Gloria's Glorious Chapeau
aka Mrs Potter's New Hat
(Little Ezra - Old West)
Disclaimer: I don't own them, or the show they rode in on. I wrote this for fun, and no profit is made from it.
Archive: Twyla's Very Simple Magnificent Seven Page, Starwinder's, You Want Fries With That?, and The All-Ezra FanFic Archive --- all others, please ask. Some of these stories were posted originally on the Ezra's Littleverse list, and hence also on its archive.
Summary: It's Easter in Four Corners and the ladies all know what that means.
Warnings: Ezra is a little boy, all the rest of the Seven are their adult selves.
Author's Note: Dear Reader, there stories are listed as they were written rather than in a timeline of the series itself. I am writing as the mood strikes and fitting in my small pieces helter-skelter. If the series is ever completed, I shall attempt a timeline for the stories. For now, as I publish, I shall try to note if the story doesn't follow sequentially with the preceding ones.
Completed: 8 April 2004
Feedback: email@example.com welcomes comments
Back to: And The Rain Came Down
Mr. Chris was going to lay in some supplies, he'd explained that to Ezra before they left their small cabin. He told Ezra that some places would be closing for Good Friday and so they'd come in early on Thursday morning. When they drew up in front of the store on Trip, Chris handed the youngster down first, before dismounting himself. He smiled at Buck who was flirting with Molly over by the pickle barrel.
Buck tipped his hat to the young lady and came back over to lift Ezra up onto the boardwalk with a mighty grunt. "There you go, Pard!" He smiled at the young mite. "Putting on weight, young'un." He patted the small, flat stomach with exaggerated admiration.
Ezra tipped his head to peer down at his belly. It didn't look too large to him, but perhaps it was the angle of view? Mamon would not be pleased if he became rotund, she always pointed out any chubby children they might see on the street. Then she'd pinch his arm, or neck, or whatever was handy and say, "Now, my dear boy, I don't ever want to see you display such a portly and unhealthy appearance. Look sharp always, son!"
No, he did not want to put on weight. Scandalized he sucked in his stomach and stood straighter. Mr. Buck looked amused and turned toward Mr. Chris. "Gonna stay awhile, Old Dog? Haven't seen much of you since you and little Ez here been holed up out at your place."
Larabee paused for a moment, in the act of tying up Trip to the hitching rail. It was true. He hadn't seen much of the others either. Ezra seemed to get on well with Mrs. Potter and her kids. He nodded to Buck. "I'll place my order inside and let Ezra supervise, then I'll see you over at the saloon." He smiled down at Ezra who was still eyeing his concave belly with suspicion. Damn, what bee did Buck put in the kid's hat now? "Ez?"
Ezra looked up into his guardian's warm eyes. "Yes, sir, Mr. Chris?"
Chris squatted on his heels so he could look straight at Ezra. "I'd like to spend some time over at the saloon with the boys. How about you help Mrs. Potter with our order, then come on over. We can have something to eat."
"Eat?" The boy's voice came out in a squeak, eyes rounding.
Chris narrowed his eyes, then flung a look of disgusted comprehension over his shoulder at the retreating figure of happy-go-lucky Buck. Damn. He turned back to Ezra and lightly touched both narrow shoulders. "Ezra, you are NOT too fat. You aren't even plump, you are skinny as a rail. You could actually do with a bit more meat on your bones. Don't let Buck's teasing get you all in a tizzy."
Doubtfully, Ezra stared down at his stomach region. It didn't appear to bulge at all, perhaps Mr. Chris was correct. With a sigh, Ezra decided he would be very particular about what and how much food he consumed at their luncheon later. He nodded and met Mr. Chris' eyes.
Chris stood up, not sure if he'd managed to fix that or not. I'm going to have some words with Buck before Ezra gets over to the saloon. Meanwhile, he kept one hand on Ezra's shoulder as he guided the boy into the deep store. He could see Gloria Potter at the back, ringing up some items for a ranch hand. By the time Chris and Ezra made it to the counter, the man there was picking up a small crate and nodding his thanks, leaving.
"Good morning, Mr. Larabee. Ezra." Gloria smiled at the unlikely pair. She really did like the little boy, even if he was such a quiet contrast to her Joseph and Amanda. "How can I help you today?"
"Got a list." Larabee handed over a small piece of paper torn from a notebook. A penciled list was on it. He handed over the empty feedbag. "Thought we could pack most of it in here."
Gloria was reading down the list, nodding. "I have everything. It will take a few minutes."
Ezra folded his arms and leaned on the counter. "I shall be available to assist you, ma'am."
