Flat-Footed

Black and white

“Ee-ew! What’s wrong with your toes?” The sneery-faced girl scrunched up her nose into, well, into a sneer. Her voice was just the right timbre to draw the envy of large, braying barn animals -had there been any around.

Instead, she and I were part of a different sort of farm, one at which children gathered for instruction in reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. The sunny rays of late spring shone between us; upon her freckling nose and unkempt hair, and likewise upon my sandal-shod feet with their exposed toes.

I wiggled my posterior phalanges innocently. The movement drew an encore exclamation from my tormentor. “Ew! They’re so weird! Stop it!” Feigning repulsion, she ran away.

I considered following. Had I been of a different personality, the thought of continually chasing her might have occurred to me. Being myself, instead, I looked down at my flat, splayed toes in shame. I tried placing one foot over the other, but could see how that would hamper movement.

The toes returned my scrutiny innocently; though, to my new perspective, they had somehow morphed to resemble dead slugs or ugly bits of log. I had always known my toes were a little different, of course. They didn’t look precisely like my mother’s, or my father’s; though they did resemble my sister’s and brother’s somewhat.

Given that small scientific sampling, I’d concluded that everyone must have some toe issues. Mine weren’t all that odd.

The bell rang, signifying the end of recreational outside time for schoolchildren. I returned inside, a small germ of doubt forming inside my innocent mind. Little was I to know how important my foot fringes would prove later in life; how much of that life they would come to affect.

Of course, they had a few problems in childhood beyond immature condemnation. Those poor, flat slugs jostled against each other too freely inside my shoes. The second and third toe’s unusual length, coupled with the movement, caused them many an ingrown nail pain.

My grandfather, from whom I inherited the flatness, was a podiatrist. He’d look over my feet with the air of a great scientist. Invariably, he’d comment, “Should’ve taken out that first knuckle when you were a baby.”

In response, I’d study my elongated digits. Were they so out of place? Were they so wrong, that they needed tampering with? Editing? Removal?

It wasn’t until my teenage years that my feet became more obvious, and brought again to vocal scrutiny. Most of that was due to an unreasonable social silence I received from peers for most of my childhood. It was like they could sense my feet were different. Perhaps I kicked a soccer ball differently at recess. Maybe the pigeon-toedness of my walk was more pronounced than I’d imagined.

That was when I would recall another way the affronting basal extremities had interfered in younger years. Fearing the extreme way I thrashed my legs inwardly at some moments, my parents had agreed to purchase and shoe me with special footwear. My toes were hidden beneath covered fronts, fronts so obscuring that one could not easily tell the right from the left. Thus split and kept from each other, my gait was altered to tilt more outward, more normal.

As I was saying, however, I could not hide the abnormalities from fellow teenagers. They walked brashly round the high school campus; showing me that, yes, my anatomy was not like most other’s. Most female feet were attractive and small; with cute, curling toes of descending length.

Again, I viewed my primate-like offerings. “Love yourself,” my mother admonished. But, what was to love about my obviously abnormal feet?

Feet like mine

I tried. “I can write with my feet,” I told some friends. I even practiced. The parlor trick was somewhat amusing, but ultimately served to repulse most listeners. No one wants to hear about feet touching pencils and paper, if one wants to hear about feet at all.

I began hiding my shoe size, disguising my walk, and curling my toes when viewable. I pretended to be like those with smiling, happy leg-ends. I mimicked the way they moved. Hopefully, my defects would somehow conform and truly be like everyone else one day.

Eventually I got married, to a man with smaller feet. “They’re so fuzzy,” I commented.

“All men have hairy feet,” he responded. He was normal.

I knew all women did not have my anatomy. Silence was golden. Though I’m sure he could see the size; odd, webbed second and third toes; and bath mat-like nature of mine, he never admitted repulsion. He never admitted love, of course; no closet foot fetishes. Instead, I felt he ignored their presence and focused on what had a better appearance.

Perhaps he, too, hoped they would simply change to different parts if avoided.

