THE ELEVENTH HAT

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This was Jensen’s tenth hat in as many weeks. The first, a cranberry felt Fedora lasted only a few days, before being replaced by a grey knit Beanie. He’d learnt a new word that time … Beanie and it had looked as inane as he’d imagined, even after he’d cut off the wobbly black bobble. His two ears refused to be tethered beneath its soft surface. Like two aircraft landing light beacons his ears poked out from beneath every imaginable hat.

Jensen had high hopes for the dark blue navy trilby with a feather tucked into its suave red band. His expectations were of course in vain. The tweed flat cap was anything but fashionable on his pathetic head. It rested neatly on the top, “a perfect fit”, the shop-keeper declared. What he did not say, did not need to mention were the ears, coming up and over the cap, stroking its sides. Nothing would hide these atrocities. 

“Buggerlugs!” they’d yelled at him at school. All those years ago. He’d tried to laugh along … at first. He’d even tried to take the daily abuse as a joke but failed as the non-stop flicking of his ears dragged on relentlessly for three long years. Every month his grotesque ears seemed to sprout further from his head. The fourth year offered respite as a new and younger pupil started school, a new ‘Buggerlugs’ for his tormentors to feed off. 

Jensen thought it was all over these last thirty years, that the school days were filed away in a remote recess in his brain, never to be accessed again. Until the luncheon at The Ivy eleven weeks ago. With his usual Moss Bros striped shirt and his long grey trousers he’d walked proudly into the coveted restaurant. The bar at the centre gleamed and glistened, the stained glass windows lent a mystical reverential aura to the meeting with his agent. Relaxed they’d chatted away until he spotted Slater. Two years his senior at school, an expert at delivering taunts and injury, Slater now sat at the next table. Jensen continued to sip his whisky, taking in the grown man that had been his persecutor. Dapper in a navy striped suit, Slater’s hands swung back and forth as his procrastinated with vigour and brashness. Slowly sinking into his chair, drink clutched tightly in both hands, Jensen hoped Slater would not spot him. No such luck, as with a curt nod, his adversary mouthed a greeting. Surely it couldn’t be! He couldn’t have said it! “Buggerlugs!”

Eleven weeks since the fateful meeting and the eleventh hat. Jameson whisky had become Jensen’s best friend and his head was reduced to a fug of memories. With shaking hands he reached for his most recent acquisition. So many had been discarded in disgust as they proved mediocre for their main purpose – to hide his blasted ears! A baseball cap was quickly disregarded, the beautiful cream coloured Panama hat had been sent flying across the room. The straw hat held such promise of summer days on the canal, however once in place it not only accentuated his ears but his shiny forehead too. 


This last purchase was perfect, Jensen was sure of it!  The tweed deer-stalker, as worn by the infamous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, had adjustable earflaps … no need for his ears to be visible in public ever again! It was the only answer he felt, apart from taping down the abominations on the side of his head. He’d tried that once when young but the beggars refused to be tamed and flamboyantly sprung up and out for inspection. 

“Sir looks fine in this,” insisted the shop-keeper.

Jensen checked in the mirror again. What a lying…

“Jensen? It’s you, isn’t it?”

Slater, shifting warily from one foot to the next, stopped in front of Jensen. Slater was no longer so dapper, his shirt partially out his trousers, his hands clenched nervously. 

“I never forget what we did to you. I tried to tell you there, at The Ivy, when you rushed out. So Sorry! For Sorry! I deeply regret our, my behaviour…”

Jensen smiled, then waved imperiously as if swatting away an annoying bug. With a small push and shove with his shoulder against Slater, Jensen walked to the shop counter. With a ‘harrumph’ he sent his latest hat flying onto the wooden surface, calling out at the same time to the shop-keeper.

“I’ll no longer need this one. Nor the others. I’ll return them promptly and expect an immediate refund. No more hats for me!”

©Annika Perry, March 2018

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This story was written in response to my writing group’s monthly ‘homework’ – the word ‘ears’ was an impromtu suggestion and immediately the basis for this piece of work formed in my mind.

82 thoughts on “THE ELEVENTH HAT

    • Annika Perry says:

      😀😀 haha! Not sure I’ll release another short story collection again … or if so in a long time from now!! So glad you liked it Julie, many thanks for reading and commenting!

