The milliner suffered from insomnia. When he did sleep, he was subject to dreams involving his lost love, Lucinda.
He would dream that he could see her at the other end of a train station, waving with a folded newspaper held in her gloved hand. However, in the manner of dreams, when he tried to hurry to her, each movement required Herculean effort just to budge an inch. He would never be able to cross the entire station in time.
And so, he would wake up and go down to his basement shop to work on a new hat. As if he were a public fountain of loneliness, his sadness dripped from his mind down through his arms and out his fingers, into the material for the hat, into the ribbons, into the packaging for mailing it to the customer.
Upon receipt, ladies would see the lovely color, feel the softness and delight in the unique design, hand-made only for her by the milliner. Unfortunately, upon wearing the hats, odd things would begin to happen.
Mrs. Arthur Popovich, after wearing her hat to her bridge club, failed to return home. She was found sitting on a bench at the local train station, fanning herself absently with a folded newspaper, with tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Do you see the platform?" she asked a bewildered Mr. Popovich when he finally found her. "Do you see how it makes no move to hold the trains as they arrive and depart? How cold it is! The rails never meet. Did you ever notice that?"
"Come home, darling," he said gently, and she did, but she was never the same. Other husbands from Dubuque to Sioux City reported the same baffling behavior, and read about each other in advice columns.
Meanwhile, the milliner saw his Lucinda once again in yet another dream, waving to him with a folded newspaper held in her gloved hand. Inside, were letters from men whose wives had purchased hats. These men sat in telephone booths along the wall, the doors folded back, their overcoats open, not talking, just staring. When the lonely milliner tried to run, to get to Lucinda in time, each of these men picked up their respective receivers and began to dial. The milliner found himself moving so fast that it made him dizzy. In the time it took him to realize it, he was at the departure platform, losing his balance, reeling and falling past Lucinda. She turned his way and blew him a kiss, her lips a perfect red, her gloves as white as electric lights. After that, he did not dream anymore, and there were no more hats, despite dozens of orders scattered across his work table, unfilled.
for Bjorn's "Butterfly Effect" challenge at Real Toads.