Maybe because of their insistence on extending farther than they naturally ought to, this was a defect that could not be overlooked. It was one that began to affect my life, including our married life.

“So you feel your feet are causing problems?” Our counselor queried, concerned. “Do you find yourself picking objects from the floor with your simian second-toe spacing? Are your children trodding on them; not giving you the space you need? Have you ever felt like harming your toes?”

I remembered my grandfather’s wishes to shorten the offending toes. I had to admit, “Yes.”

The good news is that I was referred to a hormonal replacement podiatrist. It’s ongoing news, really, since I’ve come to realize I will always have different feet than more foot-functional humans. But, the initial treatments have helped.

“Oh, I just love your nails, Heidi,” a woman comments to another. We’re at an ongoing outdoor recreational time; a social gathering of neighborhood women. The person she is complimenting happily displays the toenails that drew attention. They sit in even rectangles atop curling, descending toes at the ends of perfect, petite feet controlled by slim, even-stepping legs.

perfect feet

I glance at mine. My toenails still retain most of the strengthening polish I have to douse them with, else they break and peel. They grace my flat, elongated, obscurely-shaped foot profile. The feet are large for a woman, and point inwards the way my knees do.

I shrug.

I can’t fight genetics blessing me with thin nails. I’d rather have oddly-long toes than agree to surgically alter them. Perhaps my shoe size helps my balance -especially when I forget to focus and trip over my pigeon-toed gait.

And, should the world ever be captured by alien invasion and our arms pinioned uselessly to our sides, my apelike toes will come in handy for untying the bonds of my fellow prisoners.

If nothing else, they’ll be able to write a plea for help.

Wilhelmina Winters: Thirty-Six

The minivan arrived home to its oil-stained parking stall, despite the daily effort its owner made to prevent that. Various teenagers piled out gratefully. Wil stood for a minute after exiting, distractedly watching her neighbor’s backside following the rest of Mrs. Crandall’s ample body.

Reagan waved a bit at Wil, then headed to the street corner after Jorge. They lived in a townhouse cluster a block away. The movement thankfully broke Wil’s concentration, and she turned and rushed to her own building.

“Mom?!” She asked anxiously, the instant she pushed into their apartment after unlocking it. She shut the door, locked it, dropped her backpack, and headed to the couch.

“Hi, Wil,” her mother said sleepily. She looked up at Wil. Her mouth spoke the simple greeting; but Cynthia’s blue eyes spoke of love, happiness, long-suffering, and exhaustion. Wil remembered that her mother was often tired after not sleeping at the hospital.

Cynthia stretched carefully, yawning. The IV tube was drawn across the couch and back as it trailed behind her stretching arm. “I’m sorry, Wil.” Her eyes now added apologetic to their lexicon. “I kept my appointment for CPT today. It may have been a bit too much.”

“It’s okay, Mom.” Wil sat down by the couch on her knees and looked happily into her mother’s drained face. “I just wanted to see you, but I can let you rest.”

Cynthia yawned again, and coughed a bit. “No, Sweetheart. I’ve been waiting all day to hear you tell me about your day.” She smiled.

Wil waited an entire moment before eagerly bursting. “Yesterday, I got a secret note!”

Her mother’s eyebrows rose and she gasped in excitement. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, this brought on a coughing fit. Wil bit her lip and watched her mother with concern till it subsided.

“How neat,” Cynthia said faintly. She cleared her throat gently and said, more strongly, “What kind of note? From who?”

Trying not to startle her mother again, Wil told her about finding and solving each note. She excitedly described being a spy and a fighter pilot, but left off the part about falling asleep in class.

“And then, there was no one at the library. But, I was looking around, and a boy walked up and gave me this last note. He said his name was Derek.” She pulled the crumpled paper from her pocket and held it within her mother’s gaze.

Although Wil’s exuberance made her a hard-to-follow story-teller, Cynthia was a very appreciative audience. She loved Wil completely, and encouraged imaginative details.

“Do you want to show me the final message, or figure it out on your own?” She asked.

