Alexander Cendrowski

Alexander Cendrowski is currently an undergraduate student in the English and Creative Writing programs of the University of North Florida. He works as a Prose Reader forThe Adroit Journal, and as a Fiction Reader for UNF's Fiction Fix. His fiction has appeared in Crack the Spine and Perversion Magazine.


Nose Picker (September, 2014. Issue 46.)

Years six and seven of life were difficult for Hansen Pecker, and not just because the name Hansen Pecker practically bullies itself. His was the curse of being unable to hide, once he got started, the habit of harvesting, consuming his boogers. His snot nuggets. His bogeys. In any particular waking hour, Hansen Pecker picked at, sucked on, and chewed through between twelve and thirty-three boogers. Because of the velocity at which he picked his nose, his excavations would not go unnoticed for long.

In order to understand a nose-picker like Hansen Pecker, first we must delve into the circumstances of his upbringing and, almost more importantly, education. In first grade, Mrs. Jennings’ class, Hansen was held back. Your son’s cursive isn’t, Mrs. Jennings told Mrs. Pecker, quite up to snuff. Cursive will be imperative to your son’s future as a student here. His mother agreed, of course. She was disinterested in the process. Mrs. Jennings was the teacher, and knew what was right for her child.

Over the course of his two years with Mrs. Jennings, Hansen earned—that’s what she called it, earned—156 separate servings of detention. In Hansen’s second first grade year, he colored his second portrait of Martin Luther King Jr., Mrs. Jennings’ annual contribution to black history month. Hansen, never one to mimic a previous art performance, refused to use brown crayon for the caricature, instead deciding on a pale yellow. Mrs. Jennings gave him detention for obvious racism. Indeed, many of his detentions were given in the same vein: playing soccer with a basketball during recess, an attempt at anarchy; telling little Elizabeth Parkins she was pretty, spreading lies; eating a whole brownie in one bite during lunch, inciting other little boys to attempt to one-up one another with a game of Who can eat the biggest object in one bite? Roger Paninsky managed a whole breakfast burrito, and his fellows crowned him champion during the puke-fest that followed. Hansen was given detention for encouraging riotous behavior and endangerment of his fellow classmates.

Other earned detentions were not as clear cut. On one detention slip were merely the words Talking during cafeteria quiet hours, which were apparently from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Only Mrs. Jennings appeared to be aware of these quiet hours, and only Hansen seemed to be responsible for adhering to them. This particular punishment set on a fear of public speaking into his brain, which subsequently earned him an ‘F’ on his final presentation for Mrs. Jennings’ class, and also another detention. He once received a detention slip bearing third-grade hall cop Jeff Morris’ signature, which read: Doesn’t know that Superman could kick Batman’s butt. Hansen served his sentence with his head down, like always, refusing to pipe up about the injustice of his punishment, even though Batman would totally whoop Superman’s pasty Kryptonian ass.

Despite all of Hansen’s earned after-school-silences, he never once received the threat of a referral, a day-long suspension, or even a parent-teacher conference regarding his behavior. 156 times his older sister, Sally, walked him home thirty minutes late, and on 156 occasions their parents knew nothing of his punishment. This was unsurprising, since the pair’s mother slept most of the day, leg hanging over the head of the couch, wearing three-day-overworn panties stained dark in the middle, only waking to order or receive more Tupperware from Amazon. Sally’s father came home from work at 6:00 PM and immediately locked himself into the family office to catch up on the quality porn that had been produced since he had left in the morning, and Hansen’s father delivered the Tupperware. None of them heard anything of Hansen’s various crimes. It was probably better that way, all things considered.

