Blue Hat (a story)
A Fresh New Story
I am generally wondering if I have what it takes to go into creative writing. Below is a sample of a potential novel that is good for all ages. Well, almost all ages. I would not suggest it for the first few years, since it has no pictures, Yet. I don't know if my ego is excessively big in thinking that it is great. At times when I reread it my ego might be excessively small in thinking that it stinks. Either way, I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I do.
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Finally the brakes squaked, the wheels skidded along the tracks, and the streamlined train slowly came to a stop. It was the Union Station of Kansas City, and the passengers hurried out of the cars onto the crowded platform of track sixteen. Some carried a suitcase to one side of them. A woman came along loaded with a shopping bag, an arm full of boxes, and three little children straggling close behind her. But most of the people carried nothing at all, as they walked alongside the standing train toward the escalator leading up to the passageway through which the people proceeded on to the lobby.
In the lobby, a countless number of people waited at the doors. Some were eating popcorn or candy, or drinking Coca-Cola out of a paper cup as they waited for the arrival of their friends or relatives. Upon the arrival of the passengers from the train, in all the excitement, there was much handshaking, and embracing, and kissing of the loved ones. A short ways from the doors, at the bookstand, were two girls talking excitedly to each other as they looked on with the excitement of expectation. One was taller and appeared somewhat more mature than the other. The younger seemed to be more excited about something than her companion. They stood in one place, but they certainly looked about in all directions with their faces filled with the excited emotions of the imminent recognition of someone.
As the people came pouring through the many doors on the passageway, a soldier slipped out of the crowd and stood by with his eyes searching through the crowd. From his decorations, one could easily tell that he was an active man in the army, and the captain's uniform added a decided attraction to his entire self. He scrutinized the faces of women. Often he would raise his left hand to bring part of a letter to his eyes. He would study some girl's appearance as he referred to the letter. Soon he began wandering about impatiently through the crowd.
The last of the people from track sixteen straggled into the lobby. The doors were closed, and the crowd at the doors began to dissipate. It wasn't long before most of them had left. The captain, with his back against the doors, still holding the letter in his left hand, looked about with signs of disappointment.
The taller girl of the two, left; but her companion remained. She wasn't looking around so feverishly any longer. Her downcast eyes and slow motions of her body showed all the signs of a heart heavy with disappointment. Her thoughts were drifting far away and her lips quivered as if she were about to cry.
The captain studied her several times before, but, after referring to his letter, he turned elsewhere. She also looked at him several times but paid no more attention. As he watched her this time, he saw her disappointment, and instinctively started toward her. He worked his way around to her back, and he drew up close enough to embrace her.
"Mary!" he cried out with delighted excitement.
"George!" she cried out in return.
She turned around and threw her arms around his neck only to recover in time before she kissed him. Quickly she withdrew her arms, but his arms were holding her fast at the waistline. Her face felt a sudden glow of heat, and so embarrassed was she that her chewing gum found its way down past her esophagus. She pressed his arms away and retreated a few slow steps backwards.
"No, it isn't George-it's Me." he said in a soft tone.
He smiled so silly as though he had known her a long time. He slowly stepped forward, after her, putting the letter in his pocket.
"So I see." she kept retreating, slowly, step by step.
"Johnnie is my name." he said. "Johnnie Jones."
"Your name does not interest me. Please go away, before my aunt gets back." she remarked.
"Am I afraid of your aunt?" he jested.
"I don't know. Please go away. You see, I'm engaged and she will talk if she sees me here with you." Mary pleaded with him, and even took off her glove to proudly display the ring.
"You don't seem to like me very much?" he followed her with every step she retreated backwards.
"I would like you more if you would leave right away. Now, will you please go?"
"How is it you're not wearing your blue hat?"
"What blue hat?" This thought stopped her and she looked at him in bewilderment.
"The one that matches your eyes." he said.
"The one with the feather in it?"
"Yes, the one with the feather in it." he smiled.
"Don't you like this one?" she asked.
"It's all right, but what about that light grey suit you're supposed to wear?"
"Who told you what I was supposed to wear today?" she questioned.
