“Glass Houses,” by Rebecca Fletcher

Aug 20th, 2021 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Robert was getting concerned. He was floating in the ocean in a glass bottle as broad as his shoulders. Its neck accommodated his own, leaving his head poking out of the top.

He was looking for his hat.

He squinted as he tried to focus on the far, far distance, where the sky and the water melted into each other, an endless blanket of variegated blue.

“Well, not much for it,” he reassured himself out loud.

“Oh, is someone else there?” a voice piped up behind him.

“Yes, hello!” said Robert. “I thought I was all alone out here.”

“Oh no, there are some others around, but because of the moving it’s hard to make friends.”

“Of course. I’m Robert, by the way.”


The ocean filled the momentary silence.

“I hate to be a bother,” Robert said, “but I seem to have lost my hat. Have you seen it?”

“What does it look like?”

“Why, have you seen a hat?”

“No, but this way if I see one, I’ll know if it’s yours or not.”

“Ah well, never mind.”

“Actually,” Jocelyn started, “maybe you could help me with something as well.”

“Of course!” Robert tried to swivel around to see her but couldn’t even twist his head.

“My ankle is terribly itchy, and I can’t reach it. Do you think you could…” Her voice trailed off hopefully, and only partly because they were now beginning to drift away from one another.

“I’m so sorry,” Robert explained, “but I don’t think that I could reach.”

“Oh how annoying, that’s the problem I’m having as well.” She sounded farther away than before. “I think it’s time for us to move on. I’ll keep looking for your hat.”

“Good luck with your ankle!” Robert offered, immediately wishing he hadn’t.

The waves slowly jostled them away from one another.

Robert gently bobbed through the ocean, hatless and haunted by his conversation with Jocelyn. He was just working himself into a lather of self-loathing when he saw another bottle moving towards him.

“Hello!” he called out.

“Hello!” came the reply. “Isn’t this simply glorious weather?”

Robert supposed it was.

“Absolutely glorious!” the stranger continued. “It reminds me of the summer I spent in Argentina last year.”

“Really?” Robert offered by way of conversation.

“Oh yes, absolutely stunning, the people there were so gorgeous. Everyone was, the women and the men!”

“It sounds lovely. Look, I hate to be forward but I was wondering if you could help.”

“The only thing more beautiful than the women…” the stranger started.

“…and the men,” Robert contributed to no apparent effect.

“…was the weather!” the stranger finished. The water between them began to shift. Seeing the bottle begin to drift away, Robert decided to try his luck.

“It’s just that I’ve lost my hat,” he persevered, “and I was wondering if you had seen it.”

“They don’t wear hats in Argentina.” The stranger was a little quieter now as the waves slowly carried him away. He seemed to continue explaining but Robert suspected he hadn’t seen his hat.

Jerked by the waves, Robert unfocused his mind. As the water became choppier it was relaxing to be rocked by it. He closed his eyes and let time pass.


“Why hello there!” he offered jovially to the bottle behind him.

“What?” came the less friendly reply.

“Sorry, I thought you were someone else.”

“I am,” she replied. “I’m Carrie. Expecting someone?”

“No, I just…” He wasn’t sure what he just.

“Look, I’m not sure how to feel about all this.”

“All what?” Robert asked with some sincerity, having no idea what was going on.

It took some effort to determine how much of the ensuing noise was the ocean and how much was Carrie’s frustration. “What’s the deal with these bottles? Why are we in the ocean?”

“Steady on,” Robert offered, “I don’t know about that. I was just wondering if you’d seen my hat.”

“We’re in the middle of the ocean in bottles and you’re looking for a hat?”

“Well, not just a hat. My hat. It was a good one too, with a fabric band around it.”

“If that’s a metaphor,” came the reply, “it’s a pretty poor one.”

“A what?”

“A metaphor.”


“I suppose it could be an allegory, but it feels more like a metaphor.”

Robert considered the statement. “No, I don’t think so. I think that sometimes people just lose hats.”

“You,” Carrie offered with absolutely no attempt at moderating her tone, “are an idiot”.

Nothing else was said as the bottles slowly drifted away from each other.

“Didn’t need to be rude about it,” Robert mouthed.

Carried by the waves, Robert noticed that the sun had moved in the sky. He wouldn’t be able to find his hat at night. He stared down into the ocean.

“Fancy meeting you here again!” Robert recognised Jocelyn’s voice and smiled. He hadn’t thought much of her at first, but she was the nicest person he’d found out here. “Did you find your hat?”

“No I didn’t. How’s the ankle?”

“Worse! I can’t believe I was complaining about it before. It’s torture now.”

They heard a splashing noise and tried to swivel around to see where it was coming from. There was nothing that could fall from anywhere to make a splash. What they weren’t expecting to see was a man, stark naked, swimming freestyle through the ocean towards them, but they saw it anyway.

“You’d think he’d keep his clothes on,” Jocelyn offered.

“That would make it harder to swim.”

“Yes but I mean, it’s hardly appropriate, is it?”

“I wonder if we should ask him for help.”

“If you want help from a naked man, be my guest.”

“No, I suppose you’re right.”

They bobbed in silence as he swam past them, continuing off into the distance.

“Dammit!” Robert broke the silence the swimmer had left in his wake.

“What’s that?” Jocelyn asked.

“I didn’t ask him if he’d seen my hat.”


Rebecca Fletcher is an Australian writer fuelled entirely by spite and Guinness. This year she’s aiming for 100 rejections. You can follow her at saltyturnip.com or watch her struggle with the Twitters at @notaturnip.

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