Short-listed Entry: Fiction Category
By: John Malone
One of my ears is missing. I don’t know where it got to. When I went to bed, I had two. When I got up the next morning and looked at myself in the mirror, in preparation for a shave, I discovered I had one. It was most disquieting. The right one, the one I favour, had been neatly sliced off during the evening, its stump expertly cauterized. I have big ears. As a consequence, having now only one, I am a little lopsided.
People pretend not to notice the pronounced tilt in my head, a sort of leaning tower of pisa effect, but I can tell they are painfully aware. Occasionally a child — it is never an adult —- who has known me before the incident asks me how I lost my ear. I make up inventive scenarios — an enraged magpie snipped it off when I went too near its nest ; or during a fencing tournament my opponent unknowingly used a steel saber which unfortunately sliced my ear off. It is not easy making light of such a loss but what can I do?
I did try finding it. I put posters of my ear from earlier photographs on power poles, bus shelters and in shop windows, proprietors fortunately sympathetic to my cause. I also scoured eBay incase some villain were offering it for sale. It was, I must confess, a very handsome ear and would fetch a good price. But unfortunately nothing turned up.
Finding a missing ear is much harder than you think. I went to the ‘Spare Body Parts’ shop but they had no ears my size. The manager did offer me some of a somewhat smaller size but I declined saying that something more suitable might turn up in the future. The owner seemed doubtful.
A week had passed by this time and I was growing quite desperate. Sleep did not come easily. But one evening in front of the TV I fell asleep for what must have been hours. I had an urgent desire to go to the toilet but when I went to stand up I lost my balance and toppled over on the floor. On picking myself up, leaning against the mattress I found out why. My left foot was missing!
Things had come to a pretty pass. In a little over a week I had lost a foot and an ear. What would be next? I feared falling asleep. So long as I stayed awake I should be all right. Whoever it was only came out at night. I searched the house thoroughly, all the nooks and crannies as they say, but nary a person turned up. Perhaps someone broke in then. But why would they not take anything and settle instead for the peculiar and sadistic practice of removing body parts, seemingly at will? Someone moreover with a penchant for asymmetry. What would he do next? Start lopping off table legs? Was this person. by any chance, asymmetric himself?
Once I had learned to master a wheel chair I went back out to the world, scouring my neighborhood for asymmetric people. If you think finding a missing ear is difficult, try locating a truly asymmetric person. There are not many around. Either people are symmetrically overweight or symmetrically underweight. The same for height. Asymmetry is simply not that common.
A week, a fortnight had gone by and nothing else untoward fortunately had happened. I was feeling confident, relaxed but asymmetrically so. Then in the evening something dreadful occurred. Sometime between dinner and supper while watching TV I noticed my field of vision suddenly and dramatically alter. Oh No, I said, don’t tell me it’s one of my eyes.
But when I hobbled to the bathroom to check it was much worse than I thought. Are you ready for this? I wasn’t. On gazing at myself in the mirror I noticed that the right hand side of my face and skull — the hemisphere that controls the left hand side of my body — had spontaneously vanished. My one eye took this in quite clearly.
I was falling to pieces, dismembering out of the blue. What would my doctor say when I fronted up for my appointment the next morning? Is there a cure for this sort of thing? Clearly whatever process was at work, its sole function was not to make me disappear entirely but merely to render me totally asymmetric.
There wasn’t much left of me to go …. a testicle, a nipple and not much else. But, hang on, there was one part of me that the process hadn’t touched which enables me to write this urgent memoir and that is my right hand, my writing hand : if that should ever go I’d