(published in His Soul’s Still Dancing: A Nicolas Cage Inspired Anthology, (4/16/2023, ed. by Leigham Shardlow)
by Victor De Anda
Nicolas Cage squinted at the bouncing topless women who were chanting his name. He was shit-faced and couldn’t see too well, but that didn’t matter. This was his thirty-fifth birthday party and he was having a good time. The clowns, jugglers, and exotic dancers made sure of that, as did the guests he flew in from Los Angeles. He was an Oscar winner now. The future looked bright and 1999 was just the beginning.
“Nicolas! Nicolas!” the half-naked women shouted.
One of the strippers buried Cage’s face between her breasts, the smell of sweat and vanilla perfume filling his nostrils. Then he remembered what everyone was waiting for. In the center of this makeshift arena stood a table. On it was a pile of green-tinted cocaine so high, Scarface would be jealous.
Cage addressed his guests. “Welcome to New Mexico, everyone! Thank you for coming to my party here at the ranch!”
He named his 43-acre property Rancho Kandor, after a place in the Superman comics. It was a refuge from Hollywood, nestled below the Elk Mountains and just east of Santa Fe. Nothing but sagebrush and chaparral around them. And just a forty-five-minute drive into town.
Cage wiped the sweat from his brow and eyed up the lime-colored mountain of cocaine on the table. He had asked his dealer to dye it with his favorite color—green. It was just food coloring. Tapping his nose to prepare himself, he dove into it headfirst. The crowd cheered and applauded as he snorted as much of the stuff as he could.
He rose from the table, his face powdered with cocaine. He strutted around the dance floor, high-five-ing everyone closest to him. The adrenaline and drugs coursed through his body.
“Whooo! This is some good shiznet!!” he yelled above the din of the party.
He took another victory lap around the party, pumping his arms like he’d just won the Indy 500. He was bulletproof and could feel no pain. Then he collapsed onto the ground in a dead heap.
Cage opened his eyes and shielded them from the stabbing sunlight.
“Where am I?”
“It’s okay, Mr. Cage. You’re at the ranch,” said a female voice. It was Concha, his chef and housekeeper. “The guests all left this morning.”
Cage sat up in his bed, his head throbbing.
“Tomato juice, por favor,” he said. “With tabasco.”
Minutes later Concha brought him his drink.
“Thank you,” Cage said.
His cheeks, nose, and lips were sensitive to the touch like he’d been pummeled for fifteen rounds. This was a hangover to top them all. He grabbed the bottle of tequila on his nightstand and took a swig, then chased it with the tomato juice. He sneezed and felt a searing pain like his nose was about to explode.
“Auugggghhhh, this sucks!” he yelled to no one in particular. His servants used to come running when they heard his cries but soon learned to just leave him alone. They understood that sometimes his outside voice was just his inside voice escaping into the world.
He showered, dressed, and sat down for breakfast. Concha poured his coffee.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” he said. “Can I have poached eggs today?”
“Of course, Mr. Cage.”
“Please, just call me Nic.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Nic,” she said.
After eating, Cage decided he needed fresh air and some new reading material. That would take his mind off the pain. There was a tiny comic book shop in Santa Fe that carried his monthly issues of Superman, Batman, and X-Men. He grabbed a pair of sunglasses and put them on before heading out. They slid down his nose and almost fell off.
“Christ, whose shades are these? They’re not even mine!” he shouted to no one in particular.
He passed Concha on his way out.
“I’m going into town, back in an hour or so,” he said to her.
After picking up his comics, Cage took a walk around the other stores on the street. No one bothered him much in town, which was nice. Plenty of other celebrities lived in these parts. He even ran into Gene Hackman once.
The sunglasses kept sliding off his nose until he couldn’t take it anymore. He found an eyewear shop and bought a head strap to keep them on his face. He stepped back outside when a paparazzo jumped from behind a parked car and began shooting pictures of him. Cage put his hand on the camera lens and told the photographer to fuck off, but the guy followed him to his truck.
“I told you to leave me alone!” Cage said to him.
By the time Cage got back to the ranch, he was having problems breathing through his nose. He hated breathing through his mouth, it felt so neanderthal to him. He caught up with Concha.
“Listen, I need to see an ENT doctor. Can you set up an appointment for me?”
Concha nodded her head. “EMT?”
He gestured wildly with his hands. “E-N-T, darling. Ears, Nose, Throat. Por favor.”
“Of course Mr. Nic,” she said.
Cage had another shot of tequila and laid down on his California King-sized bed. His face was still achy and sore as hell. He tapped on his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
“Auugggggghhhhh!” he said to no one in particular. “What do I have, a nasal infection?” He wondered what type of food coloring his dealer used to dye the cocaine. He also thought about suing the guy for negligence. For now, he would nap and try to forget everything.
