The Red Hat

The little boy with the red hat stood in wonder, or hesitation (depending on who you asked). A quick look couldn’t hurt no one, so he made sure to get a couple.

It was mindless, of course, or it wouldn’t have come here. But it was also plain and simple, the creature that crouched before him. It wasn’t trying to impress him. 

It might not even be aware of the little boy with the red hat. 

Yet it was remarkable.  

And as some wise man or woman might’ve said: 

“Trust in those that don’t belong, for they must know something.” 

Surely, that was a saying somewhere

But it could’ve just been the illogical circumstance, a fish out of water, of sorts. And it seemed to the little boy with the red hat that this “fish” would be staying for years and years. 

So he kept staring? 

Imagine a fish—a rare fish—the one with the light that dangles over its head and a homely face (again, depending on who you asked). And the little boy with the red hat had no idea that this was an anglerfish, with it living in the deepest depths of the ocean and all.

Imagine this anglerfish, instead of staying in the deepest depths and darkest dark where it belonged, decided it wanted to turn its light off for a moment or two, and explore the whole wide world and all its natural light. It wanted to try something different for a bit, and maybe it would even do some good. 

Maybe.

Perhaps an anglerfish had the kahunas to show itself to those that never saw it before.

And that’s what the little boy with the red hat saw. Not kahunas or barracudas or even an anglerfish, but something figuratively resembling an anglerfish. 

But the creature crouched before him came from the very top, and not the very bottom. 

While he was as hardened and experienced as anyone else his age, especially compared to those whose only worry was making it home to Fortnite, this encounter was completely new and unusual. 

He’d fished along the river many times in the past, and had caught many odd looking fish, and seen many odd looking animals in the thickets beyond, but had never come across anything so foreign. 

He knew looking too long may ruin him, but he had to know, to understand, why the creature chose to come to his land. He never wanted any trouble. 

All he wished for, all he knew, was fishing this bank until he caught enough to take home and make his dad and mom and papa and mama proud. 

He never caught any fish with a light dangling over its head. 

And never would. 

He caught mostly trout, which lacked the fabled light. 

Figuratively speaking, of course.

And he looked and looked until the creature finally noticed his gaze, and stared into the eyes of the little boy with the red hat. The boy knew he’d been caught in the act, but refused to flinch, hoping the creature would act first. 

He wanted the creature to acknowledge him, somehow.  

But, at the very moment the boy couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer, the creature was gone. He watched it leap from the stump and fly away through the wood, leaving leaves and fallen twigs in its wake. 

The most unusual and wonderful creature he’d ever met left him without saying goodbye. He wished it would return, to explain itself, but he knew it was gone forever, easily led astray by its own light. 

So he waved and waved, lost in the wonder of the magnificent stranger. 

But the fat dragon flew away, without looking back, and disappeared beyond the mountains that lay beyond the sea of tree trunks and sand.

*

The little boy with the red hat never saw the fat dragon again. 

But the fat dragon saw the odd little boy again, along with his peculiar red hat. He was flying home from an unsuccessful hunt, and spotted the boy fishing from the shore near the spot they had first met. 

The fat dragon noticed the peculiar red hat from miles and miles away. The fat dragon stared at the colorful hat, instinctively flapping his wings faster, as he flew closer to the boy along the shore. 

He was now captivated by the unknown and the unusual. He was trapped in a state of wonder, or hesitation. 

So he kept staring? 

The fat dragon remembered nothing of their original encounter. It was as forgettable to him as it was unforgettable to the little boy. 

The fat dragon couldn’t afford to remember many things. 

To the fat dragon, it was just another day amongst the humans and their buildings and their wheels and their guns. He had traveled far, and had seen many of them. He had seen many little boys, and old men, and daughters, and mothers, and on and on. He had seen them curse and thank, steal and give, hate and love.

But he recognized the red hat—the peculiar red hat. 

He drifted amongst the clouds, engrossed by a memory almost completely forgotten, drawing closer and closer to the shore below. And as if by instinct, he had to have the hat. 

And all he truly had was instinct, right? It had helped him many times before, along with many other fat dragons on countless occasions. 

If he ignored it now, his basest form of action and reason, he’d have to account for responsibility. And after his flight, there’d be no return, no return, no return… 

He would’ve made his choice.

Instead, he’ll pick the simpler path. 

No matter the cost, he’ll let it control him, in a refusal to face the shame and regret. 

But that shame and regret might be hidden beneath, forever beneath, somewhere deep inside. He might face it one day, but not today.   

*

Today, the fat dragon swooped down from the sky and snatched the red hat from the shore, and with it went the little boy down into a belly of darkness.

While he never wanted to, the fat dragon got a little fatter.