Pen

The Best of Times Short Story Competition


Spring 2018 Results




If the Cap Fits, Wear It

Copyright © Eddy Burger 2018


I used to like wearing my Nanowrimo cap. Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is a writerís challenge to see if they can write a fifty thousand word novel in a month, and I succeeded. I ordered my cap and was very proud to wear it. It was a peaked cap, like a baseball cap, but unfortunately its style and design were very plain. I suppose it would never have attracted any comments if I hadnít drawn attention to it. Before drawing attention to it I sat at an empty table in a crowded pub and no one would come near me. Then I sat at a table filled with strangers and said, "Look at my cap. Iím wearing this cap because I succeeded in writing a fifty thousand word novel in one month! I have accomplished a great literary feat and Iím not even a published author yet."

"Are you sure itís a great feat?" asked one. "Itís a very ordinary cap."

"Surely anyone could do it," said another. "Practice writing for a while then take a month off work. It would be easy to do."

The cap might, on occasion, attract the attention of well-meaning friends who wished to alert me to its disadvantages. My friend Julie and I were sitting at a table in the aforementioned pub when she said, "You really shouldnít wear that cap. It makes such a negative fashion statement, you look like the most boring, commonplace person that ever lived. Actually, the word commonplace is not really applicable since it almost sounds normal. If you were in a pub filled with normal, boring, commonplace people you would appear as the most boring of the lot of them."

"But itís my favourite cap!" I protested. "The look of it may not be very fitting but it is fitting in all other respects. I believe in the proverb If the cap fits, wear it. So far as size and comfort goes, it fits me very well and it fits me in the sense that it was made to be worn by people who wrote a fifty thousand word novel in a month. To me the cap says that I am a winner. Yet it is true that whenever I wear it, the only things I seem to be able to talk about are my writing, my cap and the fact that Iíve written a fifty thousand word novel. Itís as if my IQ has dropped. I donít know why a cap intended for a writer should be so boring. Not all writers are boring. And thereís nothing boring about writing a fifty thousand word novel in a month! Boringness is a very unfitting label for a writer, and in that regard the cap does not fit at all. My inner world is a vibrant and exciting place, just as my writing is Ė all fifty thousand words of it! Itís the antithesis of boredom!"

Julie looked pale. Had she grown sick with boredom? Suddenly she grabbed the cap from my head. "I need to save you from yourself!" she shrieked. "I need to save myself from you!" She ran off with it and I took off after her. I narrowly avoided knocking a jug of beer out of one fellowís hand, then I stumbled into a waiter but managed to catch one of her plates as it fell towards the floor.

Julie ran into the womenís toilets. I waited for her to come out but when she did she was no longer holding my cap. "Donít tell me you flushed it down the toilet!"

"Donít be silly. I put it in the rubbish bin."

Then all I could say was, 'blah blah blah.í It was if my brain had to rewire itself after losing that cap.

"Donít worry. Iíll buy you a new one."

We agreed to meet at the same pub in a weekís time when she would present me with my new cap. In the interim I recovered my ability to talk. Though my conversation was a bit aimless, I didnít seem to bore people as much.

My rendezvous with Julie came around. We were sitting at a table in the pub when she took the cap from her handbag. I was shocked by its appearance. It was bright yellow and orange, had a leopard skin band around it and had little trinkets attached to the front of it, such as a silver horse, a clock, a wheelbarrow and racing car. "I attached the trinkets myself," she said as I tried to hide my dismay. She had obviously spent quite a bit of time and money on it yet it was so unlike anything I would ever wear Ė so unfitting of my character Ė I couldnít understand how she could think it was appropriate. Did she know me so little? Did she so dislike the person that I really was?

"Itís so not was I was expecting!" I said. "Itís great!"

"I hope you like it and arenít just saying it."

"Oh, I do! Iíll just go and try it on in front of the bathroom mirror."

"Put it on now. Go on."

"I want to see how well it goes with my ensemble first." Then I dashed off.

What I really wanted to do was put it in the bathroom rubbish bin though I knew that wasnít an option. I entered the bathroom and put the cap on. It looked atrocious, it didnít go with the rest of my attire, which consisted of sombre colours, and it was way too small for me. I tugged on the sides and tried to stretch it over my skull but it just wouldnít fit. It just sat on top of my hair. If the cap fits, wear it, they say, but this one didnít fit either my head or my personality so, by rights, I shouldnít wear it. Yet there was a part of me that really wanted to keep it on and make a real show of how much I loved it in order to make Julie happy. I would wear it every time I saw her as well as in-between times as an expression of my gratitude. In fact, I became elated by the idea, though that may have been due to the capís influence.

I strolled out of the bathroom, beaming, then skipped up to our table. "Julie, the capís fantastic!"

"Oh, it looks a little small."

"Nonsense! Itís meant to be worn on top of the head. Would you care for a dance?"

"But the dance floor has not been cleared. People are still eating."

"Then weíll dance between the tables!"

Normally I would have felt embarrassed to dance while no one else was dancing, and perhaps Julie felt the same, but I grabbed her hand, pulled her to her feet and we started dancing between the tables. I was really swinging Julie around. I swung her into the back of one diner then another and then I a knocked a beer out of one guyís hand.

