The Hat

“’A five-gallon bucket with numerous holes drilled in it can also be used to keep crabs alive.’ That’s what it says in the book Ray gave me yesterday, Blue Crabs, by Peter Meyer. What on earth would possess him to give me a book like that? We live in Denver, for heaven’s sake, not a fresh crab in sight for a couple of thousand miles. I mean, what was he thinking? I guess it’s just one of those throwback moments to his childhood in Mississippi. Going crabbing with his granddad was one of his favorite things to do as a kid, get him out of that house for a couple of days here and there, and away from that awful daddy of his.”

“Do you think it’s getting worse, Emma?”

“I don’t know, Janice, I don’t know. Most of the time he’s just like his old self. You know Ray. He’s quiet, he’s gentle, he’s generous, and he looks after me in ways I still don’t understand, even after 36 years of marriage. Suddenly one day, out of nowhere, he gives me a book about blue crabs as a present. Of all things, and for no reason at all. Then on the other hand he still doesn’t know how to wipe off a countertop after he finishes cooking or to move the furniture back into place after he runs the vacuum cleaner. But he’s always been like that, it isn’t because he’s getting older or maybe even… goodness. I don’t even want to say it.”

“Listen, Emma, maybe there are some tests. I don’t even mean like taking him to a doctor…”

“Oh, gosh, I can’t possibly do that. He wouldn’t hear of it. I know that for sure.”

“Well, but I’m not saying to take him to a doctor. I’m just saying maybe you could do a bit of research to find out if there are some things you could do at home. You know, innocuous but still meaningful questions you could ask him or little tests you could do that he wouldn’t even know were tests, but would still give you some indication whether he … well, if he … you know what I’m saying.”

“Yes. Yes, maybe. That could be a good idea. I don’t know. Maybe I should ask Heather what she thinks…”

“Why? Has she said something?”

“Oh, you know Heather. She’s the most detail-oriented person I’ve ever known, that’s for certain. She notices everything. I mean, nothing gets by that girl. Maybe it’s because she’s a scientist, I don’t know. She’s asked me some pretty uncomfortable questions the last few months, I’ll say that.”

“About Ray? Or about other things?”

“Oh, about me, mostly. She’s seen my hand shaking – no, no, that’s not right. She said that my head was shaking. That was it, my head. I ask you, Janice, is my head shaking?”

“No, not that I can see. I mean, not usually.”

“I didn’t think so. And I’ll admit I got a bit testy with Heather. But she dotes on Ray, you know that, and I think maybe she doesn’t notice things about him just because of that. I mean, ever since he got her out of that wreck…”

“What? Emma! That was, what? Twenty years ago?”

“I know! But, I’m telling you, before the accident Heather and her daddy were always at sixes and sevens, but after how he pried her out of the wreck before the car blew up, after that he could simply do no wrong. It’s true! Even when she made that loan so Ray could invest in Darren’s tech start-up and then it went belly-up and Ray couldn’t pay her back, she never said one negative word to him. And you know how she is about technology! Always going on about the latest, best thing! She had to be disappointed about that!”

“That’s not a good example, though, Emma, Darren’s her brother! It would’ve been Darren that Heather was mad at, not Ray.”

“I suppose so. I never understood how come she resented him so much, he was such a cute little boy and he always looked up to his big sister. I was pretty surprised when she agreed to loan Ray that money since she was always poo-pooing Darren’s big ideas. Either way, I’m just saying that I don’t know whether or not I should ask Heather for help with this question about her dad’s… oh…”


“Yes, I suppose so. His faculties. Oh, Janice, I can’t bear to think…”

“Emma, don’t you worry. Now, take a deep breath. Think about that gorgeous hat he gave you for Valentine’s Day. What a stunner! And what man would be so imaginative to pick out something like that for a woman he was married to for 36 years? Huh? I ask you!”

“Janice. The hat. You are being so kind and supportive, as you always have been, ever since we were kids. You always know how to perk me up, dear Janice. But, Janice. You know I don’t wear hats. Never in nearly four decades have I worn a hat, unless you count those silly sun hats I used to wear back when we had the convertible, which never stayed on my head anyway. All that wind. My goodness. I mean, I agree with you about his imagination, and you’re right – – the hat is beautiful. Sitting up there on the closet shelf in the box it came in. But, Janice. I don’t wear hats.

And I’m allergic to crab.”

Cover photo by Luz Mendoza on Unsplash

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  1. brilliant dialogue – flows so beautifully, tells us so much about the characters/people, and is wonderfully natural. Brava!

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