The foot

Posted on November 17, 2009


(I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. See also my weekly blog entries at Virtual Writers, Inc. This is an excerpt of an in vitro novel “Bloody Management” only. Unfettered, unedited, but not dispirited. From chapter 16, “Whores”.)

There was a river that was flowing along nicely, Nicholas thought, and as the party did not seem to miss him much, he snuck out to take a walk. The air was brisk verging on brutal and he could feel his lungs struggle. He felt more than a little uneasy and not at all like a fish in water. The river did not have any fish it looked like: its shore was full of garbage, a plastic pale, a tortured toothbrush, an orthopedic foot. Nicholas picked the foot up. It looked as if it was a hundred years old. He tried to imagine the person who had worn it: how this man lost his foot of flesh in an accident when a fishing boat sprang of its gliding rails and landed on him. Women screamed, dogs barked. When the large dark mass of the boat hit him, the man suddenly stopped caring. He did not cry, he didn’t even feel a massive amount of pain. Something cut him off from his foot the moment it was smashed into a hundred pieces, its ligaments torn, its nails squashed like a limpet. Instead, he felt lighter at once, as if he knew that his life would change, and any change could only be for the better. Yes, he’d be a cripple, unable to run through the fields, hurry along, but he’d done his fair share of running and hurrying. There was a deep tiredness in him, which had sat still for long like a shy animal with strong teeth, too long, had sat out the domestic quarrels and the change of jobs, the change of times and the receding of the fishing business and of his hairline, had waited, impatiently, through the rising of the inner tide almost to the point of drowning the man. He’s a brave one, said the people after the accident. Fathers told their sons to take him as a model: not one tear and no face when the ship came down on his foot. Only the wife of the man whose foot had left him, knew some of what was going on inside him. She left him alone with her worries and trusted, while she was putting extra pennies aside, that he’d continue to take care of them as he always had. The man did not want to shirk his earthly responsibilities. He did not want to die. He merely wanted to take it more slowly, sit around and watch some of the sun and the world go by rather than run along and ahead of it, get up before dawn and to bed after dusk. It was a way of living that he could, had to afford now, which was much more akin to the way of the women. He even began to think of things he had not thought of in a long time, and as his inner animal was slowly stretching to assume its full size, he began to dream in colours again, colours that he’d never even known existed.  The foot was buried, as it was custom in the village, in the spot that his family had used as a burial ground since centuries, in the place where he would like next to his wife when his time had come. A cloth tied around his stump, expertly carved like a tree trunk by the local doctor, who took pride and pleasure in taking off limbs artfully, he made  his way to the next town with a hospital. He enjoyed meeting an authority on the making of artificial feet and giving his input on questions of balance, weight and tinge of his new foot. When the foot was ready, he had to go to town again, and this time he brought his wife and his two grown-up children along pretending to be helpless (which was one of the new attitudes he indulged in) but really because he wished them to witness his being put together again. The Lord has given me a new life, he used to say, and he could be seen in the church more often now giving thanks to his changed fortune. When he died, a respected man, the undertaker decided that his foot should not be buried with him, because he was impressed by the elegance of this implement, and he put it on a shelf to be reminded of good craftsmanship and the lasting value of man’s works. But the undertaker’s son, who inherited his father’s black business, did not inherit the silent, strong reverie for the hoof and threw it in the garbage, which is how it landed, one day, in the river, only to be found by Nicholas, who threw it back in the water after having serenely extracted its secret.