"I guess, if I said I would be at the railroad station with a light grey suit and a blue hat, I'd be at the railroad station with a light grey suit and a blue hat. How do you expect somebody to find you if he's looking for a blue hat and you're not wearing one?" His smile never faded from the moment he first spoke to her.
Mary was embarrassed with this. She felt like a scolded child although it came with a smile. "Some fresh guy who got hold of her letter somehow." She thought to herself.
"Look," she said, "here comes a policeman and if you can't leave me alone right this minute, I'll ask him to help you."
She showed signs of anxiety while she looked about to see if her aunt was coming. She was nervous and frightened by this stranger who took it upon himself to make her acquaintance. He seemed so determined, and that constant smile meant to her that he had something on his mind.
"But why should you be calling on anyone for help, when I wouldn't hesitate leastways to be at your service? I hope it will be my pleasure to escort you home." he said calmly with sincerity.
Mary's back was chilled and her face turned pale. She realized what he had on his mind and that there would be no end to this. She noticed that her aunt was returning, and in her nervous anxiety to be rid of this character, "Officer!" she cried out to the policeman who stood a short distance from them.
"What is it ma'am?" the policeman asked her while he looked at Johnnie.
"I assure you, Mary, this wasn't necessary." His smile disappeared and he felt taken back.
"Officer, help this man to leave me alone." She faced the policeman when she spoke and immediately turned to leave.
Johnnie quickly turned to follow her.
"You heard what the lady said!" the husky voice of the policeman bellowed as he took hold of Johnnie by the arm.
All the people in the surrounding area were attracted and they watched with interest. Some even came closer to learn what was going on.
Mary hurried away to her aunt.
"Mary!-Come back!-Mary!!-Don't leave me!! I just want to talk to you!! I want to talk to you about your brother!!" Johnnie shouted louder and louder as she hurried farther away from him.
She came upon her aunt halfway across the lobby. She tried to compose herself to make it appear as though nothing of any importance has happened.
"What did you find out Chris?" she asked with an air of innocence.
"The only information we can get at this railroad station concerns the train schedule and the tourist."
She spoke to Mary but her eyes were straining far across the lobby where Johnnie tussled, verbally, with the policeman. It was not the size of the policeman that held him back; it was his respect for the law. Of course, the policeman sympathized with Mary and he waited for her to disappear out of sight before he would permit Johnnie to be on his way.
"Maybe we could get some information from the Red Cross office?" Mary suggested impatiently, in trying to get away from Johnnie.
"Yes, we may. What would you say is going on over there?" she turned to Mary.
"Over there." Christine pointed with her eyes.
"Where? I don't see anything." Mary looked in the designated direction.
"You know what I'm talking about." said Christine firmly.
"What?" asked Mary, feigning ignorance.
"That army captain you were speaking to." Christine confronted Mary with the fact that she saw everything.
"Oh, Johnnie?" Mary's face grew pale when she realized that there was nothing she could hide.
"So, it's Johnnie?-Take me there and introduce him to me." she said to Mary in the form of an order.
"Oh, but I don't even know him-I never saw him before in my life! Believe me, Chris, if you ever did!" she pleaded.
Mary was frightened. She began to reel an unpleasant sensation in her stomach and her abdomen. For a moment she thought it was caused by the chewing gum she swallowed. "There's no telling what this will lead to." feeling came over her and her imaginations ran wild with the worst that could happen.
"You never saw him before in your life yet you threw your arms around his neck as if he were your sweetheart." Christine disclosed her knowledge of the scene.
"I did nothing of the kind!" Mary recoiled.
"You would have kissed him too if you were sure enough that I wouldn't see."
"I wouldn't either!"
Mary was boiling with rage. She had no means of self defense in this case.
"Come. Introduce me to the captain. I'd love to meet him."
Christine edged her on. She had a grievance with a heartache to settle, and although her words came forth smoothly, the bitterness from her heart always seeped through, somehow.
"I'll do nothing of the kind-I'm going home, even if you're not."
"It so happens that I have the keys, and it is my car, Mary."
Blue Hat (part two)
“I'll take a taxi.” Mary began fumbling through her purse, in doubt of having the fare for the taxicab.
“Now you're being foolish. Come. Introduce me to him, or I will see to it that your fiancÃ© knows about Johnnie.”
