Name Recognition

Johnathon picked up the bright red bucket hat out of curiosity. The color drew his attention as he watched a surprisingly spry old man dash into the alley. Red stood out from the blacks and browns of most of the other pedestrians wandering around downtown. Johnathon’s curiosity led him to follow the old man into the alley; but, he was surprised to find it empty except for the red hat.

Johnathon checked the inside of the hat and was surprised to see his own name written inside the brim with a black marker. He turned it around to look over the outside and noted the number 13 embroidered in small gold numbers on the top of it. He spun around in the alley again to double-check for a sign of anyone, but he was alone. The hat looked like it would fit him comfortably and he tried it on. The moment it sat on his head something felt different; but, he wasn’t sure what. A tingling sensation ran down from his head to envelope his whole body. It surprised him and he pulled the hat off, the sensation instantly disappeared. He looked down at his hands but did not see anything that might have caused the tingling sensation. He shrugged and donned the hat again.

The tingling sensation returned but he was expecting it this time. He checked his hands but they were missing. He wiggled his fingers frantically, still feeling the sensations but he could not see his hands. or arms. He looked down further and realized his body invisible, clothes and all. Johnathon kept his focus on his torso and reached up to lift the hat off his head. His body reappeared as soon as the tingling sensation ended.

“Nice…,” Johnathon grinned to himself. He put the hat on and walked out of the alley. He worked extra hard to dodge pedestrians that couldn’t see him, but the strangers ignored him even more than usual. Johnathon made his way home as he planned the best way to make use of his new ability.

At 21, he was just starting his life and he knew he could use the hat to make a great life for himself. But, he wanted to avoid drawing too much attention. He used it for occasional minor thievery to help him stay current with his bills, but more often than that he used it to spy on others. Over the years his business grew successful because he somehow always knew exactly what others would accept to make any deal work.

40 years later a very wealthy Johnathon happened to be passing the very same alley where he discovered the hat. He’d been hit by a wave of nostalgia and flew back to his hometown. He smiled when he recognized the alley and turned into it. He was surprised to see an old man looking around and grumbling to himself.

“Where the hell is it?” Johnathon heard the old man ask. An old memory crossed Johnathon’s mind as he wondered what the old man was looking for. It was the same man that wore the red hat when he ran into the alley, then vanished. 40 years ago Johnathon’s curiosity led him into the alley and now his curiosity again pushed him to approach the old man.

“Everything okay, sir?” Johnathon asked. The old man looked up and nodded.

“Fine, but have you any chance seen a red hat anywhere around here? I’m pretty sure this is where I lost it.” Johnathon had the hat in his coat pocket; but, he wasn’t ready to return it just yet. There were still several unanswered questions. As his memory clarified, Johnathon realized the old man looked the same age he did when he first saw him. He didn’t look like he had another 40 years in him then and now. He wanted to see if he could get any more information out of the man and decided to try and be helpful.

“When did you lose it?” Johnathon asked while giving a cursory look around the alley for effect. The old man answered with a laugh.

“If I knew that, it’d be easier to find,” he said. “Instead I’ve got to retrace my steps through all the years I’ve been here.” Johnathon didn’t quite understand what the man meant, but he chalked it up to the stranger just being old. But, the fact that he mentioned a timeframe gave Johnathon an idea. He snapped his fingers, which drew the man’s attention.

“I knew you looked familiar,” Johnathon said with wide eyes as if he’d just had an epiphany. “Is it a red bucket hat?” he asked. The old man stepped forward and nodded. “Yeah…,” Johnathon nodded as well as if he were jogging his own memory. “.. well I don’t it’s going to help you any. But I think I remember seeing you around here wearing a red bucket hat 40 years ago.” 

“40?” the old man asked. Johnathon nodded. The old man smiled, and seemed relieved. “Thank you,” he said. Then, Johnathon blinked.

40 years earlier, a 21-year-old Johnathon stood in an alleyway holding a red hat. He checked the inside of the hat and was surprised to see his own name written inside the brim with a black marker. He turned it around to look over the outside and noted the number 13 embroidered in small gold numbers on the top of it. He spun around in the alley again to double-check for a sign of anyone,  and was surprised to see the old man there; seemingly appeared out of thin air. He stared at Johnathon and narrowed his eyes.

“My hat, please,” he said.

“Oh, sorry,” Johnathon returned the hat with a smile. “It has my name in it; I was a bit surprised,” he added as the old man accepted it. “I thought maybe it was meant for me or something.” The old man laughed and shook his head.

“Thanks for helping me find it,” he said. He extended his hand in greeting and Johnathon noticed the number 14 tattooed on his hand. “Name’s Johnathon,” he said as they shook hands. “I’d say it was a funny coincidence, but we both know how common our name is.”

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