With tear filled eyes, I pushed open the shop door. The tinkle of the bell above the door seemed out of place within the semi-dark interior of the haberdashery. I looked back toward the plate glass window, the old man was gone.
"Hello, hello, my friend," came a voice from the back of the shop. I turned back to see a gnome of a man scampering between clothing bins like a ball in a pinball machine. He had an egg shaped head, nearly devoid of hair, yet eyebrows so white and wild a bird could have easily built a nest in them. He seemed to have no waist, yet wore a belt snugged tight across his sternum.
As he approached me the smile on his face desolved. "What's the problem, son?" he said, " Why the long face on such a beautiful day?"
His caring attitude brought on more tears. It was all I could do to speak. "I'm being persued," I blurted out. "An old man is stalking me. I think he's trying to steal my soul."
"And have you been to the police?" he asked, rubbing the back on his hand.
"Yes. They treated me like a crazy person. They said there was no one in my house but me. I told them that he hides in the mirrors, but they refuse to take all my mirrors with them."
"I understand. The police hate to go out ot their way to help people. By the way, where did you get that hat?"
"This?," I said, removing my Fedora. "I think a few years back I bought it in Spain --- Malaga, I believe it was. Why do you ask?"
The little man looked about; lowering his voice he said, "Some times these Shadow People, as they are called, travel from country to country in hats."
I nearly dropped the Fedora. Instead, I placed it on a bin filled with colorful ties. "What can I do?" I whispered.
"Come," he said, weaving between bins, "I think we can find you a another hat, a safer one, a new one that has not been infiltrated by the Shadow People."
The entire wall behind the counter was covered with hats of every make and design. "First, we need to measure your head," he said, glancing toward the front of the store. My eyes follwed his, but only recorded the street and traffic.
We spent over an hour, with me trying on hats, and him watching the door. The shop gradually became brighter as the sun moved across the heavens. "Ahh, he said at last, "This is just the hat for you. One hundred percent beaver. Cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter, and best of all, no chance that the Shadow People have attached themselves to it."
I donned the hat and immediately felt free of the old mirror-man. I bought the hat for three hundred dollars, and gave the little old man a fifty dollar tip.
Outside, I paused to look at his window, but the sun had moved behind me and now all I could see was his display merchandise.