went to work the other day without my hat, and by the time I got home, it had grown to the size of the living room. Even though I have a small living room, this made for an extraordinarily large hat. The children chased each other around the brim, the two youngest sliding into the bowl, screeching with delight as they tried to get away from the oldest. He grabbed at them with hands that had grown large, and he threatened them playfully with his screechy voice. His thin, fuzzy moustache twitched. The brim bent and sagged with his step, and the feather in the band tickled my face with each bounce. I peaked up over the bottom, which was now the top, and said, “Be careful, now!”
They went on without listening or hearing, sliding into the bowl, climbing back out and chasing one another around the brim. I watched their game for a while; the oldest stayed on the brim, not letting them escape, pretending that they were in his dungeon and he the jailer. I said it again, “Be careful now; my head has to fit in there!” Although, I had no idea how I was going to get it back to my size.
When my wife came down from our bedroom, scarfed and dressed, to clean the house, she stood in the living room with her fists on her hips and said, “Would you please pick up your hat and put it away.”
I laughed. “Where should I put it?”
“How about the coat tree. That seems like a good place.”
I scooted around next to her to see the room from her angle, to see if she saw what I saw. Yes, the felt brushed the top of her head. I shrugged and opened the door to the hall. “Okay, kids, the game's over. Your Mom needs to clean in here.”
Soft, muffled protests came from the center. Hands pulled bodies up over the side. The oldest reached down and pulled the youngest up, and the three of them jumped down off the brim and scattered through the house.
I assessed the size of the doorway to the hall where the coat tree stood, when I noticed that the coat tree had grown through a hole in the ceiling, up through the second story, and out through the roof. Standing under the coats, which now hung long from the hooks to the floor, I looked up and watched the clouds pass over.
What a job, I thought. What a job. I pulled and folded the hat, flattened the bowl and broke the brim to get it into the hall by the front door. I dragged the extension ladder out of the basement and rattled it up the side of the house. My wife called out from the porch, “Careful now!” Paint chipped away from the brick and fell on my head. I nearly crashed the ladder through an upstairs window before I rested the top against the gutter. The coat tree speared the sky.
I wrestled the hat out the front door, and the wind caught the broken brim, flipping it and me off the porch. The feather broke free and wrapped itself around the corner of the neighbor's house. The children converged from the backyard and attached themselves to the feather, holding it above their heads. The wind picked them up a few inches off the ground, and the feather gently set them down a few feet away. They giggled and screeched, even the oldest with his wispy moustache, as the wind carried them around the yard.
I envied them their fun, hauling the hat up the ladder rung by rung. I turned it as I went up, guiding it like a pilot guides the flaps on a jet, trying to keep wind resistance to a minimum. Finally, on the roof, I split the coats apart to find the lowest hook and hung up the battered hat. Inside, my wife vacuumed the living room in her scarf and her work-around-the-house clothes and said above the roar of the vacuum, “There, that wasn't so hard, was it?”
I ignored her and walked through the house, looking for the children. I found them in the oldest's room. His body filled the space. His back pressed against the windows and his head scraped the ceiling, even sitting on the floor. The other two lay between his huge legs, their bodies wrapped in the feather. He stroked their tiny heads with the tip of his monstrous finger and whispered softly, “Be careful, now; be oh so careful.”
TJ Rivard has been published in the Kentucky Poetry Review, Eureka
Literary Magazine, and the Oxford Literary Magazine. He is a professor of
creative writing at Indiana University East.
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story copyright by author 2002 all rights reserved