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Mr. Bender's Nose Problem

Mr. Bender's nose problem is about to take a strange twist.

Mr. Hal Bender was always told he had a wire loose somewhere in that mathematically gifted, bad comb-over head of his. His fellow bean counters at the accounting firm of Gort, Kitt, and Servo voted Hal most likely to mate with a computer. And if Mr. Bender ever did get married, he’d somehow manage to meet the national household population average of two-point five-four.

One spring morning in late April, the middle-aged geek deluxe noticed a prickly black protruding nose hair. He hated trimming nose hair too. Lately, it seemed to cause him pain, whether he was using his new-fangled, battery operated trimmer or a pair of mini clippers. Trimming nose hair shouldn’t be an ordeal, Hal postulated. So after much deliberation and extensive calculations, he made an afternoon appointment with a nose specialist.

Hal arrived thirty minutes ahead of time, just in case. Hal specialized in ‘just in case’scenarios. After filling out a sea of paperwork, the receptionist escorted Mr. Bender to room four. Along the hallway, Hal gazed at 8x10 mug-shots of celebrity schonzes, ranging from Jimmy Durante’s famous honker to Pinocchio’s wooden snout.

The nervous accountant sat down and methodically explained his dilemma to Doctor Maxwell Bunda, a seasoned professional with twenty-three years of proboscis experience. The quirky doctor didn’t think it was a big deal, probably just overly sensitive nerve-ending embedded in Hal’s quite normal-looking nose. He’d seen it before lots of times, although Hal’s nose hair, particularly the one sprouting from the left nostril, seemed to have a distinctively strong disposition.

“Sorry, Mr. Bender, I seem to be having a bit of difficulty,” said the doctor, struggling to trim the hair with the petite pair of scissors. “I may need to break out the Weed Eater!” Hal made a big gulping sound. “Just kidding Mr. Bender, everything will be fine.”

The doctor retreated back to his office and returned with a brand new sturdy pair of scissors. He dipped them in disinfectant, dried them off, and snipped away. “Wow; that was a tough one.” He noticed Mr. Bender spasm and shudder, his face contorting. “Are you okay?”

Hal’s eyes twitched. His lips puckered up as if he’d just sucked on a king-sized lemon. Then he flobbled his lips and shook his head back and forth. Hal finally regained his senses. “Uh, yes . . . shouldn’t I be?”

“Of course,” replied Dr. Bunda. “You’re all set for now. “Just want to take a gander at this King Kong follicle of yours -- I’ll let you know.”

“Let me know what? Am I okay? I’m not going to die, am I?”

“Mr. Bender,” the doctor replied calmly. “I just trimmed a troublesome nose hair; you’re fine.” Hal nodded, reluctantly convinced . . . almost.

Later, the doctor examined the feisty follicle under a microscope. He was vexed and perplexed. The follicle felt stiff yet bendable, almost like . . .

“Darla?” the doctor called out to the receptionist. “Please tell my next patient to be a little patient.” Doctor Bunda snickered, thinking that was clever. “I need to reexamine this a bit more closely.” He continued gazing at the hair through a lighted magnifying glass.

“What’s the problem?” asked Darla, freshly hired from a temp agency a week ago. The regular receptionist was out on maternity leave.

“Well, I’ve got a real head scratcher here, a potential problematic proboscis if you will. This guy Bender’s got super human nose hair – like electrical wiring or something; very strange.”

Hal stopped off at the corner supermarket near his apartment to pick up groceries before returning home. After dining on fish sticks and nuked corn niblits, Hal showered, flossed then proceeded to reexamine his annoying nose hair situation.

Using a magnifying glass, he spotted a dense hair in his left nostril. It appeared to be the same one the doctor removed only hours before. Hal attempted to trim it, but he couldn’t cut it with the scissors. Frustrated, he retrieved a pair of needle nose pliers from his hobby model tackle box and returned to the bathroom. He clamped the tip on the troublesome hair, took in a deep breath . . . and yanked.

“Oweeee,” he blurted out. His lips began to pucker spastically like a deranged fish. The vision in his eyes suddenly got all blurry. When he attempted to remove the hair again, his ears wiggled and his feet started tap-dancing.

“That . . . was freaking weird,” uttered Hal, who’d never ever cursed a day in his non- interesting life. Using freaking was exceedingly risqué lingo for the accountant. The nose hair was still there, only longer now and the tip looked frayed. He tugged at it more. The color suddenly changed from black to a barber pole striped red and white, like it was some sort of . . .

“Wire? Is that a freaking wire?” Hal stammered and sputtered. “I said freaking again!” Something was askew . . . and Mr. Bender knew it.

