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At the Drop of a Hat - A Free Story

“At the Drop of a Hat”

By Kevin Hopson

I watched as Darren entered the classroom, hung his coat on a hook, and took a seat at his desk, still wearing his grey wool hat. As a teacher, I was used to witnessing a wide variety of behavior, but this had become a strange pattern for Darren the last several days. Perhaps he forgot about the hat when removing his coat or he wanted to keep his ears warm until school started, but the action that followed was always the same.

Several more fifth graders made their way into the classroom, and I turned my attention to them. Some greeted me with words. Others with smiles. I grinned in return, then set my sights on Darren, a moan escaping my mouth. I couldn’t believe it. His hat was on the floor again. I waited for everyone to take their seats before stepping out from behind my desk.

“Darren,” I said.

He perked up in the chair, his mop of brown hair partially covering his eyes. “Yes, Mr. Gilmore.”

“Do you remember what I said about leaving your hat on the floor?”

Darren nodded but said nothing.

“And what did I say?” I asked.

“That someone could slip and fall if I left it there.”

“That’s correct. And do you remember what would happen if you did it again?”

Darren pursed his lips. “You said you’d throw it in the trash,” he finally said.

“Right again.”

I grabbed the trash bin next to my desk and made my way to Darren’s side. His brow furrowed as I crouched in front of the hat and grasped it with my free hand, depositing it into the bin. Because the trash was emptied each evening and school had just started, there was nothing else in the bin. Otherwise, I would have thought twice about committing such an unsightly act.

The kids looked on in surprise as I returned to the front of the room, resting the trash bin on the floor beside me. My intent was to keep the hat in the bin for a few minutes. Long enough to get my message across to Darren. I was a man of my word, but I wasn’t a monster.

School typically started with a daily summary of activities. I wasn’t even a minute into my speech when a blonde-haired girl raised her hand to speak.

“Yes, Lena,” I said.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Gilmore. Can I use the bathroom?”

I granted Lena permission. She quickly rose from her seat, putting a hand to her mouth as she streaked across the room. Lena was about to exit the classroom when she turned around and headed in my direction. She stopped short of the trash, hunched over, and vomited into the bin. I immediately backed away.

“I’m sorry,” Lena said, lifting her head. “I couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time.”

I had a student walk Lena to the nurse’s office while the rest of the kids stared at me in what I could only describe as shock. I took a step toward the trash bin, fearing the worst. I glanced inside, then looked to Darren. His eyes were wide, and his mouth was agape.

“I apologize, Darren,” I said. “I may need to buy you a new hat.”

© 2023 Kevin Hopson


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