By: J.J. Cheesman
Ever since I can remember, my mother always collected antiques. Growing up, my entire house was in a constant state of disarray due to the amount of junk my mother collected. Old cuckoo clocks hung by the dozens on the walls of the living room and the kitchen. Jars of archaic buttons and glass beads sat on nearly every surface. Old china dolls sat on the mantle, and inside glass cases in our hallways so that they sat looking through the glass at passersby. Those dolls were the reason that as a young girl I refused to drink any liquid before bed time, because I didn’t want to get up in the middle of the night to pee and have to pass by the dolls and their lifeless gaze. I could go on and on about the many other odd knickknacks that occupied my childhood home, but there are none more interesting than the man in the brass fedora.
My mother received the man in the brass fedora when I was around eleven years old. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I do remember sitting in the living room playing my N64 when there was a loud knock at the door. My mother was doing dishes in the kitchen and didn’t seem like she heard the knock, so I got up to go see who it was and through the glass window set in our front door I could see it was uncle Robbie. Uncle Robbie was my dad’s best friend; he wasn’t really my uncle but that’s what I always knew him as. Uncle Robbie was carrying something large that was wrapped in a white sheet that was nearly as tall as him; and when I opened the door to let him in, his huffing and puffing as he walked through the doorway told me it was pretty heavy as well. I shut the door as Uncle Robbie walked passed me; saying thanks, and huffing into the living room with beads of sweat dripping from his forehead. Mom heard the commotion and walked into the living room from the kitchen to see what was going on. Uncle Robbie set down the heavy object he was carrying and wiped the sweat pooling above his eyebrows with his arm. “Oh, Robbie, you didn’t!”; my mother said, wiping her hands with a dish towel. “Yeah I did Martha; it’s been sitting down at the shop for six months now I couldn’t get anyone to take it”. My mother clapped her hands together and let out a small squeal of excitement, I; however, sighed and went back to lay on my stomach in front of the T.V. to play my game. I was definitely NOT interested in whatever was under that sheet. You see, ol’ Uncle Robbie owned an antique store, which is most likely where my mother’s pentient for collecting things came from. Whatever was under that sheet was just another piece of old junk that my eleven-year-old self just didn’t want any part of.
Uncle Robbie and Mom stood there talking a bit longer; but I couldn’t tell you what they said as I was too engrossed in my game, but I did hear the sound of the sheet being quickly pulled off of whatever it was Uncle Robbie brought in. My neck snapped over to Mom and Uncle Robbie were standing, and as the sheet fell to the floor revealing what it hid. The eyes of the ugliest statue I have ever seen were staring straight into mine making my breath catch in my throat.
“It’s even better than I remember!”, my mother exclaimed. The statue stood to be about five and a half feet tall. It was a wooden statue that was dressed like a 1950’s gangster or detective. It wore brown slacks with a brown suit and over coat. It wore brown shoes of course to go with the rest of its outfit; but in contrast to its wooden material, the statue wore a brass fedora atop its head. But the statue’s eyes were truly the most peculiar part of it. For whatever reason, whoever crafted the statue decided to paint its right eye green and the left eye brown.
“That is so ugly Uncle Robbie!”, I yelled. Uncle Robbie laughed.
“I agree with you Jan, but your mother wanted it!”
“Yes I did” my mother said touching the statue’s shoulder and feeling the wood.
“But we couldn’t afford it”.
“How much was it?”, I asked, still from my position on the floor. My Mother shot me a look that told me I should mind my business, and invited Uncle Robbie into the kitchen for a glass of tea, which he accepted and followed her into the next room. I stood up and walked over to the statue once I was alone. I stood there, a few feet from the statue, with its eyes staring straight into mine. It was as if the statue moved its gaze to stare straight at me, so I leaned from the left to the right just to make sure it wouldn’t follow me. Of course; it didn’t, and I reached out to touch the statue. I took care not to knock it over as I reached out to touch the polished wood of the statue’s brown coat. As expected, the wood was smooth, and as I ran my hand across the statue it rocked slightly. I quickly pulled my hand away afraid that it would tumble backwards, and I saw that the fedora rocked slightly. I had assumed that the fedora was glued on or something; but it was clear now that it was simply placed loosely on its head, as it now sat slightly but noticeably askew. The man in the brass fedora stared at me almost accusingly with its two differently colored eyes. Its hands were resting on its waist as if to say ‘You shouldn’t be playing with me’.