Hal reached for the flashlight below the sink. Pressing against the mirror and gazing deeply into his cavernous snout, he spotted what resembled to be more wires. He pulled more when suddenly he started hearing clicking sounds, like moving parts, followed by a fluttering whoosh. He rubbed his eyes, detecting visions of small colored lights. He pulled again. Then unexpectedly, a puff of cotton ball white smoke emanated from Hal’s ears. Either a new pope was elected or Mr. Hal Bender had blown a gasket in his seriously bad combed-over noggin.

Hal began to feel queasy and lightheaded. He sat down on the toilet seat, flummoxed. Out of nowhere he had a runny nose. Hal placed his index finger just above his lip. The wetness was thick, black, and oily. That’s when Hal feinted, landing flat on his back.

“Overload, overload,” sounded a mechanical voice. “HR-1 faulting, HR-1 faulting.”

Out of nowhere, a collection of miniature diodes zoomed and zigzagged in and out of Hal’s ears, laboring frantically to restore the artificial person known as Hal. The official name was Human Robot Prototype One, or HR1 for short, but government scientists thought a more ‘human name’ was in order. There were two-dozen more issued HR1’s throughout the country. A streak of oil began dripping out from both ears and the eyes were spinning around like reels on a casino slot machine.

A glowing red diode led a trio of pulsating bright blue ones in and out of Hal’s nose. High-pitched drill sounds streamed loudly from each ear, followed by sparks shooting out of each nostril like sparklers. It was mechanical mayhem right inside Hal’s head.

The accountant’s eyes weebled and wobbled before settling down. The ears were all spruced up, along with the protruding wires. “Repair near full completion,” called out the mechanical voice.

Hal’s arms and legs began to quiver and tremor. One eye opened then the other. He stood up, lightheaded, confused, and dumbfounded. Hal peered into the mirror. His eyelids shuttered then came to a halt. He shook his head trying to get his bearings. “That was quite . . . puzzling.”

He felt hung over, whatever that meant. Hal never consumed alcohol, but he’d read about it and seen it in movies. The disparaging nose hair had completely disappeared. Was that a dream, he asked himself?

Later, Hal got into bed, worried. He was trying his darndest to remember. His thoughts were foggy, but something about wires kept popping into his hard drive of a brain. He twisted and turned all night. For the first time since forever, Mr. Hal Bender called in sick from work. He was out of sorts.

The phone rang. As custom, Hal picked it up on the third ring. “Uh, hello?”

“Hi, Mr. Bender? This is Doctor Bunda. Could you please stop by my office this morning as soon as possible? I’ve made an interesting discovery.”

“Is it bad?”

“I don’t think so, more on the weird side I’d say.”

“How weird?” Hal asked, fumbling with the phone cord.

“Like Twilight Zone weird,” replied the doctor, who asked the receptionist to clear his schedule so he could fully concentrate on Mr. Bender’s nosey situation.

Hal hurried over, catching the 9:20 bus twelve blocks from his apartment. Twenty-five minutes later, Hal arrived at the stand alone building, painted in dreary drab battleship gray. Doctor Bunda popped open an ice cold natural cherry soda and a package of frosted cherry Pop Tarts and sat down in his office. He’d been up since four AM and needed a pick-me-up.

“Good morning Mr. Bender,” said the receptionist, a touch hung over from celebrating her twenty-fifth birthday last night. “The doctor is waiting.”

“Waiting? He’s been waiting . . . for me?”

“Oh yeah,” she replied, perking up after a shot of espresso. “He said you’re quite the unusual case.” The doctor popped out of his office, wiping off the red sugary grit from his hands to greet Hal.

“Hi Mr. Bender, take a seat.” The doctor had compiled a list of questions in the wee hours of the morning and attached them to a clipboard. In a way, the doctor felt invigorated by this mysterious patient. Usually, a nose was a nose was a nose.

“Is here okay?” asked Hal as he pointed to a chair. He accidently bumped into a small wood table, knocking over a stack of Golf Digest magazines that spilled all over the floor. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, Darla will lend a hand. Shall we begin?” Hal nodded okay.

The doctor took out a vibrant red Sharpie marker and cleared his throat. “Alrighty Mr. Bender, did anyone – a brother, sister, or friend -- I don’t know -- ever jam wires up your nose when you were young?”

“Uh . . . no.” Dr. Bunda checked ‘no’ on his sheet.

“Do you like sticking things up your nose?” Hal nodded no. Doctor Bunda continued.

“Have you ever gone in for any type of low-cost rhinoplastic operation or cheap brain surgery?”

Again, Mr. Bender answered no. The doctor rattled off a few more ‘left field’ questions.

“I appreciate your patience Hal, only one more to go.” Hal sighed.