  1. Anonymous says:

    As someone with “Jug Ears” when I was young this piece certainly struck a chord with me and brought back memories of being “flicked” on a regular basis at school. I tried all sorts of remedies to get my ears to stay closer to my head (including sellotape and sleeping on each side of my head on alternate nights). None worked of course. Then I was advised by my grandfather to look on the bright side – my hat would never fall over my eyes, I would never have a problem wearing glasses, and by running with the wind behind me I would be able to run faster. I never looked back (well I daren’t really).

    A lovely short story of overcoming adversity Annika, and I was also impressed by all the hats you could name.

    Thanks for evoking the memory of my grandfather too.
    Mike

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mike, I am so happy that my story brought back warm memories of your grandfather and thank you for sharing a bit of his sayings and about your own ear experiences. Until reading this at my writing group I hadn’t realised how common this type of bullying was … sad to learn. Hopefully not so much nowadays! So glad you liked the different hats … it was fun to do a bit of online research and I’ll definitely look at hats with more consideration in the future! 😀

  2. Miss Gentileschi says:

    What a delightful read, Annika! You know how much I crave for new stories written by you, don´t you? 🙂 This one was excellent! I´m a huge fan of headwear and have couple of nice wide brimmed hats myself that always make me feel a bit like Audrey Hepburn when I combine it with a black dress and huge sunglasses! 😀 Luckily my ears lie flat on 😉 I´m so glad Jensen got rid of his self-loathing! It´s always such a relief when a character in a story finds a way out of a horrible situation! Hope you get more homework from your writing group soon! 😉 Hugs&Love! xxx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Sarah, I love the sound of your Aubrey Hepburn style hats … she always looked amazing! And yes, you definitely have to match the hats with the dresses and sunglasses! Oh, I’m so happy you liked the story and again it was one of those where I did not know the ending until I was writing it! I was equally happy and suprised for Jensen! 😀 We get homework every month and the new one had ideas flowing straight away! Thank you for your lovely comment and wonderful to know how much you enjoy my short stories! Hugs xxxx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Robbie,I did think this could easily have been longer and examine the motivation for all the bullying, Slater and his life after school, as well a Jensen! So glad you enjoyed it! 😀

  3. Jacqui Murray says:

    Nothing but surprises in that story, Annika. I had no idea where you were going–kudos! Above all else, it is how you connect words that is beautiful–“procrastinated with vigour and brashness”. The images that brought to mind.

    As for hats, I’ve spent lots of time thinking I should be a hat person and really have only one I think looks good. Love the topic.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Some stories you want the reader to guess where it is going but not in this one – I’m glad it surprised! Oh, I think we’ve all known people with that brashness of Slater and I like how that characteristic is in reality a front!

      Jacqui, I enjoyed your musings about you and hats – I only have winter caps or summer hats. They’re one item of clothing that either looks really good or not at all – there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground!

      Wishing you a great weekend!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Brigid – I did want to show how the effects of long-term bullying can stay with a person for decades, hopefully Jensen is freed from his inner torment after the encounter with Slater! You’re right how name-calling used to be part and parcel of school life but not so much nowadays, or so my son said when we discussed it.

  4. balroop2013 says:

    Jensen’s sensitivity has been portrayed brilliantly Annika but what took my heart away is the apology of Slater. Often bullies don’t get down from the pedestal of arrogance they perch on and even if they do, they dismiss such incidents out of their mind without any serious thought. I am glad your story emits a positive vibe, as always, offering hope and light. Thank you for sharing so many values through your story. Stay blessed and have a wonderful weekend ahead.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Balroop, thank you so much for your wonderful and in-depth comment – it is touching how you see all the levels of the story and its undercurrent of issues. I wonder in the end how much Slater suffered from unresolved guilt and remorse for all those years – effectively two very damaged lives. I’m glad you liked the light and hope at the end … luckily it wrote itself that way! Wishing you a peaceful and relaxing weekend too. hugs xxxx

  5. Baydreamer says:

    What a delightful story, Annika, and one where bullying loses in the end and the victim stands proudly. I also join the others in loving “Buggerlugs” and having never heard it before. 🙂
    You did such a great job with this prompt, but I’m not surprised. Hugs ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Lauren! 😀 I must admit I was a bit worried it wasn’t up to my usual standard but then I followed my own rule and put it aside for a few days and then read it aloud. Phew…I was pleased with it then! I loved the way Jensen could stand proud and up to the bully – and I even feel a bit sorry for Slater and what I imagine is a lifetime of remorse.

