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The Essay
Show #458
David Gunn

Early one Saturday morning in 1503 in a small backwater in the south of France, there was born a boy named Michel de Nostredame. Why his mother straightaway abandoned him, bought a trampoline, and moved in with the director of the Archaeopteryx Palindrome Society in a village south of Marseilles is fodder for another story, and so won't be addressed here. Anyway, the tyke appeared normal in all respects save for one small detail. Actually, it wasn't small at all. It was rather big, and it was his nose. In fact, at first the midwife who attended the birth thought the neonate had two heads. But then he sneezed, and the nasaline matter that spewed aplenty from those two hubcap-sized apertures convinced her that this simply was a major-league beezer. And so she gave him the name that would define him throughout his life: Nostrildamus.

His nose proved to be somewhat of a dichotomy. On the one hand, its extreme sensitivity came in handy as he tried his hand (or nose, really) at the perfume trade. Nostrildamus was a natural and, before he was eight years old, he was producing a best-selling line of heady colognes. On the other hand--or septum, really--the Inquisition considered his beak a heretical organ, and threatened to burn it at the stake if he didn't keep it out of other people's business ... which included all of the fearsome tribunal's parfumier pals.

So Nostrildamus shelved his burgeoning career in odorifics and enrolled in the medical school at l'université de Montpellier. A year later--and it was a temperate year, for in those days, Vermont's capital city abutted the Mediterranean Sea--he graduated cum schnozzle with a degree in otorhinolaryngology.

Oh, Nostrildamus was quite adept at diagnosing and treating people's ailing ears and throats, but he positively excelled at fixing their snoots. In all of France, there wasn't a bugle he couldn't unstuff, a beezerbleed he couldn't stanch. But the deeper he looked into his clients' nasaline corridors, the more he saw things that were supra-anatomical. Indeed, he saw the future.

The cilia, the sebaceous glands, the clots of mucus, the implanted alien transponders--each in its own way rang a prophetical bell in Nostrildamus. At first, he freely told his customers what he divined from their honkers' interiors. It could be as trifling as in what key an impending bout of borborygmus would sound, or as weighty as how much a chap would tip the scales at Mortal Coil check-out time. One day he caught a glimpse up his own sniffer from a reflection in a millpond, and the events that he foresaw in his future were remarkable to say the least. But then he factored in the reflection, and the prophecy was quickly reduced to "Tu rencontreras un étranger grand et foncé," or "you will meet a tall, dark stranger." Eventually, word of his paranormal prowess filtered back to the Inquisition, which summarily ordered him to cease his prognosetications ... or else. He complied. Sort of.

Instead of saying the sooth aloud, Nostrildamus began to write it down in abstruse quatrains. He obfuscated their meanings by employing metaphor, symbolism and pig Latin. Thus, the members of the tribunal, who were ignorant of swine language and had no use for either metal floors or cymbals, were unable to arrest and try him as a magician.

Quatrain number 153--though technically a quintrain--is typical:
   There once was a man from Nantucket
   Put Henry VIII in a bucket
   The Habsburgs protested
   And Akbar conquested
   Beware arymay weenquay of otskay.

You see? Quite incomprehensible--to the uninitiated. But to those schooled in abstractions and abstrusions, it overflowed with meaning.

Although Nostrildamus continued to mend the occasional broken down beak, more and more he settled comfortably into the role of fortuneteller. His business cards featured but three words: "le nez connaît ..." or, "the nose knows." And everyone, save for the Inquisition and its assigns, knew what that meant.

As the years passed, Nostrildamus experienced firsthand the often deplorable conditions in which prophets were forced to work--the frequently fetid noseholes he encountered, for example--and he determined to improve them. He teamed up with a taxidermist friend in Avignon with similar concerns, and together they formed the guild of seers and roebucks.

One evening in the summer of 1566, a gout-stricken Nostrildamus, sensing that his health was taking a nosedive, summoned a priest to perform the last rites. The seer had never before seen the clergyman who showed up, however he bore an uncanny resemblance to the description from the millpond reflection that still haunted his memory. He was preternaturally tall, caliginously dark, and his strangeness knew no bounds. The ears were distinctly chiropteran, the arms ended in gnarled claws, the upper incisors were chiseled to jagged points--but it was his snoot that sounded the red alert on the bizarrometer. It faded into and out of focus, but when it was visible, it was simply too grotesque for polite description. Suffice it to say that it would have looked right at home in a blunderbuss factory. As the priest hovered over him and administered--well, they were so ominous as to be more like the last wrongs--Nostrildamus perceived the most chilling images imaginable lodged in the stranger's honkerholes. The prognoseticator predicted that it wasn't the gout that would kill him, but rather the two little holes that were about to appear on his neck, courtesy of ... the vampire, Noseferatu!

Today's 458th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar features fragrant music by New York composer, Nose Rolnick, introduced by our own musical cognosecente, Kalnose.