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My Mesh Expos Cap.

When I was eight, I loved baseball. We would play in the street, we would play in the yard and if my mom hadn't kicked us out, we'd have played in the house. Well, every kid knows that you need four things to play baseball: a ball, a glove, a bat and a cap. Without a cap, you aren't really playing baseball.

Mine was very special: it was a mesh "Expos de Montréal" cap, one size fits all. All proud in its red, white and blue, it was just like the ones the pros wore, only way better. Not only could you adjust the size, but thanks to the mesh, it could breathe. It became my trademark, my raison d'être. My Mom would ask why I never wore my other caps and I would have to explain (in layman's terms so she could understand): "It's because they don't breathe, Mom!"

Before every game, I would grab my glove from under my mattress (you're never done forming a ball glove), pull on my Expos cap and bolt for the field of glory. One hot summer's day, however, on my way out to play, a random sideways glance at a mirror brought my fragile world tumbling down around my ears. Shuddering, I looked a second time, shocked and amazed at what I had seen. The cap that had been my glory had suddenly become my undoing. It was brutally and shamefully obvious for all to see: my cap, having been proudly pulled down around my head in all its meshful glory, was making my ears stick out!

I knew at that moment that my life would never be quite the same.

You have to understand that when the depths of your knowledge of biology come from careful observation of how worms stay alive on the hook and the well known fact that touching toads can give you warts (girls could too, if you dared get close enough), it's easy to accept the simple and obvious fact that if your ball-cap makes your ears stick out, sooner or later, they will inevitably and irreversibly stay that way. And that was a fate best left unimagined.

Whatever other strange characters may have been around, everybody knew the kid whose ears stuck out. The neighborhood children understood his shame and though some would stoop to ridicule, most would silently mourn him and dread suffering his fate. Sure, there was the kid with the big teeth, the kid with the birthmark or the outie belly-button, but you can close your mouth and wear a shirt... how on earth could you ever hope to hide a pair of freakish ears?

The situation was desparate, to say the least. My options were limited. Of course, retiring my cap was out of the question... it was, well, it was ME. I was nothing without the cap. Some way had to be found to keep the wearing of a ventilated polyester headpiece from causing hideous malformations in my 8-year-old anatomy but I simply had to keep wearing the cap. I just had to find some way to do both...

After great deliberation and many long moments of despair, I devised a plan of action that was -- let's admit it -- pure, unutterable GENIUS. It was grade 3 ingenuity at it's finest. I would submit myself to a three-pronged regimen that would be fool-proof in minimizing the risk of aural deformities and a lifetime of ridicule and shame.

Rule one: I would strictly limit my cap wearing time. Since the ill effects were compounded with use, I would slow the damage by minimizing wear.

Rule two: I would carefully examine the endangered areas after every wearing, thereby catching the first symptoms of freak-hood.

Rule three: Finally -- and this was the true stroke of genius -- whenever I wore my cap, my fragile ears would be gently tucked inside the band. It may sound simple, but think of it: by squeezing my pink little ears into the polyester ring that had almost been my undoing, I could actually make them grow closer to my head. My ears would stick out less than before. Ooooh, this was the best plan ever! Not only would I stop the damage, but I would use the force of the cap for good! I would be more normal than normal. Kids would be lining up around the block to see my perfectly proportioned ears, even the kid with the big teeth would grin with glee when he saw that I had found the way to save us all!

Well, a few years have passed and I can now say that the plan has been a smashing success. The kid with the big teeth grew into what would become a wonderful smile and my ears grew slowly but steadily to be healthy and normal. I am proud to say that today, thanks to quick thinking and common sense, I am not a freak. Of course this was but the first in a long line of dramatic life-threatening situations that I solved without the help of adult supervision. There was the lizard incident and that nasty business with the pen cap that stayed stuck on my tongue... but I digress.

As for my Expos mesh ballcap, like all childhood glories, I eventually outgrew it and passed it on to my brother -- with a stern warning about the perils of its use.

You can rest easy, his ears are safe.

All of the materials on this page -- written, graphical or intellectual -- are Copyright Taylor Bastien and should not be reproduced in any way, shape or form. E-mail for more info. This is one thing about which I am very serious.