Winning for Losing

by Troy Manning

“Don’t pick your nose or you’ll go blind,” my mother used to tell me.

Sure enough, by the age of eight, we were at Thrifty choosing frames for my new prescription lenses. I liked the green tortoise-shell frames. My mom warned me those were for morons, but, for my own good, she allowed me to persist in my folly.

I sat alone during lunch with my green frames for most of the remaining school year. Many children don’t learn until much later in life just how smart their parents are, and I was no exception. The deterioration of my eyesight increased in direct proportion to the stretch-marks around my nostrils. Though I was truly concerned for my visual welfare, there was so little else to do with my hands after finishing my lunch. And when one begins to feel like a perpetual loser, hardly anything compares with the satisfaction of picking a winner.

My father told me that carrots were good for your eyesight, so I began to sleep with one in each nostril. One morning, I forgot to take them out before going to school. I’m still not sure whether my parents didn’t notice or if they just let me go that way for my own good.

One of the carrots must have fallen out on my way to school, while the other held its ground until recess. I was hardly surprised my malicious classmates didn’t inform me of the conspicuous protrusion, but with the faculty, this was harder for me to fathom. I suppose they thought I was just doing it for attention and so ignored it for my own betterment.

By the fifth grade I was up to bifocals, and supports were installed in my nostrils to prevent their collapsing. I had begun to take up writing and was learning other ways to occupy my hands. As might be expected my stories tended to be about misfits who were always learning lessons that everyone but them seemed to understand.

My first story about a girl whose parents let her suck her thumb down to the bone enjoyed some success. As a result, her popularity among the student-body grew immensely, and she expressed her gratitude by being my girlfriend until the summer before seventh-grade. Although holding her hand sometimes felt a little awkward, I paraded her around campus like a personified Pulitzer. She eventually said it wasn’t in my best interest to be dating in middle-school, and left me for a ninth-grader.

Even though I wasn’t interested in dating him, my next story was about a boy whose single mom grew weary of always telling him not to play with sticks. He eventually put out his eye and had to pay for a glass one with his own allowance. In just two days time, he lost it to a friend in a game of marbles. There was undoubtedly a lesson to be learnt as his mom made him wear a large yellow marble the rest of the school year.

By the tenth-grade the area of my face had grown enough to accommodate the circumference of my nostrils. My eyesight, however, continued to deteriorate and it was hard finding new friends, not having published in a while.

Gratefully, in yearbook club, a girl with no eyelashes took pity on me and wrote a feature about the boy whose parents let him pick his nose until he went legally blind. I showed my appreciation by letting her lead me around like she was my dog. She later apologized profusely to me for parading me around like her mascot, and I confessed to her the dog-thing. We clung together through college and ultimately married. We were a winning combination whose kids didn’t get away with squat.

TROY MANNING is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California. He has recently been taking literature classes at San Diego State University & Cal State University, San Marcos where his stories have been published in the creative writing program’s Cat Ate My Chapbook, Fierce Notes 1 & 2, and the Spring & Fall, 2010 issues of Oh Cat. Other of his stories have appeared in the webzines Weirdyear, Daily Love, & Bewildering Stories.

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