So I was brushing my teeth the other day and happened to glance up into the mirror. I don’t usually look at myself very closely because A) I already know what I look like, and B) I don’t really care. Thinking that way, especially that last part, is a kind of attitude that is widely considered one of the great powers writers have. That and a penchant for drinking.
Another power writers have is the power observation, so in this sort of don’t-cross-the-beams kind of thing, when I looked into in the mirror, I caught myself looking back at me. That’s when the most curious thing happened: the drinking-and-observing me noticed that the not-caring-what-I-look-like me was sporting a pair of gray nose hairs that curled out of my nostrils like mammoth tusks. And I mean these were big ones, like, huge, deadly spear-hooks of Pleistocene power. They thrust out of that mirror in this kind of Ice Age accusation, ivory pointers pointing out how old I am and how far my need for personal hygiene has outstripped my aging interest in such things.
They shocked me, these tusks. They were so … obvious. I was like, “How the hell long have those been there?” Obviously a while; I mean, that sort of thing doesn’t just pop up overnight. But there they were, right there in my face. The young, svelte me had somehow become a rotty, old prehistoric pachyderm.
I tried to not care. It’s my power, after all. So I tried. But … it just … didn’t work. That power was overwhelmed in the collision with my two other powers. It was too late. And now I’d already had the realization that I … I grow tusks.
I stared at them for a while, my tusks. It occurred to me that they make piano keys out of ivory. Trinkets and charms for superstitious people. Sex powders. I was in danger of becoming an illicit commodity!
My life in danger, I ran to the windows, looking for poachers lurking in the darkness. I scanned the yard and street beyond. It seemed safe for the moment. But then something occurred to me even more horrifying than being shot and relieved of my face horns by some butcher with a hacksaw. What if my wife has noticed them!
WHAT IF SHE KNOWS I HAVE TUSKS TOO?
Can you imagine my horror? Can you imagine her horror?
What if my dear wife has been dodging those curling mastadonian nose hooks for months? Good god, what if for years? What if she has had to stare at them across the dinner table? What if she has had to try not to stare at them when I am talking. I could visualize her politely, awkwardly, lovingly trying to figure out where to look, anywhere other than those curved ivory spears, years of awkwardness like those few little moments you’ve had trying to figure out where to look when you realize someone you’ve met has a wandering eye. That’s been her eternity with me.
Suddenly I was filled with new horror. Which then actually got worse. What if she fixates on them when we make love? When I’m waxing romantic?
All those times as we kissed, her eyes closed with passion, or so I thought, but instead, closed in revulsion. Not rising ecstasy, but defensive reflex. A blink to spare having her eyeballs scooped out and her brains gouged by the fork-tines of my French-kissing mammoth snoot. It was humiliating to realize. And, alas, that poor, poor darling of mine.
So there I was at the mirror, staring at the aberration that was me, who stared right back. I’m not sure which of us was more revolted. But you could see the fire being stoked in our eyes, me and him. We both saw it. The threat, the challenge. We knew. The fight was inevitable now, now that mating was involved. We had no choice, two behemoths forced by primordial reproductive impulses to play out a scene from the frosty tundra of ten thousand years ago. There was no other way.
I thought I might simply butt my head into that mirror and shatter his world. That was the way of back in the Ice Age. But then, what if he hooked me as I slammed? What if he swung his head and scooped me in the long arc of one of those tusks of his and dragged me into his universe instead, the backwards world of mirror land? Could the two of us exist on the same side? Wouldn’t that be like matter and anti-matter colliding or something?
So, I had to be reasonable. I had to get a grip and deal with it in a post Ice Age mentality. This is the Information Age. We have technology now. I don’t have to be primitive.
To Amazon I went. The very pinnacle of the Internet.
It arrived not two days later by the power of Amazon Prime and, well, it sat there for a week, as procrastination is another writer’s power.
But eventually, I took it upstairs, determined to give it a try. I did so reluctantly, I’ll admit, fearfully, if I’m honest, for I could not tell how it worked by looking at it. I tried to figure it out, but the business end of the thing is just this innocuous looking little metal tip, kind of roundish with a gentle point. There are little openings in it, very small, like you might see if it was a very, very tiny cheese grater. I could not fathom it’s function by looking, so I was left with imagination—the hot womb of fear.