“You creep me out”; I said aloud, as if the statue could actually hear me. I didn’t like being alone in the room with the statue, so I turned around to join my Mother and Uncle Robbie in the kitchen. As I reached the threshold of the entrance to the kitchen though, I heard the sound of metal rubbing against wood. I spun around to look at the man in the brass fedora who was just as still as ever. He stared off in the direction of our T.V. as he had been, hands still resting on his waist. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding in and I was about to turn back around, but something caught my eye. The fedora that sat on top of the statue’s head was now righted again and back in its original position. I bolted from the living room into the kitchen as quickly as my feet could carry me.
I didn’t mention anything to Mom or Uncle Robbie about that experience, though they did ask why I was breathing so hard. I brushed it off and gave them some silly excuse. I knew they would just laugh it off if I told them. I even wrote it off myself some time later as the fedora simply shifting back into place due to its weight or whatever. Even so, I never was alone with that statue if I could help it. I even asked Mom and Dad if I could move my game system into my room because the statue freaked me out so much. Mom protested, but Dad let me have my way as he always did back then. So most of my days were spent away in my room playing my games and completely avoiding the side of the house with the statue in it. At night, I would have awful nightmares of the statue coming into my room and grabbing me in the night. I would wake up screaming in the night with my sheets soaked in sweat. That was also the time in my life when my monthly friend came to visit me for the first time. The first night it happened I had a dream of the statue standing over my bed and when I woke up screaming, I found my pajama bottoms were soaked with red. I of course freaked the hell out, but Mom consoled me and explained that this was a huge pain in the ass that I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. Somehow though, I found a way to blame it on that damned statue. It brought the nightmares; and I was sure it started the periods, even though I knew it was silly to think such a thing. Children think in funny ways sometimes.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. Eventually the man in the brass fedora finally did become just a part of the scenery in our house and I got used to him. The statue was just another piece of junk that Mom collected and was obsessed with. I still avoided its gaze, but more out of instinct than anything. Finally, it was the week after my twelfth birthday. I remember it well for two reasons. The first; is that my best friend to this day, Angela was staying that weekend and I was very excited. She missed my birthday party the week before because her family took a vacation to Florida. I didn’t have a whole lot of friends growing up because I was a shy girl, so my party was sort of bland that year. Not that I wasn’t grateful for what I got. Mom and Dad still made sure I got plenty of gifts like I always do, and Mom made me an awesome cake like every year. Uncle Robbie even showed up to give me a gift too, a gold heart shaped necklace. I remember hugging Uncle Robbie and telling him it was the best thing I had ever gotten, and I wasn’t lying. The second reason I won’t forget that week is what happened on that Friday when Angela came to stay the night.
Angela and I spent the day playing the new games I’d gotten for my birthday on my 64, and talking about all of the things Angela did on her vacation. As day turned into night we, could hear downstairs the raucous laughter of my parents and Uncle Robbie as they drank and played cards. Every so often Mom would pop her head in to make sure we didn’t need anything, and at one point she brought us up some chocolate chip cookies she decided to bake. It was nearly one in the morning before Angela and I decided to lay down to sleep, we lay up talking about the girls at our school for about fifteen minutes before we fell asleep. I dreamt once again of the man in the brass fedora; as he stood looming over Angela and I, watching us sleep. All at once, a sudden cacophony of crashing sounds woke me up. I shot up in my bed and turned to Angela who was still somehow still sleeping. I got up out of my bed and tore open my bedroom door to look outside. I heard stirring in my parents’ bedroom across the hall, and I could hear Angela waking up in my room as well. I glanced down the stairs, and all at once I began hyperventilating. There at the bottom of the stairs, was my Uncle Robbie. His neck was twisted one-hundred and eighty degrees so that he faced upward even though he was lying on his stomach. His arms and legs twisted at unnatural angles. But what really turned me into a heaving mess was the man in the brass fedora, who stood next to Uncle Robbie’s body staring straight up at me with its differently painted eyes. Then; I swear on my life, just before I passed out I saw it move. I hadn’t even noticed it, but the statues hands and arms were not where they should have been. The statue lifted its hands to rest them on his waste once more; where they should have been the entire time, but weren’t. After that, there is blackness.
After that night, I was hysterical for a long time. So much so, that I couldn’t even explain to my parents what was wrong with me. The dreams of the statue were gone, replaced with visions of my sweet Uncle Robbie twisted and mangled at the bottom of a flight of stairs. I had nothing to remember him by, I even somehow lost the necklace he gave me on my birthday that night. My parents were forced to put me in therapy, and though I have repressed much of my teenage life, I ironically never forgot that god damned statue and what I knew it had done to my Uncle Robbie. I would go into hysterics any time I saw the wretched thing. My mother was forced to stash away the statue, though I had thought she had gotten rid of it and I would never see it again. I was wrong.
