Boogers and Jags by Nathaniel Tower

When I lost my job as head waiter of the Surfing Whale, I was so desperate for cash that I put my car on Craigslist. Put it up for dirt cheap. Two-thousand bucks. The thing was only four years old and hadn’t even sniffed 20,000 miles yet. A Jaguar. For two-thousand bucks.

Since I was already giving the thing away, I didn’t think I needed to clean it or anything. I had ten emails within the hour, even though I specifically put in the ad not to email me. Phone calls only, the ad said.

Well, a couple guys did call me, and since I’m not really one to judge anyone, I told everyone the same thing: first person to meet me in the parking lot of the bank on the corner of 3rd and Park would get the Jag.

Okay, so I know you’re wondering how I got the Jag, but it isn’t much to wonder about. Head waiters can make a shit-ton of money, especially when they have my sociability. See, I’m flawless when it comes to my personal interactions. I dole out all the pleasantries and compliments—not over the top, mind you—that anyone could want to hear.

I have only one vice, and it’s not a taste for luxury cars.

I pick my nose.

I pick it a lot.

You’ve heard the expression digging for gold, right? I set up a whole fucking mine crew in there. I excavate constantly, letting each of my fingers take a turn spelunking through the thick nose hair for the juicy booger nuggets.

Yeah, it sounds gross, but the truth is that I only do it in private. Or at least semi-private. In the stall when I’m taking a dump between taking orders. In the car when I’m driving alone. In bed while my girlfriend is sleeping on her side away from me after a hearty round of sex.

I guess a lot of people think it’s a gross habit. It’s one of those things that’s never really acceptable, at least not socially. But, if I ever have kids, I’m not gonna be the one to tell them that they can’t pick their noses. Hell, they can eat the boogers, if they want. They can even pick their damn friends’ noses. Whatever floats their collective boats, right?

So, here I am, sitting in this bank parking lot, waiting for one of these desperate Jag hunters to show up. I’m convinced there are people who spend their entire lives scouring the internet for any remotely good deal. Granted, this was like the deal of the century, but still. How did they all learn about it so fast? It’s all they do, I swear.

Well, there’s nothing to do, so of course I’m picking my nose. I’ve got my thumb scraping the inside of the nostril wall while my index finger clings for support on the outside. It’s my favorite method. It’s like a damn massage. I’m just pulling out a big brown booger, the kind with nose hairs still attached, when two—yeah, two—cars pull into the lot at the exact same time. It’s like they knew the other was coming, and they both just tore into the lot like crazy people.

Not wanting to be caught with my finger in my nose (I’d say red-handed, but that wouldn’t really apply here), I wiped the hairy booger under the seat. I got out and leaned against the Jag like I’d been there all my life.

The cars both squealed to park on either side of me and my humble beast.

The one in the blue Ford jumped out first.

“It’s mine!” he shouted. “Here’s the check for two grand!” He waved his thin piece of paper at me.

The other guy, a little more calm, walked to his trunk and pulled out a briefcase. “A check? You can’t be serious. I’ve got three thousand in cash in this baby.” He patted the thing like it was an old lover back for a final round.

“Look, I’m not here to turn this into a bidding war,” I said. I looked at the man with the three thousand. I didn’t trust him. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to take the first offer,” I told him. I wasn’t sorry. The guy looked like he was just there to try to turn a profit. A briefcase of money? That sounded like it would get me in a lot of trouble.

The briefcase guy stormed off, his car belching out of the lot. The man with the check handed it over and I gave him the keys and the title.

“You can have this, too,” he said, tossing me the keys to his blue Ford. Not knowing how else I was going to get home, I accepted the surprise addition.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Pleasure’s all mine,” he told me. We shook hands, and I noticed the extreme variance in nostril size. He was a chronic nose picker as well, but it looked like he spent all his time on the right side.

I grazed the side of my nose with my thumb, working my way quickly along the rim until I reached the center of my face. He didn’t respond to my sign. Hey, I just thought it was worth a shot. It’s not like there’s some official sign of the brotherhood of nose pickers or anything. It was just something stupid I was doing.

The man drove off in my Jag, and even though it looked beautiful as it exited the lot, I didn’t really miss it. I hopped into my Ford and drove to the drive-thru ATM where I deposited my new check. Looking at my account balance, I knew I would be fine for at least two months. I was sure to have a new job by then, if a restaurant could overlook what had happened, which wasn’t, mind you, my fault at all.

