sic et non

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti




I was pretty sure that I'd posted the story below on this blog before, but when I searched for it, it appeared that I hadn't.

Sorry if I'm repeating myself here.

This is one I wrote several years ago.

Poor Elaine Gruber. One might put her entire life story into a single paragraph. She designed climate control systems for aircraft, lived in a modest condominium, cooked her own meals, and swam to keep fit. At some time in early adulthood, she developed a singular disorder. When she spoke, at regular intervals she snorted. The snort was produced by an involuntary inhalation through both mouth and nose mid-sentence, often mid-word, sounding something like the word ‘hick’ being spoken with air flowing down into the lungs, rather than out from them, both throaty and nasal and, as one might imagine, rather discomfiting to the listener. It was an unfortunate personal habit but, as such things go, would not have been far enough out of the ordinary to be noteworthy were it not for the fact that Ms. Gruber was perfectly unaware of it. Not only was she unable to perceive that she was snorting, but whenever someone was both kindly disposed and forward enough to point it out to her, she could not understand them. Any such words would, to all outward appearance, pass her by unnoticed, and if she evinced a reaction at all, it was merely a slight defocusing of the gaze, from which she emerged after the briefest interval. It must have been a psychological ‘block,’ as one hears the experts put it, and just how it originated will of course never be known. She snorted, could not hear herself, and could not be told of it. Naturally, she was not a popular woman. New acquaintances gave her polite leeway at first, suspended judgment as long as they were able, and eventually kept distance from her; co-workers made the sort of semi-tacit jests not intended to elicit laughter; the general run of people frowned when she spoke, looked sideways, dealt with her promptly and then found other things to do. She had a few permanent friends, none of them impressive characters themselves, and for this she rather unfairly blamed them. Elaine Gruber was aware of her ill fit with the world but never ascertained its cause. She didn’t finish as a suicide, nothing so dramatic, but wended toward the end of her life unmarried and largely disengaged, making the most of a solitary existence. She was not a dull-witted woman: plenty intelligent enough to realize that things were not with her as they were with others, but never understanding why.