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The Golden Plot

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All the best plots are stolen, and all the best snots are, too. I should know. I was the attendant of our town’s
stone nose. Night and day, I guarded the golden snot. It was honest work and lousy pay, easy work at a steady rate. I stood by the nose and protected the snot. From the left nostril, it hung, its golden green gleaming under warm sunny rays.

My job was simple. Only the lawful could essay a picking. The frauds were forbidden, you know, those without
papers—usurpers, outsiders, weaklings, and thieves. But the lawful had documents in order, and so by the thousands, they waited in line, and one by one, I allowed them a plucking. Easy, no?

Alas, I bungled the job!

The nose? The nostril? The golden snot? Do you insist that I start from the start and share with you the entire
sad tale? Then pass the pipe and I pull you in—learn the truth as I pull you through.

Our town was built by the nose. In our civil center square, it stood as the stable locus between Church and Gym
and State and School. It was the pride and joy of our town. It put us on the map as the prime place for proving one’s pluck.

Now I know you readers have all fingered and frothed over ordinary boogers—green and gold, brown and yellow.
Crusty, rubbery, watery, hard. But know that this was no ordinary gold!

Far from it! For whomever could yank the yucky stuff would unite the land? Of course. Untie the snot and unite the land! It was so simple and certain. And all I had to do was guard the sucker.
And I failed.

Failed!

Do you demand dimensions? The nose was five men high and at its heavenly tip, three folks wide. The nostrils were each deep enough to shove in several plump dwarves.

It’s type? You mean ugly or corrected, asymmetric or aquiline? Let us rise above such specifics reeking of
opinion and prejudice. In substance, the nose was like any other—an individual on thorough inspection.

But from where did the pickers grasp the golden goodie? Do not snots inevitably hang down? Do not nostrils face the ground?

We had a platform on which the nose stood. And we tilted the nostrils halfway to the heavens. The picker picked
from above the snot, leaned over the guardrail, and yanked with all her or his might. And always failed, inevitably flunked. After each attempt, I gently lifted up the picker, sat her upon the nose tip, and pushed him down. And the happy failure flew down the stone nose and on his or her merry way—back to Church or School, home or work, out of my hair and nostril hirci. Next please, I cried. And another would climb.

But what about a ramp? Could the crippled elderly attempt a pick? Were we equal opportunity pluckers? Indeed,
every seventh fool was old folk off the ramp. Many an elderly cripple I hoisted over my head, and each was offered a chance, and my feeble smile waned as they flunked snot pulling.

By the thousands, they came from near and far. Young soldiers brought their rifles and tension. Old ladies
brought tweezers and gumption. Patriarchs pulled with strong arms. Jokesters punned with court yarns. Physical therapists tried to teach snot to walk. Psychotherapists insisted it talk. Mathematicians summed it as possible while intellectuals quarreled and deemed it implausible. And after three minutes of trying, I picked up each picker and down he slid flying.

And a little boy, but a babe in the woods, an innocent toddler in a tucked-out tee. He unsucked his thumb and pried with his heart—

Nope, no luck. But down the nasal slope, he cried in glee.

000

Years passed in which nary a snot was picked. Thousands passed the peril of my platform. Various auteur types, in passing, showed papers, and essayed a plucking. They shared with me their feeble efforts as they failed to
pry my golden prize. Heart surgeons left hospitals and life savings, and upon my platform pried for gold. Narcissists left their mirrors and chanced a shot at fame. Seven in twenty tipped and offered bribes. Fat chance I smiled, and most begged forgiveness in that awkward space between trying and flying—down
the nose and on with merry life.

I went about my business and screamed next please and secretly laughed as afore the snot each sorry sucker
sunk.

Alas, work became a dull routine!

000

I confess. I stole the snot from out under my own nose! (Not mine really, merely the one I oversaw.) The painful
urge ever burgeoned. I could not help myself. It was at night. My greasy pinkies edged toward the nostril. A tuna of a woman begged for her turn. She was next, but did I care? Hell, no.

I gave into the fates and stole into the treasure trove. For a moment, I had my entire face stuck in said cavern.
What did I see? An endless hall of buggers with a golden glob outshining the rest? Cavemen or mice? God or the abyss?

Nothing of the sort.

One long simple snot as described above. No more, no less.

After I plucked it out—piece of cake, truth be told—I was unsure of my next move. I panicked. The night crowd
below began to grow restless. I heard their mean cries and bitter complaints.

“Hey, you at the front! Get your butt up on that platform!”

“I said, move it, buddy.”

