Edgar was a man with a peculiar malady. It wasn’t just that he had a voracious appetite for all things internet and a quick temper. No, it was that when he read something online that upset him, his nose became, quite literally, out of joint. Each time he furiously disagreed with a news article or a post from an opinionated relative, the cartilage of his nose would turn ever so slightly—imperceptibly—counter-clockwise.
The phenomenon seemed to begin following a particularly distressing piece of journalism about an out-of-state investor buying up his favorite Texas burger joint. (He could never enjoy his patty melt now, knowing that some suit in Chicago was profiting.) Over the course of the next several months, irritating digital content nudged Edgar’s nose along in its rotation: newspaper op-eds by unqualified authors, videos of senators pounding the table about the debt ceiling, and a downright unreasonable number of pet and baby photos.
The overall change had been so gradual that he, and even those in his neighborhood and the software development company where he worked, didn’t notice. Nobody had the habit of looking Edgar directly in the face, but some did observe that he sneezed more often and more loudly than the average person, especially if someone turned on a dusty ceiling fan. To his credit, he always carried a handkerchief and remembered to cover his blowholes when a fit struck.
Then, one day, just as mysteriously as it had begun, the nasal movement stopped. It could have been the article about the Iranian gasoline export to Venezuela—or the one on opera singers performing to an audience of plants. It might have been both. But whatever the case, Edgar’s nose locked in at a one-hundred-and-eighty degree angle from its congenital placement. There it inexplicably stayed, nostrils pointed at the sky. In the months that followed, the nose never again resumed its axial migration, no matter how many times his cousin Lily spammed his newsfeed with inflammatory Paul Rudd memes.
Edgar did notice that he was constantly battling sinus infections, but he could have sworn he had always suffered from them—particularly around cedar and oak season. It was his damned allergies to blame, of that he was sure, even though the skin prick test at the allergist had come out negative. So he found himself again and again at his general practitioners’ office.
Eventually, after prescribing yet another round of penicillin, Dr. Galgani spoke up.
“Listen, Edgar,” he said. “Your sinus problems could be solved by a rhinoplasty.”
Edgar nearly choked on his mucous backflow. “Are you suggesting I get a nose job, Doctor?”
The doctor squinted. “You do realize your nose has a, let’s call it, unusual orientation?”
“Unusual orientation!” Edgar shouted. He snatched the prescription from the doctor’s hand, stormed out, and drove to the pharmacy, snorting all the way. There he bought some overpriced yogurt and ate it sitting at the blood pressure machine while waiting for his medication. (The antibiotics always did a number on his intestines.)
At last, he made it home, orange bottle in hand. After dropping his keys on the hallway table, he flicked on the bathroom light. From every possible angle, he examined his nose in the mirror. It looked perhaps a little red, he thought. Shrugging, he grabbed a glass of water and swallowed his pills.