I got my brother a brown driver’s cap for Christmas, like the Ralph Lauren version pictured, only a third the price, from Target. It was perfect. On Christmas morning, we discovered that it was several sizes too small. Big heads run in the family. I checked the Target website, but the only size listed was M/L. But the cap was just too perfect. We had to find a replacement. My brother braved five Wal-Mart and one Kohl’s with us, and my brother is no hipster. We found nothing. We persevered to the mall. After tearing my mother away from the shinies in the JC Penney housewares section, we toured Aeropostale, Gap, and several other places of the like before the fellowship met its greatest trial yet.
I believe my brother fully realized the peril he risked when we entered the Abercrombie and Fitch store. It was shrouded by very professional looking black shades, but I choked upon entering. Someone had axe bombed the place, and nobody had bothered to clear it up. The dim interior was painted black, partitions had been erected, reminiscent of the maze of the minotaur, and large pictures of bare masculine chests covered the wall. Worse, preppy, rhythmic music was blasting from some unseen source. I wasn’t sure I could find my way out before I was smothered in the scent. I was reminded of the Mines of Moria. “We cannot get out. The end comes, and then, drums, drums in the deep.”
By the time we stumbled into the open, we had decided that a specialty hat shop might be more in our line. We discovered one, Hat Shack, and entered. The shelves were lined with baseball hats, but they had driver’s caps. Black driver’s caps. Failure. We limped home, and I consulted the Target website a second time. The hat was gone. The page was purged. We decided to try the store one last time, if only to return the ill-fated hat. There, in the darkest corner of the hat shelf in the back of the store, we found it. One hat to rule them all. L/XL. We were victorious. I began to wonder why I hadn’t checked there first to begin with. I realize that probably had something to do with the one size listed on the website, and only three similar hats on the shelves.
The quest is completed, but some nights I lie awake wondering what could have been. Could I have found my own hat had I looked? And then I remember the darkened corridors of Abercrombie and Fitch, turn over with a shudder, and find sleep at last.