Chris squeezed the small shoulder beneath his hand lightly. "I'm going over to the saloon, Gloria, to see the rest of the boys. If you don't mind, I'll leave Ezra here to help you with this, then I told him he could come on over and we'd eat lunch there at the saloon."
Ezra craned his head up to watch Chris' face, listening. Then he swiveled to look at Mrs. Potter who was smiling and nodding. "Ezra's a good helper. We'll be fine."
Filling the order would not have taken very long if Mrs. Harwich hadn't arrived the moment Mr. Larabee left. Mrs. Norma Harwich had pretensions. She was there to buy new ribbons for her Sunday-go-to-meeting hat. "It's Easter this Sunday, you know." She touched her rather overly arranged curls and bun. "I plan on making quite a stir with my bonnet all set for the Easter service."
Ezra stood back to the side, watching as the rather loud woman chatted on with Mrs. Potter. Mrs. Potter didn't seem to have much to say, though she did keep a pleasant smile on her face. Ezra was not deceived. He could tell that Mrs. Potter did not like this lady at all.
Just as Mrs. Harwich turned to leave, Amanda Potter came out from the back of the store. The Potters lived above the store, but the kitchen was behind the store and attached to it. Ezra presumed Amanda had been in the kitchen since she still had a smear of flour on her cheek. The young girl was looking unhappy and watching Mrs. Harwich sail out of the store, ribbons flying.
"Mama, I asked you to save some of those ribbons for me!" Amanda looked forlornly after the parting woman.
"And so I did," Gloria smiled at her daughter. "Just look up in your room on the bureau." She gave Amanda a kiss on the floury cheek and sent her on her way.
Ezra came out of the shadows just as Mrs. Potter's gaze switched to the now empty front door of the store. He could see anger there and something more. He did like Mrs. Potter.
"Do you have an Easter bonnet?" Ezra came right up to the counter again and rested his elbows there, cupping his chin in his hands. And waited.
Gloria tore her eyes away from the doorway and down to see the little boy looking up at her so seriously. She couldn't help but smile. "I am still in black bombazine."
Ezra cocked his head, dropping one hand to make small circles on the counter top. "Mr. Chris told me that your husband has been gone a long time now." He didn't think he should use the word 'dead' and hoped she wouldn't get angry at him now.
The older woman stared down at the green-eyed child in front of her. Yes, her husband had been gone for nearly a year now. Slowly, she nodded.
"Perhaps, then, in honor of the celebrations that make up the Easter season, you should forego your bombazine?" His other hand came down to the counter and he was now studying his fingers as he wove them together in a complex series of movements.
Intrigued by the delicate play of digits, it took Gloria a moment to recall what had been said. "Perhaps. But it is a bit late now." She could hear the regret in her own voice. Yes, it was time to move on. Just look at Mary Travis, she'd stopped wearing black some time ago and so maybe it was time that she did too. No need to go to my grave in black.
Ezra's hands stopped their small dance and folded themselves neatly in front of him. He looked up at Mrs. Potter. "So, do you have a dress or should you pick out a new one?" He nodded toward a small rack of ladies ready-made fashions.
Gloria nearly laughed. Even with her corset, none of those would fit her stocky build. But, in her closet, was a very nice light blue gingham, with some floral embroidery at the neck and wrists, and a set of very conservative ruffles of white cotton that ran down the bosom. That would do. And after months of black, it would seem new to her - and to everyone else. She touched a finger to her mouth. "Yes, I have a dress."
"And a bonnet?" Ezra asked, his quiet persistence still solemn.
Gloria frowned. Well, now, that presented a problem. She couldn't very well wear the black sunshade that had been her companion along with the bombazine. Amanda had been wearing her blue one for some time now. Amanda was growing up and trying on her mama's clothes, getting close to wearing some of them, it was a highlight to the child's existence. Of course, aside from a shawl and the hat, she was too small for Gloria's things, so that made the hat all the more important - to Amanda. No, I can't take it back. Which means I do not have a hat.
"No, I don't." She sighed and picked up two cans of peaches, shoving them into the feedbag with perhaps a bit too much force. "I'll have to stay in the bombazine for one more Easter." She looked up to see the little boy's face reflect her own sadness. Suddenly needing to give comfort, she impulsively touched the top of the boy's folded hands. "Ezra, it's alright."
He was shaking his head. "No, ma'am, it is not." He twisted his head and started examining the large room. "Pardon me." He pushed away from the counter and wandered off.
Shaking her head, Gloria decided that that ended the conversation and she returned to filling the bag with items from the list.
Ezra moved slowly, eyes taking inventory. He started over at the rack of dresses. They were rather skimpy, Mrs. Potter was right. Alertly, he ran his fingers over the chintz and polished cotton fabrics of the two rather better made dresses. Just beyond them, on a wall shelf, were three bonnets. Two were simple calico sunshade creations, long sash-style ribbons to tie under the chin. One was pink, the other yellow.
