A Man Dropped His Hat

by Jim Farrar (1987)

A man dropped his hat. It wasn't an expensive hat, but it wasn't a cheap hat, either. It was a tan fedora that his wife had bought for him in Los Angeles while they were on their honeymoon some thirteen years before. It could've been worn to the most formal of occasions, though that certainly wasn't the case in this instance.

Though hats were now out of fashion, he still wore it on occasion. Nowadays, he wore it mainly because it covered his bald spot when he went out in public, though his bald spot was now plainly visible for all to see because his hat was not on his head.

The man was at a baseball game, a professional baseball game. He had his hat on his lap, so, you can see, he was also a considerate man, since he was thoughtful enough to take his hat off and put it on his lap, so the people sitting behind him would not have to crane their necks to see the game.

The reason he dropped his hat was because the third baseman for the home team had hit a home run. Everybody in the stadium had heard the crack of the bat hitting the ball and then lost sight of it in the sun, which was just starting to set behind the left field fence.

They knew it was a home run because the player who'd hit it was trotting around the bases as the pitcher shook his head in disgust.

As the player reached first base, everybody in the park stood up and applauded and whistled and cheered, including the man who dropped his hat.

The man had forgotten about his hat, and, as he stood up, the hat fell noiselessly off the side of his right leg and into the aisle, where it was stepped on by a boy selling hot dogs with spicy mustard. The boy didn't see the hat as he stepped on it. As the man sat down, the boy continued walking up the stairs.

Other people who were going up and down the stairs didn't see the hat either. Some of them trampled on it without even looking down, thinking it was just a soft drink cup or an empty candy wrapper.

One man, however, did see the hat, but only because he tripped on one of the stairs and spilled his Diet-Coke on it. By this time the hat was so flat and dirty it looked as though it had been lying there for weeks. The man with the Diet-Coke just grunted to himself and kicked the hat down the stairs, where it landed on a mezzanine walkway, near one of the exits.

The man who dropped his hat didn't notice it was missing, however, until the game was over and he got up to leave. He looked around the bleachers in front of him, and then behind him, but saw nothing.

"Where is my hat?" he said aloud. "Surely I brought it into the ballpark with me, for I remember it being on my head as I sat down."

By this time, he was alone in the stands, so no one heard his question. The man continued to check the seats around him, but still he could find nothing.

He was almost ready to scream now. "My only hat, and now I've lost it!"

He started down the stairs. As he neared the exit he saw the crumpled hat lying on the ground near the exit gate. His eyes started to burn and fill with tears.

His wife, you see, had told him she was divorcing him that morning. She was tired, she said, of his detachment, his lack of involvement in their marriage.

When she told him, it had rendered him speechless. He was too dumbfounded to be angry. He just turned around, walked out the door, and got into his car and drove to the ballpark.

He'd always loved baseball and whenever he had a problem that was weighing heavily on his mind he went to a game. He'd almost forgotten about his wife until he saw the hat lying on the ground, trampled and dirty and useless. He bent over and picked it up and tried to form it back into its proper shape, but it was no use. He walked out to his car, threw his battered and filthy hat onto the seat next to him, and pulled out onto the road.

Thinking about the hat made him think about the day his wife had given him the hat. This, in turn, made him think about the thirteen relatively happy years that had followed. What had he done to deserve her scorn? Every question he should have asked then, the anger he should've felt when she'd told him, came out now, while he was alone in his car after spending the afternoon at the ballpark.

He looked over at his hat. She'd never liked it; she'd only bought it because he'd wanted it so badly.

And he did like it. He'd look for excuses to wear it. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that losing his nice felt fedora bothered him more than losing his wife. He cursed to himself and reached across the seat for the hat.

The police assumed he'd been distracted. It was the only explanation. Maybe a bee had gotten into the cab, or maybe he'd been trying to get something out of the glove box. At any rate, judging from the absence of skid marks, he'd obviously been distracted, because he hadn't even applied his brakes before he'd broadsided the truck that had pulled out in front of him.

How could they have known what he was throwing out the window? Nobody even saw the mangled hat that was lying in the gravel off to the side of the road, about ten yards behind the scene of the accident.

It never occurred to anyone that such a terrible thing could happen because a man dropped his hat.

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