"Fuckiní hell, mate! Watch what youíre doing!"

"Iím awfully sorry," I said. I pulled my wallet from my pocket and gave the fellow ten dollars. "This should buy a couple of beers. Have one on me!"

We had been dancing to recorded music but a band was due to be playing later and a sound technician was busy setting up the stage. She started testing a microphone when I leapt up onto the stage. "Iíll test that microphone for you!" I got behind the microphone and started singing When a felonís not engaged in his employment from the Gilbert & Sullivan opera The Pirates of Penzance. I was really hamming it up, belting it out at the top of my lungs. The sound technician had gone behind the mixing desk and appeared not to mind my intrusion. At the end of the first verse I noticed Julie just standing like a stunned mullet so I leapt down, took her hand then dragged her up onto the stage with me as I began the second verse. I twirled her around as I sang. I was having a ball.

"Let go of me, Eddy. Youíre embarrassing me."

Then my cap fell off. Suddenly I felt really embarrassed to be up there on stage. I stopped singing and let go of Julie. She jumped off the stage and I was about to follow her when I remembered my cap. I picked it up, put it on and then went back to the microphone. "Come back on stage, Julie!" I yelled. But she nodded her head no as she looked at those around her, very embarrassed. She returned to our table and turned her back to me. "Come one, Julie! Letís hear a rousing applause for Julie as she comes back on to the stage!" I started clapping exuberantly but only a couple of people in the audience clapped and Julie remained in her seat.

The sound technician came back on stage and took hold of the microphone. "Itís time you left the stage, sir," she said.

"Canít I sing another song?"

"Leave the stage now or Iíll call security."

Well, I was a bit put out that I should be treated like a criminal. And I wasnít yet ready to abandon the limelight. I noticed that a couple of the tables were within jumping distance so I leapt onto one amidst a great uproar from those seated there. Having accidentally spilt a couple of drinks, I then leapt onto another table where an elderly couple were dining. "I hope youíre enjoying your meals," I said. Then I leapt onto another where four drinkers were seated. They complained about their drinks getting spilt but I was particularly struck by the beauty of one young woman. "Such divine beauty do my eyes behold!" I cried. "Yet my eyes donít hold a candle to yours! Yours are like windows into a utopian dreamscape! Thou art a vision of such loveliness as I have never seen!" Then I started serenading her with the Led Zepplin song Black dog but I only got as far as 'the way you shake that thingí when a fellow punched me in the guts. I jumped to another table, but the attempt was a bit rushed for I ended up hitting the edge of the table with one foot and a womanís head with the other. I fell to the ground, losing my cap as I did so, and then I was pulled to my feet by three burly blokes all threatening to punch my lights out. Thankfully one of the bar staff intervened. "Time for you to leave, buddy. Youíre lucky I donít make you pay for all the drinks you spilt."

But all I could say was 'Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.í

He showed me out the door. Julie joined me outside a moment later. I told her I had left the cap inside, which I managed to express through sign language.

"Itís probably best if we leave it where it is," she said. "Iíll buy you a new one."

A week later we met at the pub again. We were seated at a table when Julie took from her handbag the latest cap. It was a Ferrari Australian Grand Prix cap. "Try this on for size," she said. "Itís a typical guyís cap. It might not fit your character precisely but at least itís safe. Itís larger than the last cap so it should fit your head okay. But please donít feel obliqued to wear it if you donít like it."

Personally I did find it a bit boring but only because Iím not much into cars. It was tastefully designed, fairly colourful without being garish, and it had some nice embroidered bits. "Itís nice," I said. "Thank you."

I put the cap on my head but then the strangest feeling came over me. It was as if the focus of my mental faculties was narrowing considerably. In a moment all I could think about were racing cars. I stretched both arms out in front of me. In hindsight I must have appeared like a robot, my face blank and my arms rigid, though it was a carís steering wheel that I was reaching for. "Must drive car," I said. "Must drive car." I stood up then started tearing around the pub, running around tables, skidding into people and spilling their drinks. I skidded right across one table top, sending the plates and drinks flying, then I crashed into another table, knocking the whole thing over.

Julie came to my rescue. She helped me up while doing her best to placate the crowd. Everyone wanted to fight me, even the bar staff. My cap had fallen off and all I could say was, 'I am a teapot, I am a teapot.í

"I really need you to help me out here," Julie said. She took another cap out of her bag. It was pink and white with cute kitties and bunny rabbits pinned to it. "This is my cap so donít lose it," she said. "This whole episodeís been such a confusion of caps not fitting and people acting strangely so letís hope I get it right this time."

She put it on me. It was too big, which made me seem petite in a girly sort of way, and it was very feminine. I started feeling feminine and did much wrist flapping, hair flicking and pouting. I curtsied to everyone apologetically, then I dropped my handkerchief and waited for someone to pick it up for me. "Why donít you all come shopping with me?!" I said, clapping my hands excitedly. "Oh I just love shopping! I can buy you all new dresses, shoes and handbags!"

"Thatís not how I act!" cried Julie. "Iím a feminist, God dammit!"