Gathering dust, just beyond them, was a demure little hat. Not much more than a pill box. But Ezra's eye was a trained eye, sophisticated beyond the borders of this small hamlet. He'd been brought up, at least upon occasion, with his Mamon. Who was the very height of high fashion. Standing up on his toes, he stretched his arms out and with just fingertips, was able to reach and remove the simple little blue hat. It had a gather of fabric to one side, as if to make up for lack of feathers, ribbons, or net. Ezra held it in front of his eyes, evaluating its potential. Yes, it would do with a bit of alteration. Ezra was very familiar with alterations. Mamon never wore something just the way it came from the store or the dressmaker. Her flare demanded that little extra fillip to ensure she was the arbiter of taste, not a woe-begone follower of others' dictates.
As if carrying the crown jewels, Ezra walked back to the counter, the small hat sitting demurely on his flat upward turned palms. He gently slid it to the counter top. "Here. Now you have a hat." He smiled up at the amazed Gloria.
Gloria stared at the hat. She knew it was there in the store. She knew everything in the store. But this little hat. She would look like a complete fool with that on top of her head. Like a large bottle with a small cap. She didn't want to hurt the boy's feelings but she would not be wearing that hat. "Oh, Ezra, I can't wear that. I'm sorry but it would be lost on me."
Ezra tipped his head to the side as if considering her remarks. Then his eyes widened in comprehension. "Oh, no, Mrs. Potter, you would never wear this hat as it is now. You must think of how it will look soon." He lifted it into the air, letting it rest on one small fist as he gestured with his other hand. "We must add a few special touches to create an appropriate chapeau for you."
"Chapeau?" Gloria blinked.
"Um, 'hat.'" Ezra started to hum something that sounded vaguely church-like. He picked up a small roll of wire fencing and set it on the counter, then placed the hat on top of that. "There, it should sit there well for us." Then the little boy backed up and studied the small fabric head-covering. "First, we will need a sewing kit." Bright eyes looked up at Gloria. "If you would be so kind?" He waved toward the back door.
Feeling as if she was caught up in a strange dream, Gloria nodded automatically and turned to go get her sewing box from the kitchen. What could the child do to that hat? Not that it mattered, it would keep him busy and perhaps he wouldn't look as sad as he had before. Wiping her hands on her apron, she walked back toward the cloth-draped doorway at the rear.
Ezra had already started another perambulation of the room. He stopped in front of a glass case and looked down inside. His nose tip pushed against the glass as he squinted past the glare from the sunshine streaming in through the nearby doorway. Hat pins. There were several. Not very fancy, but they only needed one for its very utilitarian purpose of fixing the hat to the head. He tapped the glass door with satisfaction. Later for that. Turning, he ran his eyes over the fabric bundles and folds on display on two shelves. Near the end of the row, was a roll of fine white mesh lace, just beginning to yellow. Not much use for it in a frontier town. But it was wide and very sheer. It would do in place of voile. He gathered it up under one arm, being careful not to crush it.
Continuing his stroll, Ezra stopped at a box of satin and velvet and silk flowers. Each stood on a wire stem. They hung over the side of the box limply. Many a pioneer woman would use such false flowers to decorate a parlor, gardens being scarce. These had clearly been picked over extensively and the remainders were rather floppy. He squatted down beside the box and carefully set aside his bundle of lace. With precision, Ezra lifted and examined each flower, one at a time. When he was done, he had three yellow silk roses, one yellow daisy with a brown center, seven blue periwinkles, and a spray of baby's breath. Gathering his trophies, he moved back to the counter where Mrs. Potter stood frowning.
"Ezra? What have you got there?"
"The makings of your fine hat." He set his prizes on the counter and dusted his hands together. "We will need the golden colored hat pin from the case in front." He nodded in that direction.
Looking sideways at the child, Gloria decided it couldn't hurt to humor him. She went off to get the hat pin.
Ezra pulled Mrs. Potter's sewing box towards him. Taking up a spool of blue thread, he shook a needle from the small glass bottle of three. By the time Mrs. Potter had returned, he had threaded the needle and his busy little fingers were industriously catching lace to the cloth folds on the right side of the hat. Long swaths of lace. Gloria stood back and wondered where in the world this small boy had learned to sew or even to think about sewing, no less sewing together a hat.
The lace, stiff with age, sprung out around the hat like a fountain or cloud. Gloria looked at the little hat in surprise. The lace made it look softer, larger. Ezra was tying off the thread and snipped it with her sewing scissors.