“All right, let's go. I have nothing to hide. I never saw him before, and we embraced each other by accident.” Mary conceded under a feverish nervousness of fear.
Christine was hurrying along while she looked forward to meeting Johnnie.
Mary had a sickening feeling and thought she was going to faint. Reluctantly she tagged a step or two behind Christine. She couldn't figure out what was coming up next. She couldn't see through the moves that Christine was making. Anyhow, she felt that no good will come of all this.
They came upon Johnnie still wrangling with the policeman.
“Hello!” Johnnie broke out with his silly smile as he almost sang his greeting.
“You're making trouble for me, Johnnie.” Mary cautioned with all her seriousness.
“I am?” he asked displaying signs of satisfaction.
“This is my aunt, Christine,” she said to Johnnie, “and this is Johnnie.” she turned to Christine. “He calls himself Johnnie.” she added.
“That's the way my mother would like it to be, so that's the way she wrote it on my birth certificate. Could you think of any reason why I should have it changed?” he asked.
“Oh, no!—of course not . . . Under the circumstances.” replied Mary in an apologetic way.
She felt a need for a formal apology, but her mind was already so enwrapped with the incident that she had a dazed liking for him. She wanted him, yet she tried to be rid of him because of Christine's presence.
“And I'm the law! Remember, young lady?—I'm the law!” the policeman added with emphasis.
“Oh, yes. This is the officer that I asked to keep Johnnie company, so I could go home with you. He wanted to take me home!” Mary complained.
“I don't see any harm in that. Do you Christine?” Johnnie made eyes of understanding at Christine.
“Johnnie, tell Chris that I never saw you before in my life.” Mary almost demanded, but she was begging.
Johnnie looked at the policeman.
“This is interesting, and more interesting as we go along.” the policeman implied as he looked into Johnnie's eyes.
“But, Mary, how could I say such a thing after all that time in the park we spent together. All the plans we made before I left with the armed forces. Why didn't you write me that there was someone else?” Johnnie's smile disappeared and he spoke with seriousness of a broken heart.
“You lie!!” Mary cried out with fear in her mind.
Mary's eyes popped wide open and her mouth was open for a few seconds before the words came out with full force. How could he be saying this? Why should he? She had the feeling that she was going to break down, and cry, and run home to cry some more; but she couldn't do that, especially in front of Christine.
Christine was happy with the sight of Mary suffering before her very eyes. She was amused and took special notice of everything that was going on.
“You see how much simpler it would all be—If you would only had worn that blue hat with the feather in it?” Johnnie spoke softly with caution, “Like you said in the last letter you wrote to me.”
“She's been writing to you?” Christine questioned with her eyebrows rising high.
“Oh, yes.” Johnnie admitted affirmatively.
“Lies!!—Lies!!—Lies!!” Mary cried out.
“Here's the last letter she wrote to me—See?” Johnnie said producing the letter. “Could you recognize her handwriting?” he asked Christine.
“That is her handwriting.” Christine confirmed Johnnie's statement and returned the letter to him.
Mary couldn't stand any more. She broke down in tears, and turned away for them not to see. She took a few steps away, and then she hurried almost on the run.
Johnnie started after her, but with a tug at his arm the policeman jerked him back.
“You're staying with me, Johnnie, my boy!” the policeman whispered in his hoarse voice.
“It's all right, officer. He can come with me.” Christine assured the policeman.
“Seems to me like something's wrong somewhere, but if you want him—you can have him.” the policeman remarked, freeing Johnnie, walking off to another part of the lobby.
“You don't mind coming to our house for dinner. Do you Johnnie?” Christine asked taking hold on his arm.
“Is Mary going to be there?”
“Yes, she will. She and her folks are living with me.” Christine said watching his eyes.
“Of course I don't mind.” he smiled to her with some understanding.
He had a feeling that he had something in common with Christine. Of course he would never pry into her affairs. She did not interest him from any other viewpoint than the fact that she would bring him closer to Mary. That was all important to him and that was all that mattered. Christine looked to be about twenty-eight or maybe thirty. She didn't have the youthful charm of Mary; but she made up for it in many ways. She was amiable, smooth, and mature in her thoughts. She seemed to be leading him on. She had something on her mind. It seemed to be some plan, or scheme, or something; but, whatever it was, it would do her no good as far as he was concerned. His mind was on Mary, and he was determined that Christine would not divert his affections onto herself.
