[Fast 500] The Yellow Hat

A short 500-word story for learners of English.

Mindy has a pet dog. She takes him for a walk every day. Usually she takes him to a park near her house. The park is next to a river.

Many people take their dogs there. The dog owners all know each other. They stop and talk.  It is a happy place. But last year a homeless man moved into the park. He slept under the trees near the river. He was very dirty. He had no teeth. His clothes were old. He talked to himself. He frightened Mindy. When she went to the park, she tried to stay near the other people walking their dogs. She didn’t want to meet the homeless man when she was alone.

When winter came, it was often cold and wet in the park. Mindy wore a thick jacket, gloves, a scarf and a wool hat when she went walking there. The homeless man looked very cold and ill.

One day Mindy saw he was wearing a warm yellow hat. It was new and clean. He came towards her. He was smiling and pointing at his hat. Mindy was scared. She ran away.

One of the dog walkers called out to her. “Mindy!” Mindy ran towards her. It was Alison. “Mindy! He is harmless! He won’t hurt you! He just wants to show you his new hat! He is so happy.”

Mindy felt bad. “I’m sorry. Where did he get the hat?” she asked.

“I bought it for him. I saw it in the $2 shop. It is so cold and he is so poor. I wanted to give him something. I left it under the trees for him,” said Alison.

“You are very kind,” said Mindy. The next few days the weather was very bad. It rained and rained.  Mindy didn’t want to go to the park. She felt bad, but she was still frightened of the homeless man. She took her dog to go for walks along the streets.

One night she was watching the news on TV. “Homeless hero saves child!” came up the screen. The newsreader explained that a car had gone into the river near Mindy’s house. People walking dogs in the park had run to help. A homeless man was faster than all of them. He jumped into the river and got the driver out of the car. Then he had pulled a child from the back seat of the car. He saved the child but he could not save himself. The heavy rain meant that the river was very deep and fast. He handed the child to the other people but then the water pulled him down. He drowned in the river.

Mindy stared at the TV. “I could have been there,” she thought.

The phone rang. It was Alison. “Did you see the news?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Mindy. “It is so sad. Were you there?”

“Yes, I was,” said Alison. “He was so brave. We all tried to help. We helped carry the driver and child away from the river. We called the emergency services. But we couldn’t save him.”

“Was it our homeless man?” asked Mindy. She was crying.

“Yes, it was our homeless man. We are all meeting at the park tomorrow at 4 o’clock. We are going to throw flowers in the river. I know you didn’t like him but do you want to join us?”

“Yes. I’ll be there,” said Mindy.

The next morning, Mindy went shopping. She wanted to buy some flowers. When she walked past the $2 shop, she saw a display of yellow hats. They were the same as the one Alison had bought for the homeless man. Mindy went into the shop and bought one. I will wear it this afternoon, she thought.

In the park that afternoon, all the dog walkers stood together by the river. They talked about the homeless man. They threw flowers into the river, and everyone was wearing a yellow hat.