gold star from its case, paid the stall’s proprietor and fixed it to his blazer, grinning like a split watermelon. I was so angry. He hadn’t the slightest idea what that star meant. Hadn’t done a thing to earn it, same as the Navy tattoos on his arms. Hadn’t been shot at in the mud and the blood. It was just a shiny thing to pin to his lapel. And Harold was dead.

I breathed in. Breathed in then exhaled. Exhaled all of the hate. All of the disgust and the loathing I had for this feckless generation. And I shrank. Shrank until the idiot beneath me screamed and screamed then screamed no more. Until his flesh oozed from between the weave of my fabric like icing from a baker’s decorating bag. And only after the horrified crowd gathered around, picking their way across a hundred yards of flesh ribbon, did I cough up the tight pellet of crushed up bone that was his stupid skull.

*****

You can read 98 more of David’s short stories in his book, Bad Endings, available HERE.


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