Day 18: Hatless at Elmer’s

I walked into Elmer’s Cafe the other day.  The only thing unusual about that is that I didn’t have my hat on.

At first, nobody said anything about it.  Elmer’s Cafe is a little bit like the barber shop in that old joke.  You know the one:  where the guy walks into a barber shop, and he’s got a rabbit on his head, and nobody wants to be the first one to tell him.  So the guy sets himself down in the barber chair, and the barber says “what’ll it be today?  A little off the chin?”

And the guy says, “don’t be silly.”  And it was a little silly, actually, because the guy was absolutely clean-shaven.  I mean, you’d think a professional barber would have noticed that.  Anyway, the guy says, “don’t be silly.  I want you to cut my hare.”

Well, the barber looks at the rabbit, and now he’s kind of stuck.  You see, he should have just told the man straight off that he had a rabbit on his head, instead of trying to sell the man a shave he didn’t really need.

Anyway, the barber finally begins to realize that honesty is the best policy.  So he says to the guy, he says, “I’m not sure I know how to do that.”

And the guy says, “oh, sorry, I forgot.”  And he reaches up and takes the rabbit off his head.  Doesn’t say anything about it, like, for example, he doesn’t say “as you can see, I have a rabbit on my head.”  He doesn’t say anything at all like that, he just takes the rabbit off his head and holds it there in his lap, the way you’d do if you were sitting in the barber chair and you suddenly realized you forgot to take your hat off.  Then he settles back in the chair again, and he says “okay, go ahead.”

Only now the barber can see the guy is completely bald under the rabbit.

So now the barber really doesn’t know what to do with this guy.  I mean, he says he wants a haircut, but he doesn’t have any hair.  So the barber, still thinking that honesty is his best way out, he says, “I’d love to cut your hair, fellah, but I don’t see how I can make it any shorter than it already is.”

Well, now the rabbit starts going crazy, wriggling around like he’s trying to break free.  It’s almost all the guy can do to hold onto the poor thing, and he glares at the barber, and says, “he doesn’t want to be shorter.  He just wants a little trim around the ears.”

Anyway, Elmer’s Cafe is a little bit like that.  Maybe not exactly like that, but a little bit.  Kind of.

At least, it was until Elmer said “where’s your hat?”

I said “left it at home.”

He said “oh.  What can I get you?”

I said “just coffee, thanks.”

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I suppose I could have told him about how I tried to climb into my hat to get away from the black flies, and how they just up and carried it away with me inside it, and how I had to jump out over a geyser and swim against the current all the way down to the ground.

I could have told him that.  I mean, after all, honesty is generally the best policy.  But then I would have had to tell him how I got home, and it’s embarrassing to admit that I rode that sunbeam all the way home, and completely forgot to leave a tip.

Day 16: Winter got out the grappling hooks

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My friend Vern Acular must have his hat sewn onto his head.  I’ve never seen him lose it – not even in the Gale of Bigger Yet, when the wind blew so hard, it redistributed every cap from here to North Fridgistan.  I lost my good straw flopper in that storm.  But I picked up a soggy old admiral’s hat that blew in all the way from the Island of Notwater, so take it all around, I guess it wasn’t a bad tradewind.

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Anyway, I didn’t want to get up this morning, for obvious reasons.  I mean, it’s late Spring, and everybody knows it.  The trees are budding, the black flies are swarming … the other day, I even saw a grandfather clock flipping through the calendar with both hands – peeking ahead to catch a glimpse of summer.

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It’s late spring, and everybody knows it, even Winter.  And Winter is not taking it well.

Last night, Winter got out the grappling hooks … tried to drag us all backwards into the Land of the Frozen Toe.  When I went to bed, I had three pairs of white socks on my feet.  By the time I woke up, the first two pairs had turned ice blue from the cold, and the third pair was beginning to take on a shade of light periwinkle.

I felt comfortable enough just lying there, in my cocoon – not cozy, by any means, but comfortable enough.  I had no particular desire to clamber out from under my blankets and expose any part of my late Spring-acclimated hide to the Winter air.

