The Man with the Purple Scarf

Submitted by Renée Chatelain to Contest #19 in response to: Write a short story about someone searching for the perfect gift for their partner.... view prompt

Bitter cold wind rushed down the streets and rattled frost-bitten trees. Ice-covered the dim streetlamps and rough roads. 

A few brave souls ventured out into the frigid winter wonderland to complete last-minute Christmas shopping. Their boots clomped and slipped on the slick sidewalks as they fought against the roaring winds. 

A bright purple scarf flapped vigorously in the gale. Its yarn fingers reached for the snowflakes that were beginning to fall quite heavily. The naughty scarf succeeded in unwinding itself from its owner’s shoulders and hopped clumsily to the ground, carried by the wind. 

People stepped out of the way as the frazzled owner pursued his defiant scarf. The purple shimmer shone dimly through the snow, leading its previous holder on. 

To the scarf’s dismay, its owner caught its fingers just as it rounded a bend in the sidewalk. He tucked the wayward scarf tighter around his neck and into his coat, then turned back and resumed his journey. 

A few people who had seen the reckless scarf’s performance snickered a bit as the man entered the town square. The man with the purple scarf hung his head as he entered the first shop. 

The tiny bell stationed at the door chirped sharply when the door struck it as the man entered. The wind tried to follow the man inside, but he shut the door quickly, knocking the poor bell again. 

Shelves and shelves of shoes met the man’s eyes. Big shoes, little shoes; colorful shoes, dull shoes; fancy shoes, plain shoes; all the shoes the man could think of. 

“Ah, hello,” greeted the shoemaker. “What can I help you with today?”

“I’m looking for a present for my wife,” said the man with the purple scarf. “It’s Christmas Eve, and I need to find the perfect gift.” 

“Then you’ve come to the right place! I have enough shoes to make any woman happy,” cried the shoemaker. 

Any woman? Thought the man. Is that special enough? Maybe I’ll find something more special along the way.

The man with the purple scarf thanked the shoemaker, who was by this time busy with another customer, and continued on his way. 

Snow-glazed words loomed above the man: Soaps Galore. The man pushed the wooden door open and was immediately slapped with the pungent, muddy, brown smell of hundreds of soaps. He quickly shut the door. Not even the man with the purple scarf could brave the odor. 

The man sighed and walked on. She wouldn’t like scented soap anyway, he reflected. Sometimes that kind of soap makes her hands itch. Comforted, the man with the purple scarf walked a bit faster. 

The tailor! Yes! He would have something special. The man grasped the icy-cold handle and opened the door. He pushed the door shut; the wind was trying even harder to get in this time. 

“Greetings! How can I help you today?” asked the tailor joyfully. 

“I’m looking for something very special for my wife,” said the man with the purple scarf. 

“Ah, I have just the thing for you,” responded the tailor quickly, reaching into a large box. He pulled out a large, soft robe. “It’s guaranteed to make any woman happy,” he said, inviting the man to stroke the furry fabric. “It comes in many colors!”

“Hmm,” said the man, looking around the shop. His eyes fixed on a simple pair of gloves in the corner of the shop. “What about those gloves?”

The tailor turned. “Oh, those simple old things? Why don’t you get these beautiful beaded ones I have here,” he said, pointing to a nearby shelf. 

“No, my wife will like these,” said the man, walking to the simple gloves. “They’re her favorite color.”

Oh well, thought the tailor. A poor, simpleton like him doesn’t understand class and elegance. I pity his wife, with her dull clothes and tiresome style.

The man with the purple scarf, quite happy finding a gift, bought the warm, blue gloves and continued on his way. 

Freezing, violent wind bit his nose, and frosty snow caked on his eyelashes. He had to get at least one more gift, the man with the purple scarf thought. One pair of gloves wasn’t enough for his wonderful wife. He’d walk through the cold until his gift was just right. 

The man walked and walked until he came to the milliner’s shop. Brilliant colors and shapes met his eyes when he entered. Feathers, bows, beads, glitter, velvet, tulle––the hats had all of it. 

“Hello, hello,” the milliner warmly welcomed. “What are you looking for today?”

The man with the purple scarf looked around, quite bewildered. He barely knew how to pick out socks for his wife––how could he pick out the perfect hat?

“Um, I’m looking for a hat,” stuttered the man. “For my wife,” he added quickly. 

“Ah, yes, I can help you! Come right this way; the newest and most fashionable hats are this way. They’re all the rage––every girl and woman in town will have one soon!”

