It was a new hat. A bowler.
“I learned it is customary to give a gift when someone visits your home.”
Detective Drake’s wife tried to smile cordially as she presented the offering, but she struggled with the expression as much as her husband. She was relatively new to Earth, having only arrived little more than a decade ago. Drake had been with the initial group that—some thirty years ago—had interrupted mankind’s nuclear war and set up the New Cities.
“Actually, the custom is for the visitor to bring a gift,” Storm Hamilton said. “Which is why I have this bottle of brandy here.”
“Oh, really?” the woman replied, surprise and embarrassment painted on her alien face. “Please take the hat anyways, for taking good care of my husband. And thank you for the alcohol. Make yourself at home while I finish up the meal.”
Storm set the pristine black bowler hat on the coffee table in front of the sofa. At least she had got the his preference for classic styles right. He sat down, feeling himself sink into the soft leather. He took the old brown fedora from his head, feeling the worn and stained felt between his fingers.
“Don’t you think it’s time for a new hat?” Drake asked. “That one is quite faded.”
“Me and this hat have been through a lot together,” Storm said sarcastically, failing to hold his smirk as deep thoughts pressed on him.
How could be begin to explain its value to a person who kept no souvenirs, no bits of sentimentality or connections to the past? How could he explain that it was his father’s hat, bought for the man by Storm’s mother who had been obsessed with old detective stories? His father had never worn it, which made it feel more important for Storm to do so.
“And you never wash it,” Drake added.
Storm couldn’t take the chance of it getting damaged. He’d rather it be dirty than irreparable. It was one of his last pieces of the past, in a world that was quickly forgetting it.
“You’re not going to wear the new hat, right?” Drake asked, but not in an accusatory way. The alien watched his human partner carefully, as if struggling to understand something. “It’s okay.”
Drake reached out a hand to take the hat and Storm stopped him.
“I’m grateful for the gift,” he said, placing the black hat on his head. “It fits really nice. I can’t say what I’m going to do with it, but I’d like to have it.”
“Good,” Drake said. “Let’s have a drink and you can tell me about the old one.”
*You can find a previous related Storm Hamilton story HERE.