Monday, March 23, 2015

Flash Fiction by Rob Sobel

Based on Gogol's "The Nose," Kafka's The Metamorphosis, re-told in Philip Roth's The Breast

It began one day.  Larry Nezberger, ex-stockbroker, current bagel aficionado, self-described Jungian scholar, was in the middle of writing a piece for The Daily Bagel--an entirely fanboy article in regard to the underrated, however vogue, multi-grain--when he felt a pang amid his already unhealthy middle-aged body.

It began uncomfortably, this pang, somewhere around, though not directly on, his penis.  This faint stirring shivered up through him after a few moments and towards the nose--that nose of his, that nose Larry Nezberger could never run away from, that nose just there his whole life, the Ashkenazi nose of such length and point, now finding a tickling spark on its tip.  He sneezed uncontrollably for twenty minutes with the intent on calling some line of emergency, if he were able to get control of his body.

When it finally did stop, he felt immediately better and decided not to turn himself into the hospital.  Still worried, however, he entered his symptoms into a search bar, receiving only allergy information, which somehow added to his worry.  He sensed, especially since he had been so unhealthy in his adult life, that the issue went somewhere beyond the allergic.

He tried getting back to work, but couldn't, and instead sat idly with an iced Fanta wondering if such a convulsion would occur again, periodically.  For hours nothing seemed to happen, though he did spill the Fanta onto his rug, which proved to be an isolated event, one he smartly dismissed as clumsiness unrelated to that shocking twang at the tip of his nose.  As he bent to wipe the Fanta on the floor, the pang presented itself again around his penis, and with great memory for what had occurred only hours before, he braced himself for a tickling upon the nose and a sneezing fit to match.  At this time, a line of what some may call electricity shot through him, landing on the tip of his nose, and without a moment in between he fell into the only somewhat drying orange puddle and began to sneeze uncontrollably, throwing the phone that he was holding into the wall with potentially the fastest miles per hour reading in his life, creating a hole the shape of a telephone.  But this he wouldn't notice, for he remained rolling around sneezing in the orange.

The days passed eventfully.  Things had never happened with such gusto in Larry's entire life.  With no phone, he sent out entirely unreadable emails of an S.O.S. nature to whomever he could think of in these brief one-moments in between spasms.  He grew hungry and thirsty and found that these needs were in no possible way going to be quenched, though when the convulsing did prove to stop for good and he still couldn't stand up from the now completely dry orange puddle, he sensed that there was a second, potentially more complicated issue at hand.  He figured some paralysis had taken charge of his body and he would lie here in this spot and die an awful death.  He began coming to terms with this when his ex-wife and disgruntled ten-year-old, Jacoby, entered the home and screamed at what probably would be considered the top of their lungs.

"You're orange!" Jacoby yelled.

"You're a nose!" exclaimed his ex-wife, more importantly.

He spoke, but they did not answer.  What he said and did not say was, "Well, the orange I believe to know . . . that Fanta bottle over there . . . ?"

But his wife walked into the kitchen and stood with her back to him and the adjacent living room where everything had transpired, and she would remain in just about this position for potentially the end of time.  His boy, Jacoby, one can say "picked him" interesteldy, maybe even scientifically, saying, "whoa . . ." and then looked at his finger slicked with slime.  Larry did, by all means, have a comically abhorrent cold.

"What has happened to me, Jake . . .?"  Larry Nezberger said and did not say to his boy he was supposed to watch for the next two days.  "What happened to me, Jake . . . ?" he repeated to the intrigued son who was evidently not yet thinking on genetics.  But Larry's words were not making any sound.  He was reduced to thoughts.  He was his nose as a blown-up remake.

"Hey, mom?" Jacoby said, "How do we know it's dad . . .?"

The nose was unmistakable.

Rob Sobel is a graduate of James Madison University with a degree in English.  He is currently working on his MFA, in fiction, at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  His short story "Palsied" was published in the Lunch Ticket literary magazine, and his story "The Old Familiar Roar" is in Cigale literary magazine's current issue at

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