While she stared bemused, Ezra took up his floral wealth, one flower at a time, shaking each out, blowing away any trace of dust, tugging and shifting the bits of fabric and thin wire until each flower seemed to come to life beneath his speeding fingers. He bent back the long wire stems and wiggled them until the wires weakened and snapped off.
When that happened on the first flower, one of the roses, Ezra looked up with a guilty expression, as if awaiting a reprimand. Gloria simply tilted her head and shrugged. Ezra had brightened and returned to his labors. Shortly, he had a small bouquet of flowers tied with a bit of the discarded stem wire. He held the cluster up to the hat, setting it this way, then that. Finally, he pulled several flowers free, thinning it, and affixed it to the fountainhead of the lace. Gloria watched in awe as the hat took on a life of its own. Ezra wasn't done. He took the remaining flowers and stitched them, in a loose arrangement, to the far edge of the hat, beneath the lace veil. They formed a subtle counterbalance. He stood back and circled the hat, as far as the counter edge would allow. Frustrated at that boundary, he began to rotate the hat's wire 'stand,' studying the hat carefully.
Finally, apparently satisfied, Ezra climbed up a stack of nearby bags of oats, scrambling like a little monkey. Once on top, he sat down with a certain plop of finality and reached over to pluck the hat from the roll of wire it had been resting upon. "Hat pin?" Ezra held out a hand. Gloria dropped the wicked long pin on to his open palm. Ezra looked up at her and smiled. "Shall we try it on now?" He gestured for her to approach.
Gloria Potter spared a moment to look around the store. No customers to laugh at them, so she decided to let Ezra finish his foolishness. Stepping close, she allowed him to set the little hat on her tightly drawn back hair, above and to the side of the bun she had it pulled back in. He plucked it up with a shake of his head, and then reset it so that it rested off center, at a jaunty angle. There. Just the way Mamon wears hers. Ezra took the hatpin and slid it through net, cloth, and hair, out the other side and capped it with the closure bead. He sat back and looked Mrs. Potter over. Then he smiled.
Gloria caught her breath. She had seen Ezra really smile only once before. Usually, he just curved his lips but this, this was the sun coming out on a cloudy day. Dimples, deep and sweet framed his little face, green eyes twinkling with pleasure, mouth a curve of happiness. It didn't matter if she looked like some circus clown, this little boy looked happy. And he so seldom did.
Clapping his hands, Ezra directed, "You must look now. Go look in the mirror over there!" He gestured to where a mirror stood near the clothing section, for customers.
With trepidation, Gloria walked over to the mirror. It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter, she kept saying silently to herself. This made him happy. He doesn't have to know if it looks too absurd. I'll find a way to have an accident before Sunday that will spoil it enough so I won't have to wear it. Plan made, she stepped with a bit more confidence the rest of the way across the room. To stand in front of the mirror, looking over her shoulder at Chris Larabee's little boy. Who was sliding off the bags of oat feed and onto the floor. He nearly skipped over to her side and took her hand, pulling her around so that she would finally be forced to look at herself in that mirror.
Gritting her teeth into a timid smile for the boy, Gloria peered hesitantly into the mirror. Oh. Oh, my! Her eyes opened wide.
"It will look much better when you are not wearing the bombazine." Ezra's piping little voice assured her. His little hands captured hers and proceeded to turn her first to the left, then right, all the time speaking, more words than she had ever heard come out of him at once. "I think it will raise the level of fashion in this community, Mrs. Potter. The ladies will all be agog."
Gloria Potter stared and stared. It was beautiful. What was more, it made her plain, homely face look lovely, framed it, made it mysterious and gay. Tentatively, she pulled one hand free from the eager child and primped the hat's veil up a bit. It flowed around the blue base like a spring day, all sunshine and garden and charm. Gloria was entranced.
Ezra had continued to pipe encouragements and uplifting comments, just like the hat makers and seamstresses did for Mamon when she tried on their wares. He finally stopped. Mrs. Potter didn't appear to be listening anyway.
"Ezra." Gloria pulled herself away from the entrancing sight in the mirror and bent down to the smiling child. "Thank you for this hat." She touched it again, wonderingly, and then kissed the boy on his forehead. "Thank you, Ezra, for this wonderful, marvelous, amazing hat!" She laughed and Ezra laughed with her. Maybe some of Mamon's lessons were not so bad after all. Ezra beamed, it felt very good to be able to make Mrs. Potter laugh like that, like she was really happy. His own heart filled with unfamiliar joy as he watched his friend's pleasure and knew he'd done well. With a coy look that she hadn't used in years, Gloria Potter glanced back over her shoulder at her reflection one last time. In a soft whisper, she repeated to her diminutive knight in shining armor, "Thank you."
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