“What came over Mary? She's acting strange?” asked Johnnie.
Johnnie slowed his steps in order to needle out as much information from her as he could, before he would meet Mary again.
“I don't know. She's engaged now. I guess, that is what makes the difference.”
“I guess, I've been away too long—that's what makes the difference.” Johnnie interpolated his own thoughts into her reasoning.
“Oh, I wouldn't say that. If she was writing to you, at least you had a chance. Maybe you slipped up somewhere?” explained Christine.
“But she never told me about the engagement.”
“She's got her mind set on that orchestra conductor. Won't be long before she marries him.”
“How long?” Johnnie almost snapped out.
“Another year—As soon as she graduates. She's got a crush on him that simply ties him up in knots. Every time her fiancÃ© comes over, there they are—her sitting at one end of the sofa and him sitting at the other end. Or else she's hammering away on the piano while he's sitting there twiddling his thumbs in complete ecstasy. She says he's going to make her a great concert pianist, but I don't think so. She never had an interest in music until she met him. He also has some classes in music at the college.”
“What about yourself? A beau waiting—maybe?” inquired Johnnie.
Her eyes watered, and she turned her face away from him. She pressed back the tears with her fingers, and it was all over. With a smile her eyes returned to his.
“I have a home and a place in my heart for a man, but what chance have I got? Can't go anywhere, can't do anything—that's the life of a teacher, especially in college.”
“Well, you never know when somebody is going to pop up somewhere!” he laughed encouragingly for her benefit.
“Waiting isn't as bad as losing someone.” she said.
“What ever happened to Mary? I suppose she took a taxi home?” Johnnie tried changing the subject.
“I don't think she went anywhere. When we left home she didn't have enough money to buy a package of chewing gum. She's probably waiting for me in the car.” Christine explained.
They come to the parking lot. Soon they were beside Christine's car, and there, behind the steering wheel, sat Mary with her head resting on her arms supported by the steering wheel. She straightened up slowly when Johnnie opened the door. Christine threw the car keys to her.
“You might as well drive as long as you're behind the wheel.” Christine laughed, and motioned for Johnnie to get into the coupe, but he helped her instead. It would be better that way—with himself to the opposite side of Mary.
“Is he coming too?” Mary asked in disgust.
“He's coming to the house for dinner. Any friend of yours is a friend of mine.” Christine implied.
“Believe me, he's no friend of mine—even with that uniform on.” Mary spoke with tight lips from the bitterness in her heart for him. She knew she would never forgive him for the act he put on at the railroad station.
As Mary drove along the road, she did not speak to Johnnie nor even glance in his direction. Her mind was preoccupied only with the thought of getting home. What she would do when she got home, she did not know; but, anyhow, it was a consoling thought. The one thing she was sure of was that she would not eat at the same table with Johnnie. What a mess this would be if she could not justify herself before her fiancÃ©. With all that Christine would add—to Johnnie's ready-made lies—could set her wedding date farther off, or eliminate it entirely.
“How did you happen to be at the railroad station all by yourself? With no one to greet you on your happy event of returning home? No mother . . . No father . . . No sweetheart?” Christine inquired, as she looked into the rear-view mirror for Mary's reaction to the question with the emphasis on “no sweetheart.”
Johnnie's eyes blurred and he felt a choking sensation at his throat. For a few seconds he could not utter a word. He swallowed as though his throat had an obstruction in it.
“Mother was there . . . Father was there . . . Mary was there.” he said turning to Mary.
Blue Hat (part three)
Mary looked at him. She noticed the tears in his eyes. Her attention went back to the road. Somehow she did not feel angry at him now. Her sympathy was aroused and she felt that there was something deeper than the blue hat with the feather in it. She felt that there was some connection between Johnnie and her brother. Yes, there must be. She wasn't listening when he was yelling after her at the station. What did he say? Where did he get hold of her letter? Conflicting questions were popping into her mind, and her curiosity called for a quick solution. She loudly cleared her throat.
“You know my brother George?” she asked without looking at him.
“Yes. In a way.” he replied.
