“The Omitted Man” / Memorable Fancies #008

A man has been formally shunned, by order of the authorities. That was many years ago, and he is now old.

His name was erased from the public monuments. There is a rough-gouged gap in the list of donors carved into our hospital’s waiting-room wall.

His wives have other husbands now; his children, other names.

No one remembers the cause for which he was shunned. The omitted man himself is vague about it, no longer knows if he committed the acts he was accused of. He has thought about them so intensely, for so many years, that he might as well be guilty.

It is possible that these acts, whatever they were, have long ago ceased to be crimes. Perhaps those who perform them now are given medals and ribbons, long scrolls of thanks from a grateful republic.

He is a familiar figure in our village, shambling about. We may not approach him in the marketplace, but we may silently serve him. We would like to speak with him, but it is forbidden. If he were to ask a question of us, we would shrug and turn away.

His last question was long ago. It still hangs in the air.



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