Once upon a time I wrote a response to an object prompt in a fiction workshop. This was the result.
He couldn’t be sure but he felt comfortable in the assumption that he was the most well traveled hat in the state, if not the country. At first it didn’t seem like his life would be anything special. Being given away as part of a bag of gifts at a movie premiere couldn’t herald anything good for a hat. Having a human purchase you for themselves was the only guarantee that you weren’t headed for the eternal blackness of a closet. They felt more invested in getting use out of you if they’d spent money. But gift hats? They were brief novelties worn once and then thrown into the nearest convenient corner to be forgotten.
His life in particular appeared to him to be especially cursed, as he was not re-gifted once but twice. First his original owner passed him off to his daughter and then she gave him to a school friend. He was beginning to worry he would not even see the inside of a closet but be immediately condemned into the trash. All he had wanted was one day out in the sunlight. Now it seemed like that would never happen.
How wrong he was! This new human thought very highly of him. He did not get thrown into any trash bins or closets. In the beginning he spent the majority of his time in her room sitting patiently among her belongings. It was worlds better than being stuck in the dark. He had caught a glimpse of a few stray baseball caps in her closet and he shuddered to think of himself among their ranks.
She took him for walks out in the open air and he even got to see real horses. This was a particular thrill for him given he was a cowboy hat. He thought it added quite a lot to his credibility, having been in the presence of actual horses. All this was more than he could have expected and he felt lucky indeed. Little did he know that the best was yet to come. His most exciting adventures would dwarf all these little blessings.
After two years of faithful service to his kind human, the rhythm of his life abruptly changed. He was taken into a car for much longer than usual. He stared out at the changing scenery. It had occurred to him that while he knew in an academic fashion that the world was much bigger than the sliver he’d been exposed to it was still a surprise to see it for himself. He was eventually placed in a different room where he and his human met many different people. She took him to meet new horses on a much bigger ranch than he was used to and there he began to feel truly useful. She wore him all over the ranch, proclaiming him necessary to keep the sun off her face. He proudly watched her groom the horses from his perch on her head. He didn’t even mind when he occasionally slipped off into the dirt. She always brushed him off and set him right back on her head.
However, that much time in the sun would not leave him unchanged. His earthy brown color faded on top and he took on an almost-greenish tinge. For a moment he worried that his change in color might make his human give him up. Silly in retrospect, given how little she cared about such a minor detail. If anything she appeared to him to be quite proud of the change. He realized it added still more credibility to his role as a cowboy hat. His owner rode horses, he had been around horses and he had been worn out to the ranch so many times the proof could be seen in his material. No novelty hat was he!
Change came again four years later. It still seemed remarkable to him that he could be in service for so long. It shocked him even more when his human took him on a plane. Later he would become jaded, complaining to himself about having to be set on his human’s knee where he would inevitably fall off and be crushed against the floor. At the time the experience of flight was so incredible he could dismiss any discomfort and marvel at it all. He gathered he was being taken to the other side of the country, which amazed him still more. Seeing so much of the world had not been a part of even his wildest dreams.
While all this change was very exciting, it did not occur to him that his life would be so very different. He assumed he would sit quietly in whatever new room his owner had and perhaps be worn about on weekends if she could find a place with horses to ride. For a few days it went just that way but then, out of the blue, his owner reached for him. She began to wear him everywhere, every day. He had no idea what was going on at first but then the answer presented itself. She was lonely. She didn’t know this new place and she didn’t know who she was in it. So she chose him, placed him on her head and forged an identity with him at the center. He felt honored beyond words. He had never expected such opportunities. Now he was part of wonderful classes that taught him so many new things. All that would have been enough for him but she did not merely cling to him on campus. They went every together. He saw Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, D.C., Santa Fe, and so many other places.
His owner made him feel like he was a real part of the world. He still worried, sometimes, about what all this wear would do to him. The curl of his brim was not the same as it used to be after living through so much rain and the tag on his insides was all but worn away. It made sense that there would be a price for all this living. Hats weren’t really made to share so much of a human’s life. The golden age of hats had passed long ago. Yet here he was, constantly employed and joyful. He supposed one day it would all come to an end. For now, he would stick to his human’s head and keep the sun from her eyes until his stitches no longer held him together. He could imagine no happier fate than that.