To Mrs. Jennings immense disappointment, she was disallowed from hosting detention exclusively in her classroom, and so was forced to hand over the mantle every Tuesday and Thursday to a Mr. John Kingston. Mr. John Kingston was sixty-three years old. Mr. John Kingston wore inch-thick, wide-rimmed glasses. Mr. John Kingston enjoyed reading criminal mystery novels. And Mr. John Kingston had stopped giving a shit about kids misbehaving nearly fourty-one years before Hansen Pecker ever set foot in his classroom to serve detention. It should come as no surprise, then, that it was in Mr. John Kingston’s room that Hansen first discovered the joy of eating boogers. Roger Paninsky, champion of one-bite eating contests, and all-around disgusting human being, was Hansen’s inspiration, his muse. Roger was in Mr. John Kingston’s room for puking on the floors of the cafeteria, which resulted in fourteen individual slip-and-falls before the janitor finally got around to cleaning it up. His shirt had dried bits of vomit clinging to its front, his shoes were multi-colored from his own fall, and his finger was knuckle-deep in his nostril, digging for dessert. Hansen couldn’t resist following suit.

The boogers tasted of salt and slime, mostly. Still, Hansen was impressed by the variety of flavors and textures to be found in a nose. He began experimenting: the nose-drippers, allergy-induced, were as you might expect, more watery, higher flavor, but the deeper crusted nuggets had juicy centers to them, and could be incredibly satisfying when crunched in seven-year-old molars. Digging even deeper, he found that bogies scraped from the cavern wall of his nostril could sometimes elicit slight nosebleeds, adding a special sauce element to the mix. It was in one of these bloody raids that Hansen Pecker attracted the attention of one Steven Black.

Steven Black, who refused to be called by his first name, was the coolest kid in Sally’s eight grade class, which statistically destined him to become a loser later in life. Indeed, his life was already crumbling, his grades failing, his tweeker parents slowly chipping away at Earth’s oxygen supply. He lived in a trailer home, showered only after twice-a-week Gym classes, and had the table manners of a grizzly bear. Luckily for him, however, he had been held back twice (in Mrs. Jennings first grade class, actually,) and so was two years older than every other middle schooler in the building. This instantly made him attractive to nearly every middle school girl, including Sally.

Sally and Black’s romance was hot and fiery in the way that nearly all eight-grade romances are: she spent class hours dawdling their names together in hearts on her composite notebooks, and he felt up her boobs while waiting for Hansen outside South Pool Elementary.

A regular Romeo and Juliet, those two.

Hansen walked out of his 156th earned detention on March 23rd, 2:47 P.M., to be greeted by Sally and Black, who had walked him home together since the pair had started dating two weeks before. She grabbed her brother by the arm and stormed away from Black, who was leaning against the brick wall of the cafeteria, smoking. The reason for their departure, uncovered only after the investigation was well under way, was that Black had just suggested that he and Sally rise to the next level of their relationship. Like all eight-grade girls are wont to do, Sally blushed and said, What do you mean? And Black explained the obvious, and detailed the spot (coincidentally, he had wanted to fuck her outside Mrs. Jennings’ first grade window, right there, on school grounds, Hansen’s arrival be damned), and she had told him No! And he had grabbed her arm and kissed her, forced his tongue down her throat, and felt up her boob through her shirt. She slapped him across the mouth, and he leaned back across the wall, head to the side, reaching for his cigarette pack. This all happened at 2:46 P.M.

Black watched the pair’s departure, his cheek still tingling from the slap, one hand holding his cigarette, the other tapping at the handle of his father’s hunting knife. Sally was objective-focused, get away, but Hansen, knowing nothing of their interaction, was turned towards Black and, crucially, predictably, was picking his nose (detention had been in Mr. John Kingston’s room that day). When he pulled his finger from his nostril, the flake was bloody. The cigarette dropped, the knife raised.

It was the nose-picking, they say, that set Black off. How else could it be explained? The penetration, finger in nose, in-and-out. Breaking the seal—bleeding. It was too much for Black’s horny little mind to handle. He snapped. And so, Hansen Pecker earned what happened to him, really. If we’re being absolutely fair.