The doctor cleared his throat. “Are you, or have you ever been . . . a robot?”

Hal crinkled his face. “A what?”

“Just kidding, Hal,” mused the doctor. “But seriously, your nose hair is . . .”

“Is what?” asked Hal, butting in.

Darla barged into Doctor Bunda’s office. “I’m sorry, but they --!”

Four men, dressed in sharp charcoal black suits, stormed into the office. Two men quickly escorted Hal out; the other two forced the doctor back into his worn, comfortable leather chair. One of the men, tall, solid build, spoke in a voice so resonating and deep it made the windows vibrate.

“You will not pursue this situation any further, do you understand me?” The man vice-gripped the doctor’s hands together.

“You’re hurting me.”

“Excellent, then I’ve made my point loud and clear.” The other man towered over the doctor like a giraffe. He took out a gun and pressed it directly on the tip of the doctor’s nose.

“Uhhh . . . you’ve made your point -- quite well I might add,” replied the doctor, now shaking his throbbing hands in pain.

The deep voiced man got right up in the doctor’s grill. “Not – another – word.” The trembling doctor, with beads of sweat pouring down his chubby face, acknowledged the threat one hundred percent. They quickly vanished, joining their cohorts with Hal in an unmarked white cargo van parked on the side street. They drove away, just under the speed limit.

The other two men sat between Hal in the middle bench seat, black-tinted windows on each side. “So Mr. Bender, nice day, ain’t it?” said one of the men wearing sunglasses, talking in a tough guy cartoon voice.

“I’m not so sure,” Hal replied. “It’s supposed to rain tonight with a better than average chance of thunderstorms, followed by patchy fog, which could lead to traffic congestion for the morning commute, that in turn . . .”

“Shut up, putz,” said the man, gritting his crooked coffee stained teeth.

“The other gentleman, more calm and sophisticated spoke. “Mr. Bender, I want to assure you there is nothing wrong with your health. If fact, you are a picture of perfect health. There is no need to see a doctor – ever. He leaned in with his narrow yellow eyes.

“But what about my nose?”

“You have no issues with your freaking nose nerd man,” said the tough guy, “Unless I blow it off with my Glock. You understand me? Comprende?”

“First of all that’s redundant: Understand and comprende mean the same thing, and two, you shouldn’t say freaking,” replied Hal, his common sense thought process misfiring a bit. “The connotation is you really want to say the F-word, and that’s vulgar, not to mention --”

“Shut up dweeb,” he answered, “Or I’ll personally rearrange your circuits -- oops!” The other man elbowed his partner’s ribcage.

“No need to get hostile,” said the other gentleman. The man proceeded to flick open a gleaming eight-inch switchblade and placed it under Hal’s throat. “Now I’m fairly confident that Mr. Bender here thoroughly comprehends the situation at hand. Am I right?”

Hal cleared the frog in his throat. “Uh huh.”

“Good. Well, here we are Mr. Bender. Remember, mum’s the word.” The tough guy brandished his gun again.

Hal jumped out and powerwalked to his apartment building. He stopped before entering, deciding to head to the drug store three blocks away. He purchased an assortment of pain relievers and sleep aids. Hal returned, fumbling for his keys. He stepped into the elevator and vamoosed up to the seventh floor. Standing in the lobby was a pizza delivery man holding a rumpled box. He wore a white floppy hat, khaki shorts, and sported a Groucho Marx looking mustache. The man’s plump build looked familiar.

“Pssss. Mr. Bender, it’s me.” Hal looked over, puzzled. He didn’t know any pizza delivery guys. In fact, he’d never ordered pizza before, ever. He couldn’t digest cheese, among a whole bunch of other things. The man took off the hat and ripped off the black electrical tape under his nose.

Hal’s eyes widened. “Doctor Bunda. What are you doing here? Those guys will kill both of us!” A man stepped off the elevator. “That’ll be ten dollars sir,” said the delivery man, in a foolishly bad accented voice. Hal, suffering from ‘dull thought comprehension’ stood there silent then finally caught on.

“Yes . . . sure thing, Mr. Pizza delivery man sir. Let me retrieve the money that it is in my wallet which is inside my apartment. The stranger glanced over, thinking he was overhearing a couple of complete simpletons.

Hal proceeded to open the door and entered. “Okay, Mr. Pizza man sir, here’s a twenty dollar--”

“Never mind that, Mr. Bender,” said the doctor, slamming the door shut, flinging the box to the floor like a Frisbee.

“Hal, I think you’re wired. And I don’t mean strung up on hippy lettuce.” Hal offered up a perfectly executed blank gaze. The doctor picked up a chair and tilted it under the locked door knob just in case.

