Sneeze KingJoe Aguilar
I was at the library pretending to read a book by Ambrose Bierce when I sneezed a sneeze that threw my head back. I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. A man with sunglasses and a stylish haircut smirked at me. “I think you have what it takes to beat Jerry,” the man said. “You do?” I said. Jerry was the Sneeze King. I doubted the stylish man, but his flattery was nice, and I hadn’t been touched in years. So the stylish man trained me. I learned how to inhale through the corners of my eyes to build my capacity for air. I forced myself to lose my taste for cheese. I mastered transcendental meditation. And when I went to Meigs County, Ohio, for the sneezing world championship, I took home the gold handkerchief. I was the Sneeze King. But three months later, Jerry jumped in front of a subway train. His children blamed me. I couldn’t sleep. “I can’t do it anymore,” I told the stylish man over the phone. “Can’t or won’t?” he said but I’d already hung up. Now I ignore the itch in my nose at the library. It is my disgrace, and my crown.