Story postcard – the hat and the giraffe (2)

Rudd puts on the hat. It is still too big for him. He holds it down with one hand, while the other shines the torch after Tonderai and Innocence, who are making their way along the lodge wall towards the kitchen, their heads down into the wind. He steps out from under the shelter of the entrance, and sets off after them.

The path is sodden, and his veldskoens thick with mud. They struggle for grip as the wind shoves and tugs, slapping at the hat, and flicking the brim down over his eyes so often, that after only a few yards he’s forced to pull it off. He stuffs it under his arm and hurries on, anxious to catch the others. By the time he reaches the kitchen they are already inside. He follows them in and shuts the door behind him. It’s only then that he realises the hat is gone.


He shines the torch over the floor around his feet, but sees no sign of the hat. Distraught, he wrenches the door open again and swings the beam back down the path, and up and around the remains of the garden to see if it has been caught there. But he sees no bright flare of yellow, and his torch cannot reach as far as the destroyed carpark beyond. His heart urges him to keep searching, but his head warns him that it would be futile to try. He hesitates, his shoulder blocking the door open, but then it starts to rain again, and great sheets of wet block his view. Shielding his eyes, he gives the torch a final, stuttering loop. Its batteries are failing, and the rain getting heavier. Reluctantly, he turns and goes back into the kitchen. The door bangs closed behind him.

It’s only a hat.

But it’s not. It means so much to him. The fact he made it back. That this is his chance to fill the wound. That once upon a time he saw his father happy.

He stands by the door, breathing deeply and waiting for his heart to calm. Around him shadows hip hop on the wall, as jumpy as the nervous chat of the staff. He tries to listen to what is being said, but the voice that climbs into his head is his father’s. It taunts him for the loss of the hat. Loser. Bedwetter. He flinches under the assault, but as he cowers, the wind rises, pounding and shaking against the door. Its threat, real and not imagined, forces the voice back, hammers it flat, and brings in the storm, thudding it over the roof, swallowing the lodge.

Rudd’s senses regather. He stands straight. He listens. The jibes of his abuser are gone. Swallowed. Drowned. Shrunk to nothing, by the now and the real. He switches off his half-dead torch, and heads past the small group gathered around Tonderai, Samere and Innocence. He catches a few words. Some are in English. Some not. One or two in the group acknowledge Rudd as he passes, but most are too intent on the news they share to notice him.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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