It wasn’t boogers, if that’s what you’re thinking. Someone claimed to have seen me leaving the bathroom without washing my hands. The Surfing Whale was really strict on that, mainly because of an outbreak of Hepatitis a few months back. But I wasn’t the type to leave without washing my hands. With as much time as my fingers spent in my nose, I probably was sure to wash my hands at least twice as often as the normal person. My hands were the cleanest I knew.

A few days later, the phone rang, and I thought it was going to be the Surfing Whale hiring me back, or maybe the Blue Lagoon Restaurant and Cove calling with an offer. It wasn’t either.

“Hey, this is Chuck,” the male voice answered through the receiver.

“Okay. Who’s Chuck?”

“I’m the guy who bought the Jag.”

Of course. Chuck. The check had said Charles, so that threw me for a bit of a loop.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

“Yeah, there’s a problem,” he said. “There’s boogers all over the seat.”

I knew he was exaggerating. The only place I ever wiped my boogers was under the seat. Granted, I wiped a lot of boogers there, so “all over” wasn’t too much of a stretch. Given that I had never cleaned the car and picked my nose at least twice a day, I could see how quite the booger army had gathered.

“I’m sorry,” I told him. “The sale was as is, though.” I wasn’t about to give back his money over some boogers.

“Well, I think that given reasonable circumstances, I would be okay with that. But we’re talking thousands of boogers.”

“A deal’s a deal,” I told him. “Anything else you need? I’m a busy man.”

“You don’t understand. The boogers are taking over.”

“Look, I sold you a forty thousand dollar car for two thousand bucks. I think you can clean out the boogers.” I was starting to get annoyed, which I hoped was obvious to old Chucky Boy.

“I do appreciate that,” he said, “but I don’t think you quite get what I’m saying.”

“No, I don’t,” I confessed.

“I literally mean there are boogers everywhere, and the boogers are taking over. They took the car out for a spin last night.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. The crazy son of a bitch thought that boogers could drive a car.

“Boogers can’t drive,” I told him.

“Well, they’re driving right now. In fact, I think they’re on their way to your place.”

I hung up. I wasn’t going to deal with a nut job. I wasn’t sure if he just missed his blue Ford or if he had decided that the Jag didn’t fit his image.

Knowing the impossibility and the ridiculousness of what Chuck suggested. I went about my business, searching the newspapers and the internet for new job opportunities, occasionally wiping a stray booger or two across an unpromising classified.

As I scraped a particularly stubborn booger off my thumb and onto an ad for house painters, a car horn beeped outside the window.

I looked at the booger still trying to dangle to my finger. “Are those your friends?” I asked it, knowing it was all a coincidence. The horn beeped again, and the booger slid off my finger. A third beep, this time long and impatient. The booger began scooting along the paper like a slug.

“Hey, come back here,” I shouted at the booger, unable to contain my disbelief.

Another beep and a knock on the door followed.

The booger on the paper continued to hurry away from me. I snatched it up between my thumb and index finger and headed for the door.

I walked down the stairs with little expectations. Probably the mailman, or one of those guys wanting me to get my soffits and fascia done. Those guys were the most annoying scum around.

When I opened the door, I instantly wished for one of those soffit guys. Three years’ worth of boogers ambushed me, dragging me to the floor and freeing my grip on their buddy I had trapped a minute before.

“What the hell is going on?” I shouted, not knowing what else to say or do.

Two of the stronger boogers pinned my arms to the ground.

“File in, boys,” a helmeted booger ordered. The boogers began running up my body and leaping into my nose, filling me to the point that no amount of decongestant could alleviate.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I yelled at the booger leader as he forced more and more boogers inside with a tiny booger bayonet.

“Because we’re not trash to simply be disposed of and left for someone else to take care of,” the booger general barked.

I could feel my head swell as the boogers continued to pile in, my nostrils unable to suck in any air. Everyone but the general was in now. I cringed and tried to slither away as I waited for him to force himself inside, bayonet and all.

“Good work, men,” the booger declared before hopping off my chest. I watched as he scurried back to the Jag and drove off, leaving me on the floor with a lifetime supply of boogers crammed into my swollen nose.

 


Nathaniel Tower lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and daughter. After teaching high school English for nine years, he has decided to pursue a career in writing/publishing/editing. His fiction has appeared in over two hundred online and print journals. His first collection of fiction, Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands, will be released later this year through Martian Lit. In 2011, MuseItUp Publishing released his first novel, A Reason to Kill, followed a year later by his first novella, Hallways and Handguns. Nathaniel is the founding and managing editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. When he’s not doing writerly things, he likes to joggle (juggle and run simultaneously). Find out more about Nathaniel at nathanieltower.wordpress.com.