Copyright Christopher Slater
It didn’t take a fashion genius to know that Norman was not born to wear a cowboy hat. No matter what angle he viewed it from, the
black felt hat just didn’t work. He returned it to the rack and looked at a few more. The white straw Stetson didn’t look too bad. He tried it on and smiled. That one would work.
For one of the first times in his life, Norman was going out on a date. It was as much a shock to him as it was to everyone else
that knew him. It wasn’t that Norman was bad looking…well, that wasn’t the entire reason. He didn’t go out on dates for two reasons: style and safety. Norman had never really found a style that
suited him. He wasn’t a headbanger. The music gave him migraines. He wasn’t a big hip-hop fan. He had the rhythm of an animal with mad-cow disease. He wasn’t a country boy, either, but the lady he
was going out with was, so he decided to at least dress the part.
The safety issue was something else altogether. Any lady that had ever considered asking Norman out changed their mind after five
minutes with him. He was the clumsiest, most unfortunate, most unlucky individual you could possibly imagine. It was never anything that he did on purpose, but if there was a cord to trip over, a
mirror to break, a drink to spill, or an injury to cause, it always seemed to happen around Norman. He had learned to live with the curse, but very few people other than his parents could deal with
Norman decided on the Stetson hat and a nice pair of boots. He figured that his jeans and a plaid shirt he had at home would
complete the outfit nicely. He took the boots and hat up to the counter and the clerk gave him his total. The sticker shock sent Norman into an asthma attack. He finally got it under control just
before the clerk was going to call for an ambulance. Norman did some mental math and decided that he would have to skip lunch for about a month to afford the clothes. But then he thought about the
date and decided it would be worth it.
Norman got back home and started getting ready. He went to the sink and shaved, then instantly regretted it. Shaving made his skin
break-out. He splashed some aftershave on to try and sooth his skin, then screamed bloody murder when the alcohol in the aftershave burned his sensitive skin. After he regained his senses, Norman
looked down and noticed that the bottle of aftershave had spilled on him. He had no other clean clothes to change into and no time to shower, so he decided to live with the smell. He took great
care in fixing his hair to make it look just right. Then he looked in the mirror and put his hat on, instantly ruining his hair. After fruitlessly trying to re-fix his hair, Norman decided just to
leave his hat on all night long.
Norman took one last look in the mirror before heading out of the house. He said goodbye to his mother, who was crying about how
quickly her little boy was growing up. Norman’s mother had always been overprotective and refused to realize that Norman was 18, not 8. He said goodnight to his dad, who sniffed the air, then told
Norman in a conspiratorial whisper “Son, you’re supposed to splash it on, not bathe in it.” Norman mumbled a thank you and got out as quickly as he could.
Glancing at his watch on the way out of the door, Norman realized that he had roughly three minutes to make a twenty minute drive.
He was already in his car when he noticed that he had left his coat in the house on one of the coldest nights of the year. “Too late now,” he muttered. For once his car started on the first try. He
pulled out of his driveway, almost sideswiped a mailbox, and began driving to his date’s house.
News reports of the event vary, but one thing was for certain- Norman set a new land speed record driving to pick up his date. He
lost two hubcaps in sharp turns, hit one squirrel, narrowly missed a deer, and blew through one speed trap so quickly that the cop didn’t chase him, thinking it was all in his imagination. After it
was all over, three drivers swore that they would ride the subway and never get on the road again, one “low flying UFO sighting” was called in, and Norman arrived only five minutes late.
Norman walked up to the door and knocked on it lightly, prepared to apologize for being late. When his date opened the door, the
apology got caught in his throat. The hat, the boots, the jeans all looked so natural and wonderful on her. “Uh…hello, Vanessa…” he stammered.
“Hello, Norman,” Vanessa responded with a killer smile.
Mentally cursing his parents for giving him such a featureless name, Norman managed to babble, “I’m…uh…sorry I’m late. I kinda got
caught in traffic.” Norman quickly prayed for forgiveness for the lie.
“That’s okay, Norm. No harm done.” Norman offered Vanessa his arm and began walking her to his car. He kept stealing glances at
Vanessa out of the corner of his eye. She was easily the most lovely lady to ever stand this close to him. She was well known and liked on campus and had more than her fair share of boys interested
in her. Norman truly expected for a camera crew to jump on of the bushes at any time to tell him it was all some televised practical joke.
Norman concentrated so much on looking at Vanessa that he wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. There was one small patch
of ice on the sidewalk. Typical of Norman’s luck, he found the patch of ice. His feet flew out in front of him as the rest of his body fell backwards. Vanessa let go of his arm just in time to keep
from being pulled down with him. After hitting the concrete with an unhealthy smack Norman stood back up and brushed himself off. That’s when he realized that the fall had crushed his hat.
Norman took it off, forgetting about the horrible mop of hair underneath. “There’s $100 down the drain,” he thought.
