HOLLYWOOD—On the outside Mr. Miller did his best to forget me and move on. After all, I was only a hat. Late at night, though, under the forlorn light of the streetlamps, Mr. Miller did a tour of Hollywood and taped posters, HAT LOST, on the corner of Cahuenga and Fountain, 2 p.m. Memorial Day. $$$ REWARD. His childishly drawn poster shared telephone poles with fliers for yard sales and missing pets. He would gaze the eyes of lost Chihuahuas and Yorkie Terriers and Siamese cats, and wonder what people saw in them. Now a hat was something you could wear, it could keep your thoughts company, and you didn’t have to feed it.
Time is a healer, they say, and Mr. Miller seemed to be getting over my loss as evidenced by a trip to the hat store. There were white hats and black hats, wide-brimmed Panama’s and snap-brim porkpies, jaunty berets and rakish Borsalinos. A dozen of them he tried on, each bestowing a new personality. Yet none would quite do; there wasn’t that chemistry he and I had. These specimens of the hatmaker’s art were sadly incapable of filling the void I had left in Mr. Miller. Dejected and stooped by an irrevocable sense of loss, he left the shop.
The days went by. The missing hat posters fell from the telephone poles and blew in the wind, Hollywood sagebrush. In his daydreams a greedy scoundrel phoned Mr. Miller and demanded ransom for my return. But that’s all it was—a fantasy. Moments after my loss, when Mr. Miller was plunged in dizzying despair, his daughter’s precocious words had been a slap in face. They now came back to mollify him. Your hat had a mission on earth, to teach you the impermanence of things, the transitoriness of life.
“I’m getting over this thing,” he told himself. “Why I haven’t thought of my missing Panama for more than thirty seconds now.”
It was almost a week since I had blown away, succumbed to the wicked wind of Cahuenga, which makes it the Bermuda Triangle of lost hats. Sunday was the Farmers Market on Ivar. Mr. Miller and little Miss Miller strolled up the thoroughfare till the stands started dotting the side of the street shut to traffic.
Mr. Miller fondled some tomatoes and eyed a purple cabbage. Peering above a mountain of Valencia oranges, he saw something that made his heart quicken, his pulse race. Both mortified and elated—he spied me. His missing Panama hat! Amid the flowing locks of sunlit hair, the tattooed necks, perforated ear lobes, and the hoi polloi of baseball caps, he saw me and swooned. Propped on the globe-shaped hear of a man in overalls leaned against a table of potatoes, chewing on a toothpick, the hat was the exact same dark ivory tone acquired by the smiles a four-pack-a-day smoker and its brim described an elegant orbit around the woven crown. Mr. Miller was about to poke the farmer in the ribs and tongue lash him for hat thievery when he discerned on the hat’s silver-tan band an archipelago of sweat stains. It wasn’t me, or if it was me, he couldn’t bear to see me blemished. He let out a whimpered cri de coeur.
Already the tail of his eye had caught another market patron with me pasted to the top of his sweaty forehead. This hat wearer was inconspicuous, but for a bass fiddle he hauled on his back. You would think the easiest thing in the world would be trailing a man who hauls a bass fiddle on his back, but you’d be wrong. Between the warren of market stalls hawking herbs and tie-dyed shirts and falafels and the mob of Sunday people the stocky man with the bass fiddle went in and out sight like a silver needled threading its way through sackcloth. The man with the bass was only glimpsed and very nearly lost half a dozen times.
To be continued. . .
Grady Miller may be contacted at email@example.com