“How many times do I have to tell you not to pick your nose?”
Sam sighed. All he wanted to do was dislodge those crusty bits that stabbed the inside of his nostrils every time she made him blow into a tissue, and remained there stubbornly regardless of his efforts with the tissue. Those things hurt, and they didn’t let go on their own.The best way to remove them was gently, with his favourite finger, and then flick them into the bin.
She should just be thankful he never wanted to eat it. He didn’t understand how other kids could. Just the other day when they had gone out for lunch he had watched another boy in the restaurant eating his booger off his finger before picking up a chicken nugget and eating that. He shuddered at the thought.
“You don’t know what damage you might do in there, Sam. Please, just use a tissue and blow your nose, and let me get this last jack o’ lantern done for tonight.”
As his mother turned away to finish carving the pumpkin, Sam defiantly slid his finger back up his right nostril, where he found a great big pointy one, shaped just like the witch’s hat that already sat on a carved pumpkin on the porch by the front door. This was possibly the biggest and pointiest one yet, like a miniature mountain that had grown to dominate the inner landscape of his nose. Just as his fingertip reached for its peak, his mother looked over at him.
“Sam! Get your finger out of your nose! Now!”
She ripped a couple of tissues from the box on the sideboard on her way past and almost slapped them over the lower half of his face.
“Blow!” she demanded.
As he exhaled, she pinched the tissue around his nostrils. Sam began to protest as he felt a sharp stab deep inside his nose and the powerful jolt of a momentary headache, followed by a strange sensation of being lighter and freer than he had been only a moment before. Sam fell silent and limp as his head imploded, collapsing in on itself like a punctured ballon, leaving his mother with an unsoiled tissue in her hand and a grimace of shocked surprise on her face.
His sweet face lay shrivelled and flattened on his shoulder on a bed of dark brown hair, eyes still clenched shut as they had been when he felt the pain in his head.
She gathered Sam into her arms and cradled him there, his face flat against her skin and a thin trail of bone dust and ash falling from his left ear. She rocked him, keening and weeping as dusk began to fall outside and late into the night that followed.
When the moon rose high in the sky, a small, ghostly hand touched her shoulder, then took her hand and led her outside into the silvery light. She watched as the small boyish figure walked up a bright moonbeam, then turned to wave goodbye.
She waved languidly with one hand, the other still clutching his lifeless body to her chest.
When he was so far up the moonbeam that she could no longer see him, she laid his body on the ground and fetched a shovel. The shovel crunched into the ground beneath the willow tree time after time, until she had dug a small trench in the earth.
She leaned the shovel against the trunk of the tree, and then gently gathered Sam’s body into her arms. Silent and sombre, she carried him across the yard, whispered a few words, and lay down in the grave with him in the waning moonlight to await her fate.
©2019 Joanne Van Leerdam