Martin thought the election was in his pocket...
|George Norwood let loose with an angry high-pitched nasal whine, “I’m not talking bout you constantly picking your nose, damn you!” Loud for Norwood. A veritable bellow. He was a quiet kid normally.
Norwood swallowed. He was losing the debate, he could tell. He saw it in the eyes of the moderator. He could read it in the face of the slightly more than mildly amused Micky Lawrence, the other candidate--the heart-throb captain and quarterback of the football team. It was at this moment that Norwood asked himself again how he had allowed himself to run against Micky Lawrence in the first place. He didn’t have an answer-- Then he did.
Last night came back. The TV. The ace up his sleeve.
It was like a gift from God. Norwood’s father saw it too. He looked at his son and smiled in the flickering blue light of the television like even he thought his kid now had a chance.
Norwood took a cleansing breath. In through his nose and out through his mouth. The time was now. A quivering smile made its first tentative appearance on his red, nearly purple, face. Norwood began again. In a breathy voice, he said slowly, “What I’m trying to say, what I have been trying to get across to you, is not the actual picking of your nose that I find so ghastly and disturbing, it is the habitual eating of that which is extracted after you pick it!” With those final four words his voice rose to full volume and his right fist slammed down on the table. Fiery. He was being fiery!
“You’re talking about ‘boogers’.” Micky Lawrence said flatly. His eyebrows rose on his forehead as he looked across the table at Norwood for confirmation.
“Yes! If we must be crude. Yes! I’m talking about boogers. Dried mucous from the naval cavity. Mycophagy. Whatever you want to call it!”
“Bats in the cave!” came a shout.
“Snot rockets!” came another.
“Let me say this about that,” Micky Lawrence said and rose to his feet. The auditorium went silent. Susie Grant accidentally dropped a bobby-pin on the floor by her left saddle shoe and the row in front turned to glare at her.
“First, let’s have an honest discussion on what you refer to as mycophagy.” Micky paused and let the power of the room’s silence seep into his retort. “Let’s call a booger a booger, shall we? We’re all adults here.” He stared out at the audience. “As some of you might know, in the 1970s an ancient Egyptian scroll was discovered that discussed King Tutankhamen’s personal nose picker. That’s right! The Boy King had himself his very own boogey-picker!”
There were snickers from the crowd. Some whistles. Norwood shook his head.
“People lined up for miles from the city of Babylon across the Nile River and past the pyramids to apply for the coveted position of Royal Nose Picker.” Micky looked out at the smiling faces. He returned one of his own.
Norwood stood to his feet. “That is such B.S.!” He came forward to stand beside his opponent. He faced the people seated in the huge auditorium. It was time for the hole-card. “Micky has a disgusting habit and we all saw it last night on television when Micky embarrassed the whole school; yelling about gun control one moment then eating his. . . his boogers the next! On live TV! On live TV! You all saw it! Who here was not appalled?”
“Okay. . . Okay. . .” Micky’s voice was soft. Controlled. Reasoned. “It was not my finest moment, I’ll grant you that. But it was one booger. You want to hear me say I pick my nose and eat my boogers, so be it!” He paused again. The effect was perfect. His arms rose from his sides and with two clenched fists held high above his head he roared, “I eat my boogers! I eat ‘em like candy!” Cheering erupted. Micky lowered and flapped his hands like he so often does on the football field to quiet the crowd. “But I ask you,” he continued when the silence was again complete, “who among us does not?”
The applause was deafening now. The entire student body of Lewis S. Reed High School sprang to its feet. Susie Grant wiped tears from her eyes. George Norwood realized that nothing he could say at this moment would be heard, much less mean anything. He went back to his seat and stared at his fingers steepled and lifeless on the table while the students screamed in praise of their unanimous future choice for Student Council President. They carried Micky off the stage and up the center aisle and out the auditorium’s main doors which slammed closed loudly and with finality behind them.
Inside was now quiet.
Someone high in the back row began turning off the lights. Clack. Clack. Clack. Section after section of the auditorium went dark gray. Only a lone stage light remained with Martin in the midst of it. He squinted at the shadowy figure in the top row. Then he saw a sudden unveiling of white teeth.
A voice came with the smile. “That was sure something, was it not?”
Martin said nothing.
“That boy know how to work a room.” The voice was a melodious baritone. “Let he who never bit into a booger cast the first stone!” A deep in the chest chuckle followed and seemed to Martin to last a long time.
Martin squinted at the dark figure who stood up there, unmoving, looking down. He could still see the white teeth.
“They’re all a bunch of mindless sheep,” Martin said.
“Yeah, but that boy know how to work 'em, don’t he just?”
Martin said nothing.
“That boy know what you don't," the voice continued. "He know how to laugh at himself,” Then the chuckle came again and lasted for what George Norwood deemed a long, long, long-long time.