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Word Count: 2,207
Signs and Symbols Vladimir Nabokov I For the fourth time in as many years they were confronted with the problem of what birthday present to bring a young man who was incurably deranged in his mind He had no desires Man-made objects were to him either hives of evil vibrant with a malignant activity that he alone could perceive or gross comforts for which no use could be found in his abstract world After eliminating a number of articles that might offend him or frighten him anything in the gadget line for instance was taboo his parents chose a dainty and innocent trifle a basket with ten different fruit jellies in ten little jars At the time of his birth they had been married already for a long time a score of years had elapsed and now they were quite old Her drab gray hair was done anyhow She wore cheap black dresses Unlike other women of her age such as Mrs Sol their next-door neighbor whose face was all pink and mauve with paint and whose hat was a cluster of brookside flowers she presented a naked white countenance to the fault- finding light of spring days Her husband who in the old country had been a fairly successful businessman was now wholly dependent on his brother Isaac a real American of almost forty years standing They seldom saw him and had nicknamed him the Prince That Friday everything went wrong The underground train lost its life current between two stations and for a quarter of an hour one could hear nothing but the dutiful beating of ones heart and the rustling of newspapers The bus they had to take next kept them waiting for ages and when it did come it was crammed with garrulous high-school children It was raining hard as they walked up the brown path leading to the sanitarium There they waited again and instead of their
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