When Cage woke up, Concha was standing at the foot of the bed, staring at him.
“What time is it?” he asked her.
“4:30 in the afternoon,” she said. “You have an appointment right now with the ENT doctor in town.”
Cage looked on the floor for his shoes. “Right now?”
“Well, twenty minutes ago,” Concha said.
He slipped on his boots and got himself together. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“You looked so peaceful,” she said. “I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“Not cool, but okay, where’s this doctor’s office?”
Concha handed him a slip of paper. “Here’s the address.”
He grabbed the truck keys.
“I’ll be back in a while. I’d like steak tartare for dinner. Can you do that?’
She nodded her head. “Of course Mr. Nic. Good luck.”
The ENT doctor pressed a gloved finger as far as he could into Cage’s left nostril.
“Does this hurt?” he said.
“Please don’t do that,” Cage said.
“Any recent trauma to the nose?” the doctor said.
Cage shook his head. “Not that I remember. Like I said, it hurts and feels very tight, like someone’s pinching my nose closed.”
“Any drug use?” The doctor said.
Cage’s head bounced like a springy bobblehead. “Well, it was my birthday yesterday, I did partake in a little cocaine.”
“Ahh, we have it! This is a reaction to the narcotic. Your first time?’
“No, doc. I’ve done coke more times than I can count. What’s happening to me?”
The doctor scribbled on his clipboard.
“Instead of inflammation, the reverse is happening. The nasal passages and surrounding tissue appear to be contracting,” the doctor said.
“You mean my nose is getting smaller?” Cage said.
“Precisely. It’s shrinking.”
As Cage drove home he watched the New Mexico landscape go by. This was his home now. Living in L.A. never did anything for him. But he did need to work. In a month he would travel to Australia and start a new movie.
The doctor had prescribed some ointment for his nose and wanted him to return in a week. Back at the ranch, he told Concha to hold his phone calls and went to bed. All he wanted to do was sleep.
The next morning his face felt worse. Cage bolted out of his bed and looked in the mirror. His nose was the size of a grape. It was painful to the touch.
“Auuugggghhhh!” he screamed to no one in particular. His voice sounded higher.
Someone knocked on the door.
“Mr. Nic, everything ok?” It was Concha.
Cage looked away from the mirror. “No, it’s not okay. As a matter of fact, it’s very not okay.”
“You sound like my little nephew Alonzo,” said Concha through the door. “Want me to call the doctor again?”
“Please, just leave me alone. I need to think,” he said.
He paced the floor. There had to be another way to remedy the situation. He had a revelation.
Years before Cage bought the ranch, he had made a movie about a medicine man in the area. He met with a real Native American doctor who used unconventional methods to cure his patients. This could be the solution to his worsening problem. His career was over otherwise.
Cage stormed out of his room and wandered down the hall.
She came scrambling to him and put a hand to her mouth when she saw him.
“Ay Dios mio, Mr. Nic!”
“Yeah, I know, my face looks weird,” he said.
She squinted her eyes. “Does it hurt?”
“Only when I sneeze. I need your help.”
Concha straightened up.
“Of course, Mr. Nic. What can I do?”
“I need to find the local medicine man. I met him years ago, he lives around here. You know who I’m talking about?”
Her eyes went wide.
“Oh, Mr. Nic, he is a very dangerous man. I don’t think you want to see him—“
Cage gestured to his face.
“Look at my nose! I’ve got no other options! I am fucked!”
“Let me call my sister, she might be able to help,” Concha said.
Cage smiled a weak smile. “Thank you. Let me know what happens. In the meantime, can I have a pitcher of mojitos when you get a chance?”
Concha was already down the hallway. “Most definitely Mr. Nic!”
A few hours later Cage was on his fifth mojito when he heard footsteps scrambling down the hallway.
“Mr. Nic, Mr. Nic!” Concha said, searching the rooms for him.
“In the bedroom!” he said.
She knocked on the door and entered, holding a tabloid in her hand.
“Did you find the medicine man?” he asked.
“I was in the grocery store and saw this—“
She handed him a copy of the National Enquirer. His photo was on the front page with the headline: ‘NICOLAS CAGE: PLASTIC SURGERY MISHAP?” It was the photo from his trip to the comic store yesterday. That damn paparazzo was fast.
“Fuuuuuccckkk,” Cage said. “This is all I need. Any word from your sister?”
“She’s calling around. Don’t worry Mr. Nic, we’ll find him.”
“I hope so, otherwise I’m screwed. You hear me? Mas mojitos por favor!”
“Okay Mr. Nic, what would you like for dinner?”
“I’m not hungry darling.”