“Oh.” Wil said. She thought about it, then smiled. “I think it’s okay for you to help me,” she acquiesced.

She spread it on her legs to get the wrinkles out. Then, she brought over the nearby TV stand and laid the page out so they could both look at it.

Cynthia leaned over the note, her face next to Wil’s, mirroring her anxious curiosity.

 

Continued from Thirty-Five.
Keep reading to Thirty-Seven.

Moonlit Magic

Astrael held his breath tightly, lightly. From opposite the clearing, his fine-tuned ears made out the slight shhhh of ground foliage against itself.

He heard it over the soft babbling of the small stream. He sensed it amongst nighttime warblings of crickets and insomniac fairy chatter.

Full moon skylight pulled free of the clouds, sending winking water reflections from the circled group of trees. He pulled farther behind the ferns and now-sparkling trunk which concealed him.

Just then, she came. Majestically, silently, carefully into the open space stepped the unicorn.

Just as silently and carefully, Astrael raised his bow.

Unicorn
Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.

Disappointments and, Well, Life

dwarf

Life sucks.

It usually does, of course, but I’m focused on specific vacuum-like attributes this morning.

Two nights ago, I was finally enlightened as to the funeral program for my recently-deceased grandmother. I’ve been saddened about her passing, to say the least, and now feel somewhat like I’ve been punched by a random, vindictive leprechaun as I walked innocently down the street.

A certain relation of mine took over the funeral plans. I realize I’m a grandchild. Though, really, that’s only in name. A few legal and medical sources confirm I am hardly classified as a child anymore.

After typing up a rather satisfying, flaming, angry writing vomit session; I still feel upset. At least I didn’t actually publish it though, so we’re making progress.

To top the icing on the cake of the day that had already been filled with “normal” Mom Life stresses, I learned that my writing entry to a contest had not made it past the first cut.

Now, I’m never over-confident about my skills. I’m very good at self-deprecation and an extreme sort of humility and poor self-esteem and whatnot. What really got my yoga exercise pants in a twist was reading through the snippets that did make the final cut. I don’t mind losing (much), if the winners are worth losing to.

I like to think I’m collecting data on what might make my story accepted the next time I enter when I bitterly read through the competition. However, in this case I’m left scratching my head. In fact, this is the third time I’ve submitted to this blogger, so it’s more like I’m smacking my head with the keyboard.

What can I do differently? Suck more?

This is the part where we remind the audience that I’ve been trying to be a good little girl and eat healthy and exercise. So, I haven’t had fall-back options like binge-eating Valentine’s chocolate and staying up all night staring blankly at a computer screen as I type angry words about a certain in-law and a certain contest.

Chocolate was 70% off at Walgreen’s. It’s not like I overspent, at least.

Skinwalkers, VI

In truth, the smile was still not the sort Nathan was accustomed to seeing in his mirror at home. Another man’s high cheekbones lifted slightly, a stranger’s ears shifted, and someone’s symmetrical features were the ones expressing pleasure.

It was his eyes, he realized. Despite the effects of his eye drops, a sort of relaxed, inner light shone through. He’d assumed there was nothing left inside, nothing he would describe with words like light, anyway.

He looked down, unnecessarily adjusting his antique wristwatch.

Merely jiffs after closing, the lift sang its pleasant tone again. Nathan watched his reflection shimmer and pull to one side, to be replaced by the reception area of whatever level he’d been ferried to. This one also held plants, swaying and contributing to the delectable taste of unpolluted air.

The artistically arranged plants stood a balanced sentry against a paneled, daylight-glowing wall. Exiting and turning to look around, Nathan noted a vacant podium of sorts to his right. It stood near two large, closed doors. Accordingly, he approached. He withdrew his comm and ran it along the top and sides, but nothing activated.

He frowned, and walked to its backside. Still nothing. He looked, instead, to the wall-sized entryway. How would he get in?

Nathan paused for a few seconds, indecisively. Then, he recalled his morning-long mantra of confidence. He walked forward, and pushed at the doors. They moved inward, without any resistance. If he’d been in his own, lightweight skin, he would have fallen forward onto his ugly, imperfect face.

