“This hat is ridiculous,” said the young boy standing in front of a mirror, reviewing his most recent option.
The shop keeper had tired of the customer long ago, but was not about to rush the youngster in to a decision. His parents had money and the shop needed new supplies. “Is it style or color that bothers you, young sir?” The shop keeper asked.
“I feel like one of those scoundrels that flies out west. Next you will be fitting me with goggles and a compass, I suppose. I want to look like a proper citizen,” the boy explained with surprising eloquence.
“I shall have the droid fetch a hat more fitting a city dweller,” the shop keep said. He clapped his hands and the shop-bot scuttled over. The shop keeper punched in a command on the short droids type pad and the machine drove off.
From a rack of three button coats, Quincy O’Malley smirked. He had seen city slickers rail about life out west and the barbaric life style of being covered in engine grease and breathing steam, but from a source so young? That was new. Quincy pondered if he, one such barbarian who took west at the outset of the Prairie Wars, should live up the child’s perception. He gave the parents a once over and decided that the only fight in them was calling a lawyer. He was flying west in the morning, lawyers did not scare him.
He put a blue hued coat back on the rack and walked nearer the spoiled child. As he stepped he made sure to put his own hat, a broken and stained black bowler atop his head. A sure sign of a westerner.
He stepped next to the child’s parents and pretended to want to peruse the bow ties behind them.
“Excuse me, folks, thank you kindly,” he said as he tipped his hat. They attempted to hide their feelings of disgust at the site of a westerner as they parted to let him by. Quincy smiled once more.
“This hat looks better,” the young boy said, “do you have it in indigo or violet? Something more royal than this dusty brown?”
“I can have either option made up for you, young sir,” the shop keeper confirmed.
Quincy recognized his moment to pounce. “You know the Raynold Calvary wore brown hats when the Prairie Wars began? Those guys rode horses, just like the polo matches here in town.”
“The Raynold Calvary was obliterated in the war. Why would any one want to wear brown with that as the reason?” The child’s tone grated at Quincy.
“Lawrence, that will be enough,” the child’s father spoke up.
“The boy’s right though, sir. And good for you thinking for yourself. Talking to adults with truth in your words is the best way to let your point be known,” Quincy said. He stepped from the ties and lowered himself to the boy’s eye level.
“The truth is though, not all the Raynold guys were lost. Most survived first contact and went on to build great big farms and made lives where no human had ever done so before. Living right next to, or on top of, the very goblins that they fought,” Quincy explained. “The first planes were painted brown. Rickety wooden shells with mighty engines just pumping steam from behind propellers; all brown because pilots hoped they could be as brave as the Raynold Calvary. You wear brown, you just might be tough enough to make it out west.”
“I’d rather be smart than tough,” the boy said.
“You need both out there. Can’t pick one or the other. Tough mind, tough body. The Prairie Wars aren’t over kid, just quiet. Both sides have their problems. Humans get upset after an old goblin cave collapses, tensions flare. Goblins lose a tunnel because of a railway rattles too much; tensions flare. Sometimes there are fights and sometimes we talk the situation back. There’s a lot of prairie out there,” Quincy said.
The boy’s father interrupted. “I think we’ll just wait on the violet hat and come back in a few days. I apologize for any inconvenience, sir. If I may have your name, I will write to your commanding officer to tell of your grace with my rather rude son.”
Quincy held back his laughter. “I am no soldier, sir. Name’s Quincy O’Malley, sheriff of Port Plain. If you ever find yourselves out west, stop on by.
The others in the room stood still, unblinking and jaws left open.
“Port Plain?” The boy asked.
“I guess you’ve read the papers then?” Quincy said. “Some reports were exaggerated. More drama sells more papers after all. Anyway, you folks have a nice day.”
Quincy left the shop empty handed. He did not want to buy from a shop keeper so willing to take money from such boorish clients. He figured no one back home would notice he had a new coat anyway. It was a long flight home and he had completed his business in the city. The real work awaited him.