      Yeah…Buggerlugs is actually a term of endearment I read later, just not used so in this story. It’s a great word to say aloud and glad you like it. Wishing you a restful and enjoyable weekend! hugs 😀❤️🌸

  6. Davy D says:

    Buggerlugs, a phrase I haven’t heard for a long time Annika, not since Junior school. It was a phrase used by some teachers to describe wayward pupils. Loved the story and bullies always get their comeuppance over time.

    • Annika Perry says:

      I must admit it’s only a word I’ve heard since moving down to the South East and it seems to have been used more many years ago – although learnt through comments here that it is still in common usage in Scotland! Reading this to my writing group I was shocked by the abuse ears endured before – from dinner ladies, teachers and fellow pupils. Oh yes, I like to imagine Slater has been a tortured soul for a long time before he met up with Jensen again.

  7. restlessjo says:

    I was right there, trying on hats with him, Annika. So glad he didn’t have to go through life wearing a Deer stalker. It can cramp your style. 🙂 🙂 I bet the lecture went brilliantly today.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Yes, the deer-stalker really doesn’t do much style-wise … I’m getting tempted to try a Panama hat for summer though! Thank you, the talk went brilliantly and fantastic to see some of the students’ work and have a chat about their writing! I’m inspired! 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Mae and so glad you like the ending -one of those that came to me as I was writing! 😀 I very much appreciate your comments about my writing … thank you. Wishing you a lovely day! 🌺

    • Annika Perry says:

      Bless you, Teagan – that means a lot to me and particularly today as I’m soon off to give me ‘inspiring author’ talk at the school. Butterflies in my tummy but also excited – I needed a boost just now – thank you so much! 😀 Glad you like hats – I’m more of a handbag person!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jena, you have me chuckling here!! 😀 I will definitely not take offence at ‘Buggerlugs’ and just love your comment about my writing – thank you so much! Cheering is exactly the reaction I was hoping for at the end of the story!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Exactly!! Without that apology Jensen was crippled and I felt beyond hope – bullying is insidious and I agree, the effects can be long-lasting, as I wanted to show here. Many thanks for your comment, Carrie and wishing you a great day. 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Bernadette…it was an enjoyable piece to write and as usual the ending came to me in the process! 😀 (BTW your Friday post is still with me … particularly on this Woman’s Day.) Have a lovely day too. xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Jill!! 😀 I wanted the reader to feel for him as well as seeing his ultimate strength when he left the bullying behind – albeit 30 years later! Hope you’re having a good day. xxx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Staci, I’ve heard the word a few times and I think it’s meant as a jokey form of endearment; obviously it’s anything but that in this story! 😀 It’s a great word though, I agree and fun to say out loud!

  8. Miriam says:

    Annika your short pieces are always brought to life so vividly. Another wonderful example of writing here. Happy International Womens Day my friend. Enjoy. xo

  9. delphini510 says:

    Annika, your story about the cruel and insistent bullying / abuse that taunted Jensens’s school days are brought to life so strongly by your words. I have always wondered how this can continue to go on in our schools and of course later in life too.
    Why do people follow these leaders. Weakness? So much there to explore.

    I do love that Jenson meets Slater whilst having luncheon with his agent in this famed establishment. That he after goes into the shop and throws his Deerstalker on the counter. ” I do no longer need this.”
    Finally overcoming Slater’s power over him.
    Excellent ! 😉💕🦋
    Miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Miriam, thank you so much for you lovely and thoughtful comment and reflections! There is something insidious and long-lasting with this kind of bullying and one always wonders what happens afterwards … I was happy to show this and his final discovery of freedom and release from the torment that has plagued Jensen all his life! One wonders I feel if Slater ever feels such peace. Alas, there are always followers, yes, weakness perhaps, for these kind of people. Thank you so much for reading and sharing opinion here. 😀

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