He would have landed right at the feet of a small audience, as well.

Three well-dressed, well-shod, and handsome business executives stood waiting. They seemed completely unsurprised to see him, a sentiment Nathan did not share. Suspecting surveillance equipment of some sort, he chanced a careful half-turn to look behind. The doors he had moved so easily were nearly transparent.

He looked back to the waiting party; attempted a level expression. The woman stepped forward slightly. “N. Reed.” Her cool voice said. It was a statement. “Welcome.” Nathan returned her greeting with a barely-perceptible nod. She smiled an executive smile, the sort that lifts one’s mouth but never reaches above that point.

One of the men straightened and clasped his hands together. “Well,” he began in a deep tone, “Shall we?” In eerie accord, he and the other two turned and began walking down the hall and away from Nathan.

This was it. will do this, Nathan reminded himself. Squaring his shoulders and suit, he followed the crushed carpet footprints of his potential employers.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, V.
Read Skinwalkers, VII.

“The first four months of writing the book, my mental image is scratching with my hands through granite. My other image is pushing a train up the mountain, and it’s icy, and I’m in bare feet.”

-Mary Higgins Clark

Wilhelmina Winters: Thirty-Five

Wil walked slowly, her soft brown hair framing a small, pensive face. Her dark eyes, so full of the depth of life, scanned the crowd. Her slim yet graceful body moved ever forward as her peers stared in awe.

Boys watched and wanted from the corners of their eyes, as girls shot looks of envy. That purple cloak was stunning. Those boots were the height of fashion. The scarf was an expensive weave of black on black. The young woman who wore them was so naturally beautiful.

Although she tried to ignore them, Wil was conscious of the attention. Anyone would have to be. She pretended she wasn’t, however. She needed to reach her ride, and couldn’t afford distractions.

“I purchased these flowers for you,” spoke a timid young man with black, wavy hair. He offered them in a shaking hand. Wil brushed them aside, dusting petals to the floor.

A confident boy with blond hair and smoldering eyes tried to block her path. “Let’s catch a movie tonight, Wil.” He was sure to be accepted, but she dodged around his Letterman-jacketed arm.

“You’re coming to my birthday, right?” The Class President begged Wil. She approached with an anxious, artificially white smile; and left with a spoiled frown.

They sought her like hypnotized moths to a tempting flame. But, Wil’s heart-shaped face turned only one way. Her deep glance rested on only one person. Her body was drawn to only one other body.

He would be waiting, she knew, with more than flowers. He would take her somewhere better than a theater. He didn’t have birthday parties filled with fake people.

Wil whispered his name. “Derek.”

She reached the doors to outside, and pushed through them. A disappointed trail of admirers was behind her and the afternoon was before her. The shy sun illuminated her path to the idling minivan at the curb.

Even her neighbors stared as she approached, every other distraction forgotten in Wil’s presence. They shifted to give her the best seat as Wil ducked and entered the vehicle.

“How are you today, Wil?” Mrs. Crandall attempted. Wil didn’t respond, but no one expected she would.

Mrs. Crandall faced forward, appeared to watch surrounding traffic, and pulled into the familiar queue of cars heading home.

Reagan, pulling an earbud from her right ear, turned to Wil and whispered, “So, you’re part of our group now, right?”

Wil didn’t hear at first, as she slid in her seat at the sudden movement of Mrs. Crandall braking and honking.

She realized Reagan had spoken to her, and brilliantly responded, “Huh?”

“Our group,” Reagan persisted. “You got the notes. Derek said you’d find out about it after school today.” She looked at Wil’s face and raised her eyebrows expectantly.

“Oh,” Wil replied. “Um. Yeah.”

“So,” Reagan said, “Welcome.” She sat back, pushing her ear bud back in place and looking at her phone again. She had been reading it since first climbing in the van.

Wil blinked in the reality of the small cabin around her, and realized she ought to actually read what Derek had given her.

 

Continued from Thirty-Four.
Keep reading to Thirty-Six.