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Pop’s Blown Nose

by Thomas Wolfson,
Copyright 2005

I’m walking down East End Avenue in New York City, actually down the hill from 85th Street uptown toward 86th Street along Carl Schurz Park, the east side of the avenue, past the playground and sandbox where I played, past the promenade and flagpole where I was molested at knifepoint. I cross the avenue at 86th on the north side and my brownstone is up the block fifty yards. Just outside my house, standing at the curb is my father. He is vomiting into the gutter. He is vomiting violently, profusely like an open fire hydrant gushing a torrent of whitewater into the street. All that’s missing is a kid straddling the hydrant on a hot summer’s day, double gripping a soda can into the great arcing jets spouting across the white line in the middle of the street. “Pop,” I say, and he looks up bewildered and at the mercy of the contractions heaving his gut. He pauses, and then he gasps, and gasps again. He is winding up for a sneeze, a colossal sneeze, a sneeze engaging all the energy of his every vibrating cell from the immigrant soles of his flat feet to the gray curling crown of his head, his great Eastern Mediterranean bronzed Jewish nose – a scabbard hooked downward like some Yasser Arafat bedouin clown’s – now raised skyward, lifted by molten force or by God’s yanking marionette strings threaded through his nostrils. He gasps again deeper – and then lets loose – a sneeze for the Ages – Huh, HUH, HUHHH, KACHEWWWWWW! His nose is blown off, and like a dry leaf swirled on a gust of wind, it alights in the white foam cascading down the gutter and is carried away. Stunned, he looks up at me. “My boy,” he seems to cry. From where his nose once so gallantly protruded, now are left dual dark cavities aside the axis root of a blown septum, and out from these black holes gentle crimson feathers, like those of a songbird, slowly rise and float away.