“Yo, attendant! You fall in or something?”

“Yeah, you on top. Hoist up the fat fish.”

“Like we ain’t got all day!”

They were screaming at me! They were throwing no rotten fruit—not yet—but I knew I had to act fast. I looked down upon the angry masses, the swollen mob, the roaring crowd grown impatient from a recent lack of linear progress. They were starving and snot was grain. They all craved their fame, but the snot had been plucked and it was now in my hands! I saw that I must ditch the platform before they stormed it and lynched my ass.

But what could I do? What would I do? What did I do?

Good question.

What did I do?

000

You see all along my folks always told me I’d only amount to an average no-good Joe, a follower or failure, that
I better get a job and keep it or I’d never support myself. So when I landed snot-watch work I thought I’d done right. I was the chosen one, lucky shit, company man—opportunist, capitalist, yes man, thief. Term me what you will, it all depends upon your point of view.

For the first several months, all I did was do my job.

And then the urge came. The lust. Once it came it would not desist. Over the years, it grew immense. I was
spending my hours lifting folks up, so they could free the snot, unite the land, achieve the fame, and forget the attendant. Do you know what I mean?

The urge was killing me!

Forgetting the queue and putting my best pick forward was my slippery mind could dream of. Gosh darn, the vacation I’d go on if that snot was out of my hair. So I guess it really wasn’t only about uniting the land. To be frank, I was dying for a coffee break. So it was both envy and java that led me to act.

000

And I got as far as the edge of the nose’s long Cyranoesque shadow. Far from the masses, on the opposite side of
the square, I was home free—or would have been.

But I got tangled up, all caught up in the golden green!

You see, it was melting in my clammy palms. All the while I was ditching my career, the snot was melting! All slimy and squishy, it slipped under my feet and through my legs, and I was still caught in the square and the new attendant approached and he demanded my papers and I had no proof of previous snot-picking privilege and he doubted my earnest pleas that yes, I was only the old attendant saving the snot from sure mutilation at the hands of an angry mob, and no, I had not stolen it from foreign fingers, and yes, I was telling the truth, and no, I hadn’t used the magi’s magic tweezer or the doctor’s surgical scissor, the witch’s prickly wand, or the butcher’s meat saw!

“With my own bare hands,” I whispered. And I quivered on the ground, caught in the glob of glutinous
boogie, awaiting punishment from the stern attendant.

But he said nothing. He smiled at me. His stiff smile moved to a leer. So condescending was his unwavering leer.
Damn that attendant.

000

So there we were in the middle of the square. I thought he would call the police or fire chief or cry to the
masses that he had caught the man.

But nooooo.

He thought he could untie me himself.

Yanking this way and yerking that, he pulled and pried, fondled and fingered.

But far from extricating my person from said phlegm prison, all he did was get us both stuck in the glob!

How we scuffled and flopped and flailed and tried all extrications known to mankind and his attendants, all the while in fear of the blood-sucking masses and our boogie-befouled fingers. But we failed. We flunked Phlegm Evasion 101. And we knew by morning, they would have us destroyed.

000

But the funny thing was morning never came, and the crowd never charged, and the attendant never ceased to aid me in my futile escaping, and as I pulled and pried and fought, my thoughts got
stuck in perpetual dream.

In the sweet dreams of my captivity, morning came and the crowd attacked. They charged into our snot in broad
daylight. Truckers, grandmas, lawyers, salesmen. By the hundreds and twenties, forsaking the nose, they dove into mine and my attendant’s battle. Once smeared in snotty goo, not one citizen could ever escape. The whole nose line caught in my dreamy plot, the entire civic polity stuck in golden snot.

By dusk, the town stood fully united!

Alex Kudera's Fight For Your Long Day (Atticus Books) was drafted in a walk-in closet during a summer in Seoul, South Korea and consequently won the 2011 IPPY Gold Medal for Best Fiction from the Mid-Atlantic Region. It is an academic tragicomedy told from the perspective of an adjunct instructor, and reviews and interviews can be found online and in print in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Inside Higher Ed, Academe, and elsewhere. His second novel, Auggie's Revenge (Beating Windward Press), and a Classroom Edition of Fight for Your Long Day (Hard Ball Press) were published in 2016. Kudera's other publications include the e-singles Frade Killed Ellen (Dutch Kills Press), The Betrayal of Times of Peace and Prosperity (Gone Dog Press), and Turquoise Truck (Mendicant Bookworks). When he's not reading or writing, he frets, fails, walks, works, and helps raise a child.

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