Title: The Last Stitch Goes Through the Nose
Author: Moses Norton
Date Added: May 28, 2019
Date Started: June 13, 2019
Date Finished: July 5, 2019
Reading Duration: 22 Days
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA), Novella
Who is the Scissor-man? Nobody cares, nobody sees, except for one little boy. This debut literary fantasy novella takes a hard look at society and its outcasts through the eyes of innocent youth. In a world where death is ignored, Orasi becomes fascinated with the Scissor-man, the homeless mortician. After he finds a black thread in the snow, Orasi begins to unravel the legends surrounding this horrifying figure, and his journey of discovery brings him closer than ever to the father he barely knew. But the world is a place that has already decided its rules. His is just one beating heart among millions who are already dead, and Orasi may not like what he finds in the end…The Last Stitch Goes Through The Nose tests its characters to see if they are still breathing, and it might reach out to see if you are, too. The Last Stitch is perfect for the Young Adult reader who isn’t too grown up yet, or the adult reader who suspects they can still see through the eyes of a child.
Note: I’ll be breaking this up into Review and Analysis where the Review section will contain no spoilers, but the Analysis will.
Only this kind of a memory remained: a makeshift history such as pleased those who had yet to suffer their own encounter with the end. The dead man was glorified, made new in memory.
This is not a happy story. It’s a story that makes an important point that should lead to better outcomes, but it won’t. It gives us a child protagonist we hope will bolster change in the tradition that children defy adults as well as adult expectations and prejudices.
The Scissor-man is a pitiful and pitiable figure in the town of Reicbough, useful only to be used as a disposer of their dead. He exists on the seams of society, shunned by the adults, stoned by the children, garnering sympathy only from Orasi, the MC, and the Bishop he befriends. In search for information about his absent father, Orasi discovers the clergyman knew both him and the entity known as the Scissor-man. They were all brothers in arms during the war and present three different outcomes. The Bishop found peace in providence; the Scissor-man succumbed to society’s failures and PTSD, which also manifested with Orasi’s father who fled to the city and away from his paternal responsibilities. While this may not have wholly made Orasi’s mother what she was, it certainly contributed to it.
Orasi stands out as an example of compassion, which is bolstered by his friendship with the Bishop. While he is as afraid of the Scissor-man as everyone else, he doesn’t resort to cruelty or violence in that expression. The boy even actively disrupts a theatrical representation of it, which earns him punishment in turn. In the Bishop, Orasi finds a friend, mentor, and confidante whose care for his disabled wife seems as though it will be the overarching theme of the tale.
‘Taking care of my wife? Not when I remember that she’s been faithful to me for many, many years, cared for me in my darkest times. How could I not return a small drop of that ocean in our winter years?’
It is not a letdown to watch what should’ve been a noble paradigm trickle away, but rather a much sharper lesson. It would be too easy and almost trite to have it be so simple, and it says more for the narrative and asks more from us that it isn’t.
Warning: Spoilers beyond this point.
This…is not a happy story. It makes an important point that could and should lead to better outcomes, but a kinder world is not so easy to find because the dystopian one is too deeply ingrained. In the end, Orasi learning nothing from his encounter with the Scissor-man, or he forgot the importance of the lesson when he met his own father, years later and ignorant to his identity, in the same position as his once shipmate had been. The Scissor-man wasn’t even seen as a person, relegated to the fringes of society and only tolerated when he was useful to the people of Reicbough in collecting their dead, their castoffs, as useful to them as the Scissor-Man was. In having a pariah take away those soon to rot, it plainly reveals how the good citizens of Reicbough think. The Scissor-man is only tolerated when he performs a useful service, and then he is murdered like Frankenstein’s monster with no trial or consideration.
Only when the rage of the mob has been sated by blood (and far to late) are they able to listen to Orasi and realize their murder created a martyr.
They all looked at that old pair of scissors on the top of that grave in the center, and the village of Reicbough, for the first time, looked at the Scissor-man.
They finally “see” him, not in the flesh, which is buried, but as a man, a human being; however, he had to die, literally become not human (dead) in order for this miracle to occur and his humanity to be acknowledged. There’s a Christ motif to it insofar as Christ was a humble man killed by an angry mob as he tried to be serviceable. The scissors on the grave serve as a kind of cross that hopefully remonstrates people to honor and respect those we see as “lesser” while alive instead of murdering them.
What makes this even more tragic is the Scissor-Man’s death becomes meaningless. There’s initially this mien of “Well at least he died for a reason” (which of course, as a concept, has its own issues) insofar as the people of Reicbough are finally giving him the humanity he always deserved, but even this is devious. They’re paying homage to a dead man they threw rocks at in life in what could be seen as an over application of the adage “Never speak ill of the dead” (though it’s okay to abuse the living?). But are they treating the homeless and destitute any better?
The inscription on the Scissor-Man’s grave is even more insidious. “Who could ever love such a man?” It’s the Bishop’s words preserved for eternity, showing even a man capable of great compassion and caring can still dehumanize. While he cares for his disabled wife who would be as derelict (if not more so) than the Scissor-Man, his compassion for the latter is more that for a wounded animal than a fellow human being.
Everyone in this novella is complicit in their treatment of the Scissor-Man who has no other moniker, which I’m certain the author did for a reason. How we treat those we consider the “dregs” of society is portrayed in stark relief, nor does having compassion mean we’re treating them as though they are as human and deserving as we.
Prior to the epilogue, there’s hope Orasi will take this lesson with him into a better future, but it is not to be. The gut punch comes in the subtle but still visibly respectful way Orasi treats his abusive mother as opposed to his (unknown) homeless father. It’s a brilliant use of dramatic irony by the author in giving us (the readers) knowledge Orasi lacks, but as a child, Orasi had compassion for the Scissor-Man who was as nameless and pitiful as the figure he ignores in the end. Orasi learned nothing, which we see in how he heeds the words of an abusive figure by turning away, where when he was a boy he defied his mother in an attempt to find his father.
It is not enough merely honor one life after it’s been cruelly extinguished. In fact doing so makes a mockery of the concept itself (and a mocker of the life so lost). We have to learn that there are many types of compassion, and even our wise mentors may not understand that kindness devoid of respect for humanity is an ultimately empty lesson.