The Grammarian

Thirty minutes before the sun reached its zenith in its celestial arc, and thirty minutes before Brian Applegate rose from his bed to greet the day, a greeting which to most people would be indistinguishable from a low grunt or scratch, but was to Brian some degree of effort to perform, Brian brushed from his sheets some of last night’s crumbs. Some morsels he plucked up and placed slowly in his mouth (his head still resting upon his caseless pillow) moving them one-by-one methodically around with his tongue, feeling them, pressing down gently with his teeth, and trying to suck any savor from them that might identify the meal from which they crumbled nine hours before.

Goaded only by the most fundamental of Maslow’s Hierarchy, a deep growling stomach and a need to relieve himself, Brian lethargically lifted his body out of a tangle of blankets, and, nearly knocking over a pile of Weekly World News issues, trundled into the bathroom. As he was not a social man and did not expect any interaction today—indeed, his mediocre income was made online doing odd jobs for people or trading collectables through eBay—he didn’t so much as glance at the bathroom mirror. Brian’s character, however, was not such that the few who knew him suspected he ever used a mirror anyway.

Leaving the bathroom, Brian walked over to where his laptop sat on the couch and sat down. He pried open its screen, his eyes fixating on the loading menu. The noon-day light, filtered through dusty blinds, beamed down upon his monitor and illuminated a hundred different smudges. Brian lifted his thumb to the screen to wipe away one of the more offensive marks. This only left a larger smudge, and subsequent rubs with his stretched-out T-shirt collar only further smeared his oily prints. With a weak shout of frustration, he moved himself down off the couch and turned around on the ground. Now sitting cross-legged on the floor, facing the window directly, he no longer had that wicked glare on his screen, and he was ready to browse the Internet.

He almost instinctively went to Facebook. Although it was stated earlier that Brian did not enjoy much of a social life, that is not entirely true. He spent many, many hours in discussions and promulgations in crowds upwards of one hundred at times. What is to be understood is that these interactions remained within the confines of digital fora, Facebook being one of them.

And Brian had friends on Facebook, it is true. Very few of them he knew well. These he had roamed the streets with in high school, and, earlier still, had traded cards with in elementary. They considered Brian their friends as well, although they rarely ever met in person since graduating high school. The rest of Brian’s Facebook friends were largely unknown to either party: people he had added because he had remembered seeing them in some class or another, and they accepted his friend request, either out of a sense of pity for the smart kid that never ended up going to college; simply because they shared some small network and high school; or there were those that Brian thought he knew quite well but who themselves had not the faintest shadow of a recollection of who this man truly was, who in the physical world even lived like a shadow. This latter group were those to whom Facebook was more of a game; and a rising, public count of their connections was a proud mark of their popularity.

On Facebook, Brian carried with him an illusion of intellectualism as a personal burden. It was his duty to inform his followers of various political corruption and dietary no-nos. He did so boldly, daily, hourly.

But Brian’s most passionate activity was seeking out and policing the uneducated ingrates who abused his newsfeed with the most idiotic drivel. In the depths of the dank doldrums of his life, few events evoked much emotion from him; but these, the stupid remarks of his friends, were more than he could bear. Misplaced—if extant at all—apostrophes, swapped homonyms, dangling participles. It made his heart race. These thoughts ran through his mind while standing in front of the microwave, waiting for his Hungry Man: a dozen different scenarios in which he corrected someone’s grammar with, as he believed was seen in the eyes of the commoner, his inscrutable and unfathomable wit.

Brian chuckled. As he typed, the crumbs bounced in-between the keys, dancing erratically like they did when he sat down on his mattress. “What posessed you to,” he started, then, seeing the flash of a thin red line, quickly deleted what he had written and started over: “What possessed you to write your possessive with an apostrophe? It’s ‘its’!”

This went on for the rest of the afternoon. By the time he had debunked a former classmate’s political graphic by pointing out its misspelled “Guevera,” he had lost two friends. Neither had deleted their digital friendship, but both had configured all of Brian’s posts to be hidden. So Brian went on, arrogantly talking to no one.

His rants over the most insignificant of pixels and ink blots, the commas and periods, had stolen from him the most significant of friendships. Brian was cleaned away with a few clicks, more like a pestering bee than a renowned genius.