The Fateful Second Squint
The lookout picked up his pen and continued story where he’d left off the day before.
Sandra had Roscoe right where she wanted him. On the south terrace of her father's mansion. Alone.
Hilde was right, there was nothing much for a lone fire tower lookout to do other than look out for a fire. For many, the isolation would have been excruciating and the incessant quietude deafening, but for a minor novelist in need of a peaceful place to work and a few extra bucks each month, it was a job from heaven.
"This is the day," thought Sandra. "Roscoe will fall, and he'll never know he's being seduced."
He penned these words slowly and meticulously. There was no typesetting in a book by Thomas Register. No rewriting either. Whatever he hand-lettered onto those pages, that’s it—that’s what the reader would see.
As with all his novellas, Roscoe’s Revenge was peppered throughout with pen and ink illustrations. The main thing that differentiated it from his previous work is that this one was beginning to develop somewhat of a plot.
Sandra’s supposedly subtle innuendos, it turned out, were not so subtle. In fact, they were as apparent to Roscoe...
Register paused a moment, waiting for the perfect phrase to spill from his pen.
... as the nose on his face.
As he sat there glaring at that unfortunate line, he became aware of a faint protuberance jutting ghostlike into his field of view. It was a transparent double image, barely perceptible.
He turned his head to the left, then the right. It was still there. Then he took a look at it with one eye closed. There it was: the right side of his nose, no longer ghostlike but a solid hunk of flesh.
“Hm…” he said with a shrug. “Never noticed that before.”
It occurred to him that maybe he could use this new awareness of his nose to help justify a hastily-penned cliché.
“Dammit!” he said, immediately realizing what a hackneyed phrase that was.
He had an ironclad policy of avoiding clichés like the plague. But it was too late. It was inked.
In fact, the nose on Roscoe’s face WAS apparent to him. Literally. He could see it looming in front of his eyes as he watched Sandra talking.
Register intended this simply as an amusing aside. All his novellas were like that—sprinkled with tidbits of useless information and irrelevant observations. It made for a thicker book without having to think up a lot of story line.
And if he had left it at that—one cursory glance at his nose, one trivial digression in his story—his existence as a broke but happy novelist would have gone on uninterrupted. He would have written Novel on Nadine, the story a girl he would meet in a sandwich shop (Nadine), which he would hand-letter all over her body. As you peruse the black and white photos, you’re reading the book, from her extraordinary childhood across her forehead to the surprise ending on the bottom of her left foot: a proposal from the author. (She would say yes.)
But that reality collapsed into the realm of almost-was when he succumbed to the temptation to see whether the left side of his nose looked the same as the right.*
* It did.