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Routine

by Phil Temples



          Benjamin Presley Wellington drew back the curtain and peered out of the window of his Kensington apartment to observe the current weather conditions. He had, of course, already armed himself with the daily weather forecast from yesterday’s Evening Standard. Still, it was always good to have independent confirmation of the conditions Mother Nature had in store for him. Wellington was pleased to see his observations matched the newspaper’s forecast: it appeared to be a warm June morning, nearly cloudless, with highs predicted in the lower 70s. He placed his hand on the glass and felt its surface. If Wellington had to speculate from his touch, and the dress of the people he observed outside, he would estimate the current temperature to be at around 65 degrees. In short, a beautiful day!

On this as on all mornings, Wellington had started his day with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Before the arrival of his housekeeper, Judith, at half-past ten, he would begin his trek to Bartley’s to secure a copy of the Daily Telegraph, followed by his morning constitutional through the Kensington Gardens. There, he would stop off at the Italian Gardens to feed the pigeons briefly, before returning home via the same route. It was a well-practiced ritual. Thinking about it brought a smile to his face.

Wellington opened the closet door and, without bothering to turn on the light, reached in to retrieve his overcoat and hat. Judith knew to place his coat precisely on the second rung on the left. He removed the coat, and reached up for his hat. The fedora was always on the… wait… Where is my fedora?

The fedora was not on the top shelf nearest the door where it belonged. Wellington turned on the light switch and peered inside the closet. The hat was nowhere to be seen. Has it fallen onto the floor?  Wellington got down on all fours and crawled about, shoving boots and boxes and other sundry items out of the way so that he might inspect the darkest crevasses of the little room. His search failed to yield any tangible result; his beloved Dutch Ellsworth classic brim fedora was nowhere to be found.

Wellington rose to his feet, feeling exerted and also, slightly nauseated. This was clearly unacceptable! Wellington was practically beside himself. His heart was racing; he had to go into the living room and sit down on the sofa in an effort to calm himself.

What to do?

Wellington kept a second fedora, a wide-rimmed affair reserved for harsher conditions. He rarely wore it outside of the winter months. Then he remembered: it was away for repair at the hattery on St. Christopher’s Place. Wellington cursed himself for being so careless for not having a fedora in reserve. He couldn’t go out in public now! This would throw off his entire daily routine.

Perhaps not.

Perhaps this was the day to be bold, he thought. To take command. To face adversity head-on. Besides, it was the modern era—or so everyone said. Men of stature were no longer required to wear hats in public—especially those of the younger generation. While Wellington did not approve, he supposed it was only a matter of time before men of all ages would abandon their headgear and go forth uncovered into the world.

Perhaps he should wait until Judith arrived and have her go to… don’t be ridiculous, man! Send a housekeeper to purchase a gentleman’s fedora?  Poppycock!

Wellington made up his mind. He would adhere to his normal routine as closely as possible—sans fedora. If the public did not approve, well then, the public be damned.

That’'s it, then.

Benjamin Presley Wellington donned his coat and proceeded down the steps of his townhouse, then turned right on the sidewalk on Campden Hill Road. A middle-aged woman approached in the opposite direction. Wellington smiled, and instinctively reached up to tip his hat.  He caught himself at the last second, and feigned smoothing his thinning hair. The woman looked at him oddly.

Several blocks later, Wellington passed a young woman and a child. The woman smiled warmly at Wellington. He nodded at her. This isn’t so bad now, he thought.

Immediately after they passed, Wellington heard the little girl speak. “Mommy? Why isn’t that man wearing a hat?”

When he heard this, Wellington stopped in his tracks. His face turned red with embarrassment. He did an abrupt about-face, and without hesitation, ran three blocks back to his home.

Wellington arrived quite winded. He fumbled with his keys in the lock. Finally, Wellington gained entrance to his flat, slammed the door, grabbed his chest in agony, let out a muffled cry, and collapsed in the foyer.

His housekeeper found his lifeless body at half-past ten.    


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