Every girl and woman in town? Thought the man. I want my gift to be special…. My wife would like a pair of earmuffs to keep her pretty ears warm, or maybe a tie to keep her beautiful hair out of the way?

“Do you have earmuffs?” asked the man, looking around the shop. 

“No, I’m sorry,” said the milliner. “But this hat would make every woman on the street jealous!” 

“Thank you,” responded the man with the purple scarf, quite overwhelmed. “I’ll think about it.” He turned to leave. A roll of sky-blue ribbon caught his gaze. 

“Excuse me,” he said timidly, turning back. “Could I buy some of that ribbon?”

“Oh, that simple stuff? I have plenty of magnificent blue hats you can browse!”

“Thank you, but I think my wife would like a bit of that ribbon,” said the man again.

“Very well,” responded the milliner, a tad dismayed. This man has no taste, she thought. His wife must be a very plain woman. 

The man with the purple scarf bought the pretty blue ribbon and continued on his way, braving the sharp gale. 

The light from the candy shop glowed through the snowfall. The man with the purple scarf grinned. A piece of chocolate would put the perfect final touch on his gift! He was in and out of the store in an instant with his wife’s favorite kind of chocolate. 

It was getting late, and it was time for the man to head home. He carried his gifts in the crook of his arm as he walked proudly down the snow-covered sidewalk. He had found the perfect gifts for his wife––she would love them! 

The wind tugged at the man’s clothes. It wanted to play with the scarf again! The man pushed through the strong breath of the wind, hugging his gifts tighter. 

A particularly mighty gale sped down the street. It hit the man, sending him sprawling across the slippery sidewalk and into the snowy banks. His adventurous purple scarf unwound itself from his neck and flew away with the wind.

The man struggled to get up and tried to recover his gifts, but the wind gleefully made off with the ribbon, the purple scarf, and the gloves, carrying them into the darkness. The chocolate was nowhere to be found; the man without the purple scarf dug around the snowbank and searched the street, but couldn’t find his gift. 

The tears began to well up in his trusty blue eyes. He looked up at the sky. There wasn’t time to walk back and get more gifts; the sky was growing darker, and it would be impossible to get home if he didn’t hurry. 

The man without the purple scarf trekked sadly home. His wife would be disappointed, surely. 

Christmas was ruined. 

The man wished he still had the gloves to give to his wife. They would be perfect to warm her pretty hands that were hardened by years of work. He wished he still had the ribbon that could hold her beautiful hair out of the way when she needed to. He wished he still had the chocolate that would taste so good and make her even happier. He wished he still had his purple scarf she had made him long ago.

As he rounded the bend and entered the street they lived on, the man saw a slender figure standing on the front porch of his house. Was that his wife? The man walked faster, squinting his eyes. Yes! It was his wife, waiting out for him in the cold! 

The man without the purple scarf started to run. He could see her shivering. He could also see something in her hand––was it a blanket? As he came closer, he saw it was a scarf. Then he saw it was his purple scarf! 

“Darling!” the man cried, running up the steps and embracing his wife. 

She wrapped the purple scarf around the man’s neck and kissed him. “You were gone for so long I almost came to look for you! When I came onto the porch to look if you were close, I found your purple scarf caught on the rail, so I waited a bit for you.”

“Did you find anything else?” asked the man with the purple scarf hopefully. Maybe the wind led the gifts here too!

“No,” said his wife. “Why?”

The man sighed. “I bought special presents for you, but I fell on the way home and the wind carried them away. I’m so sorry. I wanted to make Christmas perfect this year, but I ruined it.” 

The man’s wife took his hands between hers. “You didn’t ruin Christmas,” she said. “I don’t need gifts for Christmas. You’ve already given me so much!”

The man looked up, confused. “How? I rarely have enough money to buy you a special gift.”

“You love me, and you always show it! You work hard to provide a comfortable, warm house for us, and you’re always so happy and helpful, no matter how tired you are. I’d rather always have you than anyone who got me gifts every Christmas.”

The man with the purple scarf kissed his wife and hugged her again. “I love you so much,” he said tenderly. 

“I love you too,” she responded, kissing his cheek. 

The man with the purple scarf and his wife walked back inside, hand in hand. As they shut the door, the purple scarf waved to the wind. They’d soon meet again, causing more happy trouble. But for now, the purple scarf hung on its special hook in the closet, the wind howled outside, and the man and his wife made ready for a perfect Christmas.



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4 likes 1 comment

03:21 Dec 10, 2019

Oh wow, this is so good. The way you focus on the scarf throughout the story is so cool, and how you humanize it with the wind is so clever. I love this story so much!!!!!

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