But I corrected the synopsis so I didnt have to save more than the Russian Empire and I only bumped about a dozen men. In fact, my plot was real literature.
The conversation which really took place (Burks fixed it in his article so he said everything) was as follows:
BURKS: I say it looks like a hat. A kubanka.
HUBBARD: It doesnt at all. But assuming that it does, what of it?
BURKS: Write a story about it.
HUBBARD: Okay. A lot of guys are sitting around a room playing this game where you throw cards into a hat and gamble on how many you get in. But theyre using a fur wastebasket for the hat.
BURKS: A fur wastebasket? Who ever heard of that?
HUBBARD: You did just now. And they want to know about this fur wastebasket, so the soldier of fortune host tells them its a kubanka he picked up, and he cant bear to throw it away although its terrible bad luck on account of maybe a dozen men getting bumped off because of it. So he tells them the story. Its a frame yarn, a neat one.
BURKS: But youll make me out a liar in my article.
HUBBARD: So Ill make you a liar in mine.
So I started to plot the story. This hat is a very valuable thing, obviously, if its to be the central character in a story. And it is a central character. All focus is upon it. Next Ill be writing a yarn in second person.
Anyway, I was always intrigued as a kid by an illustration in a book of knowledge. Pretty red pictures of a trooper, a fight, a dead trooper.
Youve heard the old one: For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the message was lost, for want of a message the battle was lost, and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
So, its not to be a horseshoe nail but a hat that loses a battle or perhaps a nation. Ive always wanted to lift that nail plot and here was my chance to make real fiction out of it. A hat. A lost empire.
Pretty far apart, arent they? Well, Id sneak up on them and maybe scare them together somehow. I made the hat seem ominous enough and when I got going, perhaps light would dawn. Here we go:
Thats a funny looking hat, I remarked.
The others eyed the object and Stuart turned it around in his hands, gazing thoughtfully at it.
But not a very funny hat, said Stuart, slowly. I dont know why I keep it around. Every time I pick it up I get a case of the jitters. But it cost too much to throw away.
That was odd, I thought. Stuart was a big chap with a very square face and a pocketful of money. He bought anything he happened to want and riches meant nothing to him. But here he was talking about cost.
Whered you get it? I demanded.
Still holding the thing, still looking at it, Stuart sat down in a big chair. Ive had it for a long, long time but I dont know why. It spilled more blood than a dozen such hats could hold, and you see that this could hold a lot.
Something mournful in his tone made us take seats about him. Stuart usually joked about such things.