I am twenty-three now, and it was last week that I’d face my childhood fears for the last time. Last week I was visiting my mother at her house helping her clean out some of the old junk she kept at the house. Dad died two years ago of cancer and I think a lot of Mom’s old stuff reminds her of Dad. I was in the hallway closet, picking out some old shirts Mom didn’t need anymore, when I slid aside a bunch of old sweaters and was met with a pair of eyes; one green, one brown. I lost consciousness right then and there, and I woke up on my mother’s couch minutes later. She was above me holding a glass of water with a worried expression. I jumped up quickly from the couch and grabbed her shoulders. “Mom, that statue, you have to get rid of it, it killed Uncle Robbie!”, I most likely sounded like a madwoman, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t believe my own mother could keep such a thing when she knew what it was to me. A complete nightmare. I was surprised to find my mother’s expression didn’t change, she merely sighed and sat down on the couch.
“Honey, I’m going to need you to sit down, this isn’t going to be easy for me to say but you have to know”. My mother spoke flatly, trying to not let emotion enter her voice. I stood there in mild shock as my eyes were slowly drawn to the hallway closet where I knew the statue was hidden behind a closed door.
“Never mind that, sit down on the damn couch Jan!” she snapped. I sat down on the couch beside her, shaking slightly in my seat.
“I am about to tell you something that is going to upset you but you have to know, your father and I swore we would never say a word, but I can’t let you go on without knowing the truth.”, Mom took a deep breath then continued.
“The night after Robbie died they searched his house, and they found… things…” Her voice cracked a little and she cleared her throat, and tears began to well up in her eyes.
“They found drugs, opium they said”. I was about to say something but she held out a hand to stop me.
“They found pictures Jan, bad pictures, awful pictures.” The tears fell freely onto her cheeks now as she continued.
“Pictures of little boys and girls, all of them without clothes on, most of them asleep in their beds.” My eyes widened as she spoke, I couldn’t believe what she was saying. How could any of this be true, why didn’t I know about this. I wanted to stop her; tell her not to tell me anymore because I was afraid of what she might say next, but I had to know.
“But the worst thing they found….” She couldn’t finish, she just kept on sobbing, choking and hiccupping as she was unable to control her own breathing.
“What else did they find Mom?!” I stood up and grabbed her by the shoulders. For a moment, Mom stopped crying then. She looked up at me with a pained expression, her eyes stared into mine as the world as I knew it cracked and broke away. Mom looked away from me then, crying into her hands unable to finish telling me what she set out to tell me. But she didn’t have to. I knew.
Robbie; a man once so near and dear to my family that I once called him Uncle, molested children. He would come into their rooms in the middle of the night, and he would take pictures of his vile acts while he did it. But the worst thing about it is I now know that while that bastard would sit at our dinner table, and eat and laugh and carry on like he was part of the god damned family. He would come into my room at night and take pictures while he did god knows what to me. Through her sobs, my mother spoke once more.
“You don’t have to hide it from me Jan, I know you pushed Robbie down those stairs, I know somehow you found out”. I looked at my mother then. I saw the sincerity in her eyes. I knew she thought I killed Robbie, but as any mother would, she knew he deserved what he got. But I told you, up until that me blacking out, I remember everything from that night. I recalled all at once the statue at the bottom of the stairs. I recalled how; although very much impossible and defying the very nature of the wood it was carved into; it’s flat expression was twisted into one of remorse when it saw me appear at the top of the stairs. I hugged my mother then, and I told her it was okay. I told her that I loved her, and I was sorry for scaring her. She stood up from the couch to make us tea in the kitchen and I waited till she was out of sight. I went to the closet in the hallway and I opened the door. The statue stood there, it’s flat expression the same as it always was. There was a change in the statue however, it’s brass fedora that stood out so oddly from the rest of it was missing from its head. Instead, the statues hands were once again no longer on its hips but instead outstretched with its palms facing upwards. In his hands were his trademark brass fedora and within the fedora, lay a gold heart-shaped necklace. I took the necklace and grabbed the heavy brass hat, placing it atop the statue’s head. Then, without being able to help myself, I wrapped my arms around the statue in a tight embrace. And, without feeling the least bit silly I whispered.
I now, lay in bed at home. I asked Mom if I could take the statue home with me, which she hesitantly agreed to. I told her it would help me face my fear. The man in the brass fedora now stands guard in my foyer, awaiting any would-be burglars in the night to choose the wrong house.
Author’s Note: This story was very hard for me to write, as it deals with a very serious issue that I am not comfortable with in the least bit. I do however believe that there are things in the real world more awful than I could ever conjure with my writing, and I thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be great if the supernatural could lend us a hand?”.
This story is dedicated to my two wonderful nieces, may each of you have your own man in a brass fedora.