For September Carol Preflatish

“The Mad Hatter”

Jefferson W. Tufteduck, Jr., owner of the local haberdasher emporium, stood in the middle of his store admiring his wares. Oh, how proud he was of his shirts, ties, gloves, and hats, especially his hats.

At that moment, music filled the store indicating a customer had entered. Tufteduck turned to see Inspector Patrick Lumley looking about.

“Inspector, what can I do for you today? I bet you’d like to look at one of my many hats.”

“No, no. I’m here about the noise.”

“Noise? What noise?”

“You know very well what noise.” Lumley began strolling through the store. “We received another complaint from your neighbors about all the popping and clanking coming from here last night.”

“As always, I don’t know what my neighbors are hearing. You can see that I have no machinery in here, other than my doorbell. I made that myself, you know.”

Lumley looked above the door and saw what looked like an assembly line of belts, wheels, and cogs running from the door and circling the entire room.

“I know you’re a tinkerer, Tufteduck. What do you have in your back room?”

He walked behind the counter and opened the door for the inspector. “Look for yourself.”

Along one wall of the room was shelf after shelf of hats, all bowlers. On the opposite side of the room were racks of hanging shirts and pants. Inspector Lumley walked around looking at each rack. “What about a cellar?”

“There’s nothing underneath us, but dirt, sir.”

The inspector stomped his foot several times, each one resulting in a solid sounding thump. He started to leave, but paused. “How do you make so many of these hats?”

“I’m very quick with my scissors and steampress. Men from all over the country order my hats.”

“I see.” He walked through the store and out of the building to the song, Buffalo Gals.

Late that same night, Tufteduck made sure the Closed sign showed to the front and the door locked tight. He walked to the back room and closed the door behind him. Pulling a key from his pocket, he slid a hidden wall plate aside, inserted the key, and turned.

Suddenly, the wall holding the shelves of hats moved forward and across the room. From behind the wall, a large copper machine rolled out. With a flip of the switch, a panel on the ceiling opened and the largest steam pipe on the machine locked onto the hole.

Tufteduck opened a door on the contraption and loaded a large roll of thick black felt inside. He closed the door and then opened another, filling it with a pile of wood and started the fire. After closing the door, he poured bucket after bucket of water into the large boiler. When the thermometer reached the proper temperature, he flipped a switch.

The apparatus began humming, sprockets and pulleys started turning belts, and little bellows of steam escaped through seams not quite sealed. Then, the noise grew louder and his invention started vibrating. Finally, out from the door at the end of the machine came bowler hats. They were perfect bowlers hats that he then placed on an empty shelf.


About Jim Hilton

Just having a good time writing about our little adventures.
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