The Foot Long Nose

This tale is by Spider Robinson. The setting is Callahan’s bar. It appeared in Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon (1976 Ace paperback, now in 2000 Tor paperback), and it is reprinted in the omnibus The Callahan Chronicals (1999 Tor trade paperback).

“I was just thinking of my Cousin Hobart, the celebrated Man With The Foot-Long Nose,” drawled the Doc.

Hobart’s mother died in childbirth, naturally, and his father succumbed to acute embarrassment shortly thereafter.

As a child Hobart was a born showman, keeping the orphanage in stitches with incredibly accurate woodpecker imitations, and upon attaining the age of seven he ran away, to form the nucleus of a traveling road company which played Pinocchio in every theater in the country, and some in the city too.

This kept him in Kleenex until he outgrew the role, and Cyrano de Bergerac was not popular at the time, so he struck off on his own and in short order became something of an old stand-by on the vaudeville circuits, where his ability to identify the perfume of ladies in the last row and his prowess on the nose-flutes (as many as five at one time) were a never-failing draw.

He might have lived on in this way for a good many years, for he was a fanatically hygienic man, and although there were dark rumors about his sex life, he was invariably discreet. The young ladies he visited were for some reason equally reticent, even with their best girl friends, let alone their husbands.

No, it was not a cuckold’s knuckles that finally put an end to Cousin Hobart’s career, though it might have been. It was by his own hand that, if I may put it this way, The Nose was blown. One night he retired early with only a slight head cold for company, a yard-long handkerchief knotted to the bedstead Thrashing in his sleep; he rolled over and contrived to wedge the end of his nose in his right ear. Sensing some obstruction, the mighty proboscis sneezed, and darned near blew his brains out.

When his head had stopped ringing, a wide-awake Hobart settled down to some cold hard thinking. The incident could happen again at any time, The miracle was that so likely a phenomenon had taken so long to first occur. And next time the airseal might be better. Only by chance had Hobart survived at all. He reached his decision reluctantly, but he was a brave man.

He followed through. He had his nose entirely amputated the next day, repudiating all nose-hood and installing a suction cup in the middle of his glasses. Within a week he had landed a job with some moonshiners, and he works their still there still.

“A moonshiner’with no nose?” snorted Long-Drink, “That’s ridiculous..How did he smell?”

“Terrible,” the Doc replied placidly.

“‘Well, what’s the the moral, Doc?”

The Doc blinked, “No nose is good nose”

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