“I’ll put something together anyway,” she said.
Cage crawled into bed and curled up in a fetal position. He passed out a few minutes later.
He woke with a startle and found himself on the floor next to his bed. He checked the clock, it was 2:30 pm. He had slept right into the next day.
“Concha!” His voice sounded different.
“Yes, Mr. Nic.”
She marched into the bedroom and dropped the pitcher of mojitos when she saw his face.
“Madre de Dios!” she screamed. The glass shattered on the tile floor, spilling rum and mint everywhere.
Cage ran to the bathroom mirror. His nose was the size of a pea. He grabbed the bathroom scale off the floor and launched it at the mirror, which cracked and splintered from the blow.
“Auggghhhhhhhh!” Cage screamed. “Leave me alone!!!”
Concha ran out, closing the door behind her.
Cage stumbled back into the bedroom, tossing any furniture he could pick up. He kicked in the closet door with his foot. Swept all the items off the top of his dressers in a fury. After a few minutes of this, he flopped down on the bed, spent. The room was in shambles.
“Who’s going to hire me?” he said to no one in particular.
He had a thought and began yanking out bureau drawers, searching for something. After clearing out multiple compartments of socks and underwear, he found what he was looking for: a pair of Groucho glasses—bushy eyebrows with a cheap plastic nose. He put them on and looked at himself in the mirror. He started to giggle. The sound grew into a rollicking chuckle before evolving into a maniacal laugh.
For a second, Cage felt like a supervillain in a James Bond movie. He tore off the Groucho glasses and began to sob. His career was over when it was just starting. Plastic surgery might help, but it would only be for looks.
Cage already missed the smell of bacon and eggs being cooked in the morning. Or the crisp, fresh air on his walks around the ranch. Never again would he catch a whiff of perfume when a beautiful woman walked past.
He grabbed a bottle of tequila from the bedside table and took a swig. Tonight he would drink himself to death. There was nothing left to do. He could see the National Enquirer headline already: NICOLAS CAGE SUICIDE AFTER BOTCHED PLASTIC SURGERY. It made him laugh. He put the bottle to his mouth and drank nearly half the bottle before he choked.
A wave of nausea came over him. He was going to get sick so he covered his mouth with his hands. He’d suffocate on his vomit. Another Enquirer headline came to mind: CAGE DIES JUST LIKE HENDRIX. The feeling passed after a minute so he laid down on the floor next to his bed. His eyelids grew heavier and heavier until he fell asleep.
For the first time in days, he dreamed. His nose was normal-sized again and he was on TV accepting an award for his latest performance. As he gave his speech, his nose began to grow. It got bigger and bigger until it was the size of his head. His eyes and mouth disappeared until he was just a giant nose attached to a body. He tried screaming but couldn’t.
Cage woke up agitated and walked over to the bay window that looked out onto his ranch. It was beautiful, the sunrise a blend of oranges, yellows, and blues. This was his country and he would die here, he wasn’t afraid. He checked the mirror again. His nose was no longer visible to the naked eye.
There was a knock at the bedroom door.
“Mr. Nic, are you sleeping?” Concha said.
“Come in,” he said.
Concha escorted an older gentleman into the room. When she saw Cage’s face, her eyes went wide but she retained her composure.
“Mr. Nic, this is the medicine man, his name is Ojibwe.”
The old man was blind, his face wrinkled and weathered.
Cage took the elder’s hands in his.
“Can you help me, sir? Can you heal my affliction?” he said.
The old man raised a hand to Cage’s face and traced its outlines with his fingers. He paused at the spot where Cage’s nose should have been. He said nothing. Then he reached into his bag and pulled out an assortment of dry leaves and cloth spice bags. He fondled each item before handing them to Concha.
“Make a tea with these leaves and herbs. Have Mr. Cage drink all of it,” Ojibwe said.
Concha took the ingredients and went off to the kitchen.
Cage looked at the old man.
“Thank you, sir, you don’t know how much this means to me.”
“The herbs will help your condition but there are no guarantees,” Ojibwe said.
“Of course,” Cage said.
A few minutes later Concha was back with the tea.
Cage looked at her and drank the mixture. It tasted like overripened Brussel sprouts. He gulped it all and sat down.
“Is that it?” he said. “What happens next?”
“Now you must rest,” Ojibwe said. “No more alcohol.”
Cage felt sleepy, weak, and confused. He collapsed onto the bed.
When he popped his eyes open again, the sun was setting behind the mountains. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been out. He stood up and almost lost his balance. His point of view was lower to the ground than usual. The collar on his shirt was practically over his eyes, making it hard to see. Then he looked in the bathroom mirror and screamed. His head had shrunk to the size of an apple.