“Does the term artificial person mean anything to you?” Hal remained speechless. The doctor waved his hand in front of Hal’s face. “Earth to Mr. Bender.”

The accountant finally broke out of his trance. “Um, uh, well, last night after much deliberating and calculating, I came to the conclusion that I might be . . .”

“Might be what?” Doctor Bunda hinged on his every word.

“I have never ever made a doctor’s appointment in my life until I went to see you. And I always seem to stay the same too. Even my hair never changes.”

“Whoa boy,” stammered the doctor. “Anything else?”

“I only recall when I started working at the accounting firm. Do I have some sort of amnesia?”

Doctor Bunda asked Mr. Bender to sit down. He reached for an otoscope from his jacket pocket and examined Hal’s eyes, ears, nose and throat. All seemed normal, just maybe a bit too perfect. “Hold on, hold on.” The doctor took a deeper look into Hal’s right ear. “What the heck?”

“What is it?” asked Hal, already nervous.

“I see some sort of illumination.”

Suddenly Hal stood up from the chair feeling like he had water in his ear. He tilted his head and started tapping his right ear with his hand.

Doctor Bunda’s eyes almost shot out of their sockets. “What the hell?” A little green diode abruptly spilled out of Hal’s ear and landed on the hard wood floor. Hal felt feint.

The doctor scurried around on his hands and knees looking for the BB-sized object. “There you are. Mr. Bender, please get me a pair of tweezers and a plate, preferably white.”

Hal followed the doctor’s instructions and returned. Doctor Bunda carefully picked it up and placed the diode on the plate. The two sat down at the table and simply stared at the glowing light. “What is it?” asked Hal.

“How the hell would I know Mr. Bender; it just came out of your freaking ear!” Suddenly, the light started slowly pulsating.

Hal’s face twitched a bit. “What’s it doing now?” Doctor Bunda made a gruff sound, stymied.

The light started blinking faster. Hal felt queasy. “Are you okay? Mr. Bender?”

The light blinked fast and faster. Hal’s face contorted more. “That is not deductible. That is not deductible. Do not say freaking. Fat, fat, fat, fat. fat.”

The green diode started emitting a high-frequency tone. It got louder and louder. A distress call? The doctor placed his hands over his ears, but the piercing sound kept getting louder, now attaining rock concert proportions.

Suddenly, it abruptly stopped. Mr. Bender turned towards the doctor and stood silent. Then Hal’s eyes popped out of his head, bouncing on the floor like ping pong balls.

Dr. Bunda’s jaw dropped. “What the hell?”

“Bunda! Bunda! Bunda!” blabbed Hal.

Boom! Hal’s head exploded. It rained multicolored diodes and frayed wires all over the living room. Black liquid squirted from throbbing clear tubes like hoses, dousing the doctor. And fragments of unrecognizable mechanisms trickled out from the base of Hal’s convulsing neck. A slurred voice came from a quarter-sized speaker.

“By the way Doctor Bunda, who does your taxes?” Hal’s speech slowed and slurred before dying out. His headless body spontaneously began flipping and flopping around and around, kicking over chairs until it finally sputtered out and collapsed.

There was a knock at the door. Doctor Bunda heard voices. He ran for the hallway closet and hid.

Click, click, click. Someone jiggled the lock and pushed the door open, sliding the chair harmlessly away on the tile floor. Doctor Bunda peered out through the slats of the closet door. Two men, both dressed in dark charcoal gray suits surveyed the mess. The one wearing mirrored sunglasses sent out a text. Five minutes later, two men garbed in sleek white outfits entered the apartment. They rolled out a black body bag, lifted the mechanical man into place then zipped it up. A little sweeping, wiping, and vacuuming followed and they were gone in ninety seconds.

The other suited man heard a creaking sound. He quickly retrieved his gun and attached a silencer, turned around and fired. A second later, Doctor Bunda’s lifeless frame struck the door, thrusting it open. The dead egg-shaped body landed with a thud.

The other man wearing sunglasses answered his cell phone. “All set. No witnesses.”

“And the receptionist?” asked a voice from the other end of the call.

“Done,” said the man. A man clad in navy blue attire showed up with a large refrigerator-sized box on a dolly. “Pack up fat boy here and make sure he’s never found.” The mover nodded.

“Not bad HR-1,” said the man with the gun. “You lasted eight years, four months, nineteen days, six hours, and approximately twenty-four minutes. I believe that’s a record for this model.”

“What about the other robots?” asked the man wearing sunglasses. “What if they all start malfunctioning?”

The man shrugged.“So what?” the other man replied.

“We could be talking a total recall.”

“Funny one, Arnold. Now let’s get some lunch.”

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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