“Oh, Norman, are you all right?” Vanessa asked. “That was a really nice hat, too. Wait! You wear a 7 ¼, right? So does my brother!
I’ll be right back!”
Norman straightened himself up as Vanessa rushed back into her house. “Really smooth,” he said aloud to himself. “Show the lady
how well you can bust your butt.”
“What did you say, Norm?” Vanessa was already walking back outside, carrying a new hat for him.
Norman turned red at having been caught talking to himself. “I…uh…said I wondered why someone like you is going out with such a
mutt.” Norman silently prayed for forgiveness again.
Vanessa seemed very interested in the question. She thought about it for a few seconds before responding, “I’ll tell you at the
end of the night. Here, my brother lent this hat to you.” Norman took a quick look at the hat. It was the exact one that he thought had looked so horrible on him. He almost turned her down, but
then remembered how horrible his hair looked. He took the hat and walked Vanessa the rest of the way to the car. He made a conscious effort to avoid the ice this time.
Many would consider the resulting date a disaster. Norman had never tried line dancing before. He figured he could muddle his way
through by thinking of it as a game of follow-the-leader. He was sadly mistaken. While Vanessa danced with grace and ease, Norman looked like he had two left feet, both of which were missing all of
their toes. He almost wound up in two fights when he accidentally kicked people while trying to dance. For the first time in the dance club’s history, Norman became the first person to fall
onto a stage, and when he tried to two-step with Vanessa, he stomped her toes so hard that he was sure he heard something crack.
Through it all, Vanessa never laughed at him. Whenever he screwed up, which was often, she just smiled and showed him again. With
the patience of a saint, she eventually got him to make it through an entire dance without falling. When the music ended, the entire dance club gave him an ovation. He blushed, waving awkwardly as
they left for the evening.
Norman managed to get Vanessa back to the car without incident. She had been in a very good mood the entire night. She was
somewhat quiet in the car until she finally asked “Norman, I noticed something when we got in the car. There’s a smell. It’s not unpleasant, but it is kind of strong.”
Norman remembered spilling the aftershave earlier that evening. The car’s confined space made it much more noticeable. “I….was
kinda hoping you wouldn’t notice. I… a bottle of aftershave broke in the back seat when the bag boy put a really heavy bag on top of it.” With as many lies as he had told today, Norman knew he
needed to go to confession this Sunday!
After a quick and, luckily, uneventful stop for a snack at McDonalds, Norman drove Vanessa home. He walked her to the front porch,
making an effort once again to avoid the patch of ice. They reached the door, and Norman stood there, uncertain what to say. He finally said “Thanks for putting up with me tonight, Vanessa. I hope
the doctor says your toe isn’t broke. I imagine he’ll say a second date is out of the question.”
Vanessa looked at him with a slight smile on her face. “You know, Norm, I never did answer your question earlier.” Norman searched
his memory, but couldn’t recall what question she was talking about. “You asked me earlier why I was going out with such a mutt.” Norman nodded. Vanessa stepped closer to Norman. “Smell, Norman.”
Norman tried to smell, but the cold weather had stuffed up his nose. After ten agonizing and noisy seconds, he managed to clear his nose enough to sniff the air. He picked up a very strong sense of
perfume. He looked at her in surprise. She smiled back. “Now take a really good look at me.” Norman looked at her for several long moments. At first, he was simply mesmerized by her. Eventually he
noticed that she was shivering. He reached instinctively to offer her his coat before he remembered that he had left it at home. It occurred to her that she had left hers as well. “You asked why I
am going out with such a mutt. It’s because I am just as much of a mutt. The difference is that no one expects it of me. Since they don’t expect it, they don’t see it. You, on the other hand,
expect to be clumsy, so that is all that you see.”
Norman shifted nervously. “That’s all that I see because that is all that I do.”
“Really? You are the first man to ever offer me his arm to walk me somewhere. You are the first to hold the door for me. You are
the first to look me in the eye when they talk to me. You’re the first to offer to make a splint for my toe when they thought they broke it!” Norman laughed in spite of himself. “Those are the
things that I see. Come dancing with me next Friday. Soon you may be just as clumsy as I am.”
Vanessa leaned forward and kissed Norman warmly on the cheek. “Thank you for overlooking my flaws,” she whispered to him.
Norman couldn’t think of what to say at first. Finally, he replied somewhat softly, “Have a good evening, ma’am.” He said it in a
perfect southern accent. Norman was from New Jersey! He got in his car and started backing out of the driveway. Vanessa was waving to him, so he paid no attention where he was going until he hit
the mailbox. Vanessa ran down to check on the mailbox and slipped on the infamous patch of ice. Vanessa’s father could be heard cursing in the house about the damaged mailbox. Vanessa sheepishly
stood up and waved to Norman to let him know she was alright. As he pulled away, she couldn’t help thinking how happy she was the Norm had gone country.
© Copyright 2016 clslater. All rights reserved.