Christine looked at Mary with surprise and her head turned back and forth as each one spoke. She seemed to be left out of the conversation now.
Johnnie was delighted to hear Mary's voice again—and in a friendly tone. He decided to hold back for more. It was a natural thing for a woman to do the talking, and the more she talked the better the chance of meeting her on her own terms.
“Were you with him in the service?” she prodded him on.
“I have a uniform, haven't I?” Johnnie laughed softly.
“I mean, did you see him often?—what I really mean is, were you two together in the same outfit?” Mary tried to alleviate the pressure of embarrassment out of her failure to express herself.
“Sometimes close together, sometimes very far apart. Haven't seen him for several years up until lately.” he said.
“Did you see him before you left?”
“As a matter of fact I did.” Johnnie acknowledged nonchalantly.
“How is he? Tell me all about him. Has he changed much? He was supposed to come back with you—wasn't he?”
Mary was bubbling with questions. The answer to one question opened the way to a dozen other questions. There could be no end, she thought, to the things she had to talk over with Johnnie. At one point she couldn't turn her eyes back to the road. At the moment she completely forgot she was driving.
Christine was silent but listening carefully. Suddenly the car swayed as the wheels on one side of the car went off the road and dug into the soft shoulder alongside of the road.
“Hey!—watch the road!” Christine yelled.
Christine grabbed the steering wheel holding onto it hysterically tight with both hands.
Mary struggled with the steering wheel while the car swayed crazily half on the road and half off the road, making a snake-like pattern in the soft ground between the concrete road and the drainage ditch.
“Chris!—let go of the wheel!” Johnnie yelled instantly at the top of his voice.
He was trying to wring her hands off the wheel, but, with one look at the drainage ditch on his side, he took a firm hold of the steering wheel with both hands and helped Mary steer the car back to the road again.
“I was so frightened.” Christine confessed with her face white, and her lips blue, as though it were drained of all its blood. Her shaking hand rubbed her forehead, and she was getting ready to faint. After a moment her weakness left her. “Perhaps you would like to have someone else drive the car?” she asked Mary.
She knew she was not in a condition to drive, so she wasn't referring to herself. There was Johnnie sitting to the other side of her, and she was referring to him.
“We'll be home soon.” Mary defended herself.
“As I was saying about your brother,” Johnnie cut in as though nothing had happened, “He's fine!—hasn't changed a bit for the worse. We were supposed to return together, but his papers weren't quite in order, so he'll be coming on the next boat.”
How could he tell her that her brother was lying in the hospital seriously wounded? Why should he be the messenger of bad news? Why should he cast upon her the misery of anxiety? They would send word home if George was not making any progress. He had a feeling George would write as soon as he regained consciousness. However George would come out, he could not tell her the truth for her own good. She would find out for herself—it would be better that way.
“How long will it take for the next boat?” Mary asked.
“Three weeks. Maybe a month. There's nothing to worry about, Mary. Before you know it, he'll be back. I would bet he is worried more about his girl than he is about you or your folks. You see, when he comes back he will still have you and your folks; but will he still have his girl? That is the question keeping his insides grinding and his mind disintegrating.”
“George?—A girl?” Mary was caught in surprise.
“A sweetheart.” Johnnie corrected, and he felt everything was bringing Mary closer to him.
“But he always talked like a confirmed bachelor. He had nothing to do with girls, ever.” explained Mary.
“This war has done a lot of things. It has made men out of boys, and it has done a lot of other things; but most of all, it has destroyed many lives and much property. You know, when a fellow is lying out there in the foxhole, digging his hands into the ground at the bottom in trying to pull himself closer down into it; while the bombs are bursting all about him, and the earth is trembling from the force of the heavy bombs upon it, life itself takes on a brighter hue. He begins to see life from an entirely different standpoint than he ever did before.”
“Wait till I see that brother of mine when he gets home. Seems to me like he's keeping a lot of things to himself lately.” said Mary in a threatening tone.
“Don't be too hard on him.” Johnnie cautioned. “George may have his reasons for what he's doing.”
They turned off the road and they reached a cluster of modern homes one of which was the property of Christine. Christine bought the home for her own purpose, but living in this big, seven-room house made her more lonely.