Vern was already up, of course.  He said “come on, Abner.  We’ve got to make it across the river before they close the bridge.”

Around here, they always close the bridge when the weather gets too cold.  I don’t know why they do that.  It’s not like they’re going to keep Winter out just by throwing down a few roadblocks.

I said “why don’t we wait till the river freezes?  Then we can just walk across on the ice.”

Vern wouldn’t listen to me.  He’d already packed up everything but the scenery.  He said “come on, it’s gonna be a beautiful day.  Look, the sun is already up.”  He pointed off in the direction of a distant, sunlit peak.

I said “the wind must be on Winter’s side.”

Vern’s hat was flapping away in the breeze.  He said “come on, get up.  The wind isn’t on anybody’s side.”

I said “then why did it blow all the sunlight all the way over there?”

Vern threatened to roll me all the way down seven-mile hill and into the river.  I told him to mind the stumps and boulders.  Not that he would avoid them for my own comfort, but they’d make the rolling harder, and in the end, they’d just add an unnecessary level of exertion to his workload.

It wasn’t until he vowed to tell the wind where I was that I finally got up.

We did make it across the bridge in time.  But that Winter breeze fought us the whole way.  I think I’m going to have to look into getting my hat sewn on.

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Something about a misty morning …

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Something about a misty morning always makes me think of dragons.  I don’t know why.  Dragons aren’t particularly fond of misty mornings.  Matter of fact, I don’t believe there’s a dragon alive who wouldn’t rather spend a rainy morning in bed with a box full of chocolate-covered hikers than to be out here flying around in the dampness.

Not that I’m an expert on dragons.  I haven’t seen a live one since that time back in the Summer of Ought Two, when a mean old 30-footer chased me halfway across the Great Empty Desert.  At one point, he got so close to catching me that I could smell the chocolate on his breath.  

Luckily, as I said, it was the Summer of Ought Two.  I don’t know if you remember that year or not.  I was in great shape, because I spent the whole summer doing all the things I Ought To, like eating right and exercising.

I’m not saying I ever  want to go through another year like Ought To … but that summer, it probably saved my life.

Anyway, this particular morning I was out wandering through the murk with my friend Vern Acular.  We were on a quest, of sorts – we were trying to find the place from whence the mist originated.

It was Vern’s idea.  He said the dewy air wasn’t like any kind of mist or fog he’d ever seen before.  Most mornings, he said, the mist is like walking through a cloud – or, if it’s really thick, it’s like walking on the bottom of a lake.  But this time, it was different.  This time, the mist had a movement to it – something like a very slow-moving current.  It was like walking through an air-borne stream of vapor.  And, of course, if it WAS a stream of vapor, then the stream must have a source.

So Vern and I were on a quest to find its headwaters.

Anyway, we’d been heading upstream all morning, and sure enough, the stream did seem to be narrowing.  I was just thinking, “geez, I hope there’s not a dragon up ahead.”

By the way, I have to tell you, Vern SWORE there WERE no dragons in this story.  At this point, I was taking his word on that.  I’m just saying, there was something about that mist that put dragons on my mind, is all.

So I was just thinking, “I hope there are no dragons up ahead,” when out of the mist … loomed a very large … brick building that had more chimneys than a small town skyline.  And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly where the mist was coming from.  I mean, it poured out of those chimneys like the basement was on fire and the ground floor was full of water.

Vern looked disappointed.  He said “oh.  I should have known.”

I said “what’s that?”

He said “it’s a mistery.”

I said “what’s that?”

He said “it’s a factory where they make mist.  I didn’t know there were any of those around here.”

I said “you mean, there’s no dragons?”

He said “what IS it with you and dragons?  You’ve been yapping about them all morning.”

I said “they’ve just been on my mind, is all.”

He said “well, get ’em off your mind!  Trust me, there are no dragons in this mistery.”

I said “are you sure?”

He said “yes, I’m positive.  Now let’s go in there and solve this thing.”

I said “ha!  I knew it!  I KNEW there were dragons in this story!”

He said “no, there aren’t!”

I said “yes there are!  Because you’re not dragon ME in there!”