Those little holes in that tip had me convinced it was going to pull the ivory bastards out by the roots. I knew it had to work in the way of a woman plucking her eyebrows—which I’ve seen, you know, all the wincing and grimacing. Observer and thinker that I am, keen of eye and keener of empathy, I have concluded that doing that hurts like crap. I was afraid. But what choice did I have? Mating was on the line! So into my nose it went.
Good god, what sadistic demon ever devised such a device? Instruments of the Spanish Inquisition were more humane. A branding iron shoved up my ass would have been preferable. The pain was unfathomable. It was like Zeus got rabies and started throwing lightning bolts up my nose.
Raw agony buzzed in waves, filling my face with screaming torture. My whole body contracted in one great muscle-spasm and my sphincter snapped shut so hard my wife ran in, thinking she’d heard a gunshot. The cat shat itself on the bed.
It was total chaos for a while, and I have a least three incidents of missing time woven in there. For all I know I was on an alien space ship for a while. Your guess is as good a mine.
When I returned to my body, I yanked the insidious machine out of my steaming muzzle, and I turned tear-filled, saucerlike eyes to my wife. “Dear God. Pure evil requires only two triple-A batteries?”
She, ever sympathetic and nurturing and well used to my delicate sensibilities, replied, “Oh, just cut your damn nose hairs already. It’s about time.”
About time? About time!
She knew! She had known. She’d seen them.
She’d known all along. Oh, misery, thou art complete. Flames in my nostrils, ash in my heart.
Well, now I had no choice. I turned back to the mirror and gritted my flat, tundra-grass-eating teeth at the opposing beast in the mirror. He was staring back at me. So smug. But I could not let him best me, not now with my cave mate in observance. In it went again.
Good Lord and all things holy and unholy together. Every cop in a hundred mile radius suddenly fired their tasers into my face holes and let them rip. Six hundred nuclear power plants do not produce enough electricity in a century to match the voltage that ran through my face.
Or maybe it was acid. Thousands of gallons of acid being pumped into my nose pipes at one billion psi.
I can’t really say. All I know is that tears shot out of my eyes like geysers. Fire trucks don’t have anything on the deluge that puked from my tear ducts. I screamed and I may have wet myself. It’s hard to say. It’s all a blur now. But I couldn’t stop. She was watching. My beloved mate.
I staggered back from the mirror, gasping, but fighting it anyway. I couldn’t let her see me fail. I couldn’t let her know that I am really a post-cretacious candy-ass posing as a modern human. I had to fight through. To bear down and bear it. Suck it up. I am Homo Erectus, dammit. Take it like a man. Man up to my manly manhood of manness. All of that.
I couldn’t. It was terrible. I’m crying now just thinking of it. I thrust and parried, poked and stirred with that tusk tool. The lights above the mirror glared off the sheen of sweat on my highly-evolved but ultimately pussified man pate. They glimmered off my tear-wet wussy-man cheeks.
I stared at my sad, defeated self staring back at me. I was about to surrender, to admit it was over. And then, miraculously, one tusk fell away. It dangled for a moment, hingelike, swinging in the breeze of exhaled exhaustion, and then, down it went. It lay in the sink waiting for some ivory merchant to come carve it into piano keys.
I’d done it. It was gone. One nostril clear.
I was encouraged. Post hysterical even. I could do this after all.
I glared at my enemy in the mirror, the one hook remaining. He looked weak now. One weapon shy. Victory would be mine. I stepped back to the mirror and thrust in the trimmer again.
Oh death and misery what a storm raged in that hairy orifice. The whole of my nostril was filled dragon’s fire, boiling the brain juices inside my cranium. I went down that time and had one those near-death-experiences. I saw myself lying there. Jesus might have been laughing somewhere beyond the light. I don’t know.
But, in the end, it was done. I got it. The second tusk was gone.
I don’t quite know where it went. I didn’t find it in the sink or anywhere. But it’s gone. Or at least, I can’t see it anymore. I hope it’s not just hiding. Honestly, I’m afraid to look too deep up in there in case I just mashed it back inside, you know, folded back into the recesses of the cave and waiting until it’s safe to come back. Or, perhaps worse, maybe it will in-grow like a toenail. Curl up and pierce my skull, corkscrew its way into my brain. I’ll slowly go crazy and descend into primal infancy. Or something.
But maybe not. I probably got it. It’s gone. It needs to be. I’m not sure I’m up for another attempt. If it comes back, I might just have to buy a different contraption to deal with it, not that dreaded thing. I’m thinking maybe a stapler would be my best bet. I can just staple my wife’s eyes shut. Problem solved.