a name (flash fiction)

It was just an email.

He was watching a video on YouTube, one suggested for him by the algorithm. It was something he would like, according to his usage. And he did. It was a pretty girl trying on hats while talking about a snowstorm in Canada and why she never learned the difference between term and whole life insurance and why she never would. Dumb stuff, but funny.  The girl wore a low top and made funny faces.
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He wondered who was there with her. Probably nobody. Just her and the laptop’s video camera. Yet, she could be awful funny in her room by herself with those hats, talking about what it’s like to be really hungry for green vegetables — especially green beans — with two feet of snow on the ground and no life insurance.

She probably had family there, in another room.  Maybe her mother.  She was young enough.  Maybe her children.  She was old enough.  YouTube must be her hobby.  She spends her days at work planning what funny stuff to do and then at night, she makes the videos.

Then it came, with a loud ding. He paused the video while she was changing hats and snapped to it and there it was.

It felt warm because the air in the room was cool and he breathed less of it now.

Nobody had ever called him a name like that before.

Lost my hat. Broke my glasses. Who cares?

I’ve been watching CNN a good bit since the earthquake in Haiti.

It’s been fascinating to watch the coverage evolve.  At first, there weren’t even pictures.  Anderson Cooper arrived on day 2, and now more and more reporters seem to be filing reports each day.

The despair, and loss of life, the destruction, is beyond words.  As depressing as it is, we need these pictures — even though they offer only glimpse of the tragedy.

It puts cable news in perspective.

CNN has hardly cut away from Haiti since it happened.  Fox News reports it, but they have little coverage on the ground.  And, they report it along with other news stories — mostly political controversies that are basically news events being fabricated on the fly.

I have little respect for Fox News, not only because of their bias, but also because the emphasis they put on certain stories distorts the importance of those stories (or, non-stories).

CNN does the same thing.  They sometimes have online polls with weird questions and then report the entirely predictable results as news.

But Fox is the biggest distorter, and it’s most evident when there’s a catastrophe in another part of the world and they don’t send a team of reporters.  It makes it obvious that most of the drama they report 24/7 is being drummed up there in the studio.

It puts news in perspective — and it also puts my petty worries in perspective.

While the people of Haiti have lost everything, I’ve lost a few things myself.

Last Thursday, I lost my Tyrollean hat.  It came from Austria and has been my companion for 25 years.

I delivered Coffee News all day Thursday.  It was cold, but at one point my head got a little warm and I put the hat on the dashboard.  After a while, it was in the way and I threw it on the back seat.

That’s the last time I remember touching my hat.

When you’ve had — and worn — a hat that long, it’s a little like losing a pet.  The best thing to do when you lose a dog is to get a puppy, so I’ve ordered a new hat.  It’s a knock-off, made in America.  It’s not easy — and fairly expensive — to get them from Austria.  It should arrive next week and I hope it’s the same as the one I lost.

The other loss — possibly — is my glasses.

While wearing the 3-D glasses in order to watch Avatar, I took them off and placed them on my coat.

After the movie, I stood up and put on my coat.  My glasses landed on the floor.  I was apparently mesmerized by the movie credits and didn’t notice this.  Apparently, the movie was so powerful that I even forgot I wore real glasses — though they are bifocals and I need them all the time for everything.

So when I heard a crunch under my foot, I remembered my glasses.

I know there’s plenty of bad news in the world — all the time — and while it feels good to donate time and money to help alleviate suffering, it’s not a good idea, psychologically, to focus on human tragedy too much.

But it does put my own losses in perspective.  A hat?  A pair of glasses?  Who cares?

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My Hat

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My hat is green.  It’s wool.  Very sturdy.  It keeps my head warm in the winter.  It keeps my head dry in the rain (like today).

I’ve had this hat for about twenty-five years.  The leather band inside is held in by a couple of threads.  I sewed these threads some years ago.  The originals are long gone.

I had another hat, exactly like this one, that I bought in Austria in 1976.  I was with my father and my mother when I bought that hat (my father certainly paid for it).  We had a good laugh over that hat.  I wore it.  In the early ‘80’s, I lost it.  Luckily, Tapi — my former exchange student/brother/roommate — was living and working in Austria.  One day he called and I asked him to please send me a Tyrolean hat. He did.  The feather is long gone (probably the first year).

In our early years together – my hat and me – it was a novelty. Perhaps a fashion statement.  I was younger then, more concerned about my image – and did not wear my hat that much.

Once, the school at which I taught celebrated “hat day.“ My hat won high praise from the seventh and eighth graders (kids have always loved my hat).  However, I had worn the hat because it was a cold morning.  I didn’t know it was “hat day.”

The fashion and novelty wore off years ago.  Now, it’s purely a hat.  And a damn good one.  I have other hats – and I’ve worn them from time to time – including a cap from Britain and a toboggan that proclaims my alma mater (for cold ears on long walks in winter – but only when it’s on the bitter side).  Mostly, though, I only wear one hat.  This one.  It’s the best.