Read Episode 1 and Episode 2

When we last saw Clif Hangar, he had just discovered a ticking box in his hotel room. That could mean only one thing: a bomb. Or a person speaking the Xhosa language, except that a person couldn’t fit into the ticking box, which was smaller than a large breadbox, yet larger than a small breadbox.

It could explode at any time, so the obvious action was to run like the dickens, although probably not like Charles Dickens, since he was long dead and presumably couldn’t run at all, much less fast enough to escape an explosion. However, in the hotel room to the right (or left, depending on which way you faced) was a family with three children, and to the left (or right, depending on which way you faced), was a married couple who had mentioned to Clif that they wore earplugs to bed. Neither set of people could be evacuated quickly, plus the hotel was full—he’d gotten the last room—so dozens more were also in danger.

No, Clif needed to disarm the bomb, and fast. He noticed that the box was gift-wrapped in New Year’s wrapping with champagne glasses and poppers. Was that a clue? Probably, since it was now June.  

His superior sense of smell was triggered by the scent of an off-brand tape, the kind that would turn a sickly yellow, losing it’s sticking ability within the year. This box had been wrapped by a penny-pincher. Was that a clue? Maybe.

Now Clif noticed that there was no bottom to the gift box. He lifted it up, revealing…

A metronome! The old fashioned wood variety, its little wand-like whatchamacallit flicking back and forth like a windshield wiper on a toy car.

He breathed out a sigh of relief, but then sucked it back in when he remembered the poppers on the gift wrap. Small things that explode. It was a clue after all! It meant that inside the metronome was something small that would explode. He was not yet safe.

“A nose has to do what a nose has to do.” Clif had to solve this deplorable dilemma.

Something nagged at him. The presence of a bomb explained the poppers on the gift wrap, but what did champagne glasses signify?

Of course! He could disarm the bomb by dousing it in champagne. Luckily the hotel room had a wet bar, but with two types of champagne: one cheap, one expensive. Which would work better, the cheap or the expensive?

If the person who put the bomb here was a cheapskate, did that mean the cheap champagne would work better, or would the opposite be the case?

Clif had been working on his comeback as a nose model, and didn’t want to spend money left and right, or even forwards and backwards. But the metronome was going faster now. Lives were at stake. Leaping to the wet bar like a frog fresh from a morning pond, he grabbed both the cheap and expensive champagne, popped them open, and poured both over the metronome in a double waterfall of bubbly liquid.

The wand-like whatchamacallit stopped cold. The metronome sides fell open like a card house and its insides were revealed: a tiny contraption with wires that was most definitely a bomb. But when the champagne drenched them, all the pieces melted into residues of black, green, red, and a color that was hard to identify but might have been puce.

Finally nothing was left to show there had ever been a bomb. Without evidence, he couldn’t call in the authorities.


Back Seattle, he re-breathed out that sigh of relief he’d sucked back in earlier in the day, happy to be home. His home was surrounded by a twelve-foot electric fence along with other formidable security measures. He’d needed such protection back at the height of his fame, when everybody wanted to touch his famous nose for luck. Now the protection came in handy once more. He felt as snug as a bug in a rug. Or rather, as composed as a nose with its bros.

A text came in from Schnozes for Kids, a charity that designed noses for kids who didn’t have them. Clif thought warmly of the many children over the years who had been given a new chance at nose-ness through the charity’s good works. Over the past few years they had faded to the background in the public’s eye, and needed him for a photo shoot to highlight a comeback similar to the one Clif was trying to achieve.

Clif did a dance of happiness, beginning with the Floss and wrapping up with the Macarena. He was about to help save children from disfigurement. Life was good.

On the way to the photo shoot, Clif felt like a superhero. In the past twenty-four hours he had saved himself from falling to his death and from being blown to smithereens. Like a successful superhero, he even seemed to have an evil nemesis, who was potentially a cheapskate. If he kept his eyes open and his nose primed, he could easily outwit such a person. A cheap nemesis was liable to cut corners, giving him a vulnerability Clif could take advantage of. 

The photo shoot was in a building with green metal siding. Shipping containers had been repurposed into an architecturally pleasing structure. “Nicely done,” thought Clif. “Reuse of materials that would go to a landfill is good for the environment.”

He strode into the building like a bullfighter but without a cape and not speaking Spanish, although he was tempted to shout “Ole!” He was ready to save the children, as always. And there were plenty of them, around a dozen. Some with noses and some without, but all as cute as the day is long, and all accompanied by a parent or two trying to keep them from dirtying their clothes.  

There was no photographer. No cameras, lights, or say cheese. It smelled like cabbage that had been left in the refrigerator for exactly thirty-four days. That made Clif nervous. It was a bad housekeeping smell, not a photo studio smell.

“Something’s wrong,” said Clif. “Photographers arrive early to set up.”

“Seattle traffic,” said a parent. “Probably stuck on I-5.”

“And another thing,” said Clif. “This is too small for a photography studio.”

A sudden metallic screech made them all jump like jumping beans, only higher, because they were people, not seed pods with moth larva native to Mexico.

The walls started to move. Metal walls. Small space. This building hadn’t been fashioned from shipping containers. It was a giant trash compactor. “Everybody out!” Clif ran for the door, but it was shut tight.

“We’re locked in!” shouted a child.

“We’re going to die!” shouted a parent.

“Save us, Clif Hangar!” shouted everybody in oddly harmonic unison.

Clif felt like a marmoset was digging in the pit of his stomach. He was not a superhero. He was a has-been nose model whose day in the limelight was over and whose days were numbered, along with his hours, minutes, and seconds. The kids and their parents would perish along with him, merely by dint of association. It was a bad, bad, bad, bad-bad-bad-bad day to be a nose model on the comeback trail.

Will our hero and his unfortunate companions be crushed to death by a giant trash compactor? Will his comeback as a nose model end before it even begins? Tune in next week to find out.

More about trash compactors

How to dance the Floss

Now available: The Climate Machine–A Novel


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