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Rick Mobbs Picture Prompt: Keep your hat on

You've got to keep your hat on

Rick Mobbs has put up picture prompts for me, and it is my privilege to be able to write something based on them—I’m starting off today with his sketch.

I’m not sure how this will turn out, because I’m writing it down as it comes to me. I do hope you don’t hate it too much, Rick, and thank you so much for the honour.

Meet Anna Williams and her hats, everybody.

Once you wear your hat you’ve gotta keep it on, they tell Anna, you have to become a legend because that is why you were born. Everyone in your family has done it. We married into it, Annie-girl, we bought it, traded it, bred it, so just you go ahead up on the stage and spit it out, and no matter what they’ll recognize it, because we wrote it into your chromosomes, baby, just go ahead, all right? Keep your hat on and you’ll be okay, they say, and give her a shove.

That was ten years ago and now she walks tall, a hard-headed girl, wearing many hats, a singer, songwriter, seductress, dancer, actress, diva, designer. A legend in the making, they say, we told you Anna-darling, just listen to us , they say, just keep your hat on and you’ll do well.

Sometimes though, she wears all of the hats together, and that’s when she has the most fun, though neither them nor anyone else knows it. To shrill whistles and hoarse cat-calls, under flashing strobe lights, surrounded by stale perfume, cigar smoke, and beer fumes, Anna purls her much-insured body the color of midnight, that otherwise appears on screen in flashes, covered by iron-clad contracts.

She wears a mask as she twirls around the cold, hard pole, and her hats–one hat upon the other– a red hat with tassels, an oriental hat with ostrich feathers, a fedora, a top-hat, a blue balaclava, a wretched beanie embroidered with pearls, never letting any of them fall as she moves.

The elderly men in loosened, delirious ties do not know what awesome return-on-investment the cash they drop at the bar brings them. Anna Williams in the flesh, all of it on display.

Anna breathes in her freedom as she raises her leg strapped to stilettoes, she smells her abandonment in the upturn of her arms and the hardening of her nipples, in the bracing of her stomach she finds the strength of her spirit.

I have kept my hats on, Mom, Dad, I’m okay, Anna mutters under her breath as she whirls, eyes flaming. Glued to her head by the power of her will, her hats tilt, sway, but do not fall. Because once you wear a hat, baby, you better keep it on.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • oh says:

    Hey, this really WORKS! Tip top! I do believe spontaneous writing can be the best and here, you capture the essence, give just enough character,background and setting and a telling bit of action! And, perfect with the sketch.
    What’s next? (I’m enjoying these.)

    • Damyanti says:

      Pressure…phew! You mean I’ve got to keep coming up with these?

      Kidding. I’m enjoying doing these, and Rick has been so generous, it’d be a shame not to attempt something for the other picture he has posted. Watch this space for more 🙂

  • David Hodges says:

    I thought I would experiment and read the piece extremely quickly, Damyanti, just scanning actually, since you advised me in advance you wrote it spontaneously. What a hoot! My favorite moment by far, the delirious ties. I can just picture them spinning around their owners’ heads, dunking themselves in shot glasses!

  • rick mobbs says:

    Don’t be silly! It a terrific piece of work. All this time I’ve been away from writing and blogging you have been over here stretching your muscles, growing stronger, more certain, more nimble, reaching out in new directions, your writing growing more complex and compelling. I envy you! And I’m glad I was able to get back!

  • Madeleine says:

    Wow now that seemed really profound to me. I got the impression there was a much bigger story behind Anna and her hats. Those hats could be seen as metaphorical representing all the roles she’s played in her life and continues to play :O)

  • rick mobbs says:

    Wow! What a piece of writing. I love it. My niece (the hat chick) is going to love it. I’ll send her write over.

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks Rick, am glad you liked it. I wrote and posted it without thinking, then read it again and grew nervous!

    • Damyanti says:

      Much relieved :). And I do not deserve your envy…I have not been blogging very regularly…merely started it off a little last week with the series of prompts. I try to write some fiction everyday and this way I’m just posting it up instead of scribbling in a notebook and forgetting about it!

  • Damyanti says:

    🙂 Gladys…I’m glad this brought you a smile.

  • Lovely to have a smile just as I’m flagging! What a great piece of writing. Don’t know how you do it!