Monday, July 28, 2008

The Ballad of Phil's Foot

Phil yelped and nearly fell out of his towel. Sharp pain suddenly devouring his right foot. FuckMeRunning, he squealed. But he was not running. He had fallen flat on his face.

Phil winced through watery eyes at the throbbing appendage. And there it was. The culprit. A small shard of glass—the residual of yesteryear’s broken light bulb or shattered beer bottle—lodged deep in his shower-softened skin.

The sore red area pinched between both of his thumbs, Phil tried to extract the glass like puss from a pimple. However, this accomplished little more than hurting like a motherfucker and Phil was soon crawling toward the bathroom on hands and knees. A pair of tweezers the subject of his pursuit.

Tweezers, they didn’t do the job. The glass too far embedded to grip. Next idea: a sewing needle. Phil would dig at the offending shard the same way his mother had often removed his most savage of splinters.

But Phil knew searching for a sewing needle in his house was a fool’s errand. His few dress shirts pocked with holes where buttons should be, his ratty old shorts cinched together at the top with safety pins. Phil had never found much use for sewing needles and finding one would indeed be like looking for a needle in a haystack. No worse. Looking for a needle in a haystack in which there wasn’t a needle.

* * *

Now Phil was onto plan C. Or plan D. Or whichever plan he was onto now. Now Phil had to improvise. Around his pad, he scoured for something close to the thin sharp metal of a sewing needle.

First, the thought of a knife occurred but was dismissed with haste. Likely too much tool for the job. Likely to make a mess. Likely it wouldn’t solve the glass splinter problem. Just add a knife-in-the-foot problem to the mix.

His eyes flitted over a small replica Empire State Building sitting on his bookshelf. The pointy pinnacle atop presented a tempting option. But this too Phil had to drop. The kitschy souvenir, a present from his grandfather given not two months before the old man’s passing. And just in case there was a heaven. And just in case Poppy was there. And just in case Poppy was looking down on him right at this moment. Phil didn’t want the guy to see his grandson penetrating a swollen extremity with his thoughtful gift. Of course, just in case.

Then he had it. A killer idea. So killer. Phil limped to the living room and extracted one staple from his desktop stapler, straightened it as best he could. Then, ever so cautiously, he dug into the tiny puncture wound surrounded by sore inflamed skin.

Ow, he said. But pressed on. OwOwOw, he said. But continued to jimmy the makeshift needle inside himself. OweyOweyOwey, he said. And it was obvious little would be accomplished. Intense stabs of agony? Sure. The sickening sound of metal on glass? Absolutely. But anything in the way of improvement? No, not at all.

* * *

So here was Phil feeling hopeless. Deciding he might just price check some wheelchairs on eBay. Or maybe a cane would be enough. But until he got his hands on any of the essential hardware, he’d have to make due. And as he scooted off to the kitchen on his desk chair—using only his left foot for propulsion—Phil wondered if at least he could get a handicapped plaque for his truck.

The foot, throbbing something awful. Throbbing so fiercely Phil could hear it. Throbbing so perfectly he wanted to dance to the beat. If he could. Which he couldn’t.

Louder and louder and louder it throbbed. Clouding out his better judgment and casting a dark shadow over any logical plan. And in this haze of pain and noise a bounty of new options arose. None of which made a damn lick of sense.

First, Phil considered wearing three maybe four socks for the rest of his days. To cushion the…no, no, he could do better than that. How about spreading some peanut butter thick around the wound and letting his dog lick away until…no, no, heaven forbid the sliver lodge itself in Bogie’s tongue. Could Phil ever forgive himself?

ThudThud, ThudThud, much too much to bear. ThudThud, ThudThud, enough. Phil took off in an awkward gait toward the garage. Drastic times and all that bullshit. He had little choice now. Waddling to the workbench, to the hack saw, to his last best hope. And then, just as the implement of relief was within reach, Phil stepped on his right foot the wrong way. And he totally ate shit.

On the cold, oil stained concrete of the garage floor lay Phil and an assortment of tools and supplies he had managed to clear off the workbench with his fall. A ratchet set, an Allen key, three small screws and a bottle of…

* * *

Later that evening Phil vigorously vacuumed and swept every room in his house. And to be safe, wore shoes throughout the process. Sure his foot still hurt. But it was the sort of dull pain that so often accompanies triumph. Like the aching lungs of a runner fresh off a marathon. Like the sore loins of a new mother.

The solution to his predicament had at the same time been far more elementary and far more bizarre than anything he had thought to try previous. And had it not so fortuitously landed—dare I say at his feet—then Phil might well have hobbled himself beyond repair.

So what happened. Phil, hopeless and helpless on the garage floor, found himself nose to nose with a bottle of Elmer’s Glue. And figuring all other possibilities exhausted. And remembering grade school days of peeling thin layers of Elmer’s off his hand like a snake’s shed skin. Phil figured, it was nontoxic. Phil figured, give it a try. Then the hacksaw.

And what would you know. A nice squirt of glue upon his foot. Rubbed slowly and thoroughly into the slit until it had dried into a nice film. Then with the steady hands of a champion Jenga player, Phil peeled away the thin coating. And with a marvelous pop, gone forever was the wretched splinter.

Back to that evening. Phil finished with the post-op house cleaning. In his bedroom, before him an open cigar box filled with baseball cards from childhood, friendship bracelets from summer camp, the Durex wrapper from his first time. And into this menagerie of memories he placed a small gluey wad. A little piece of himself.

1 comment:

"Hanging on a Hyphen" said...

I just hope the number 0 on the comment does not mean no one read this story except me. It's a pity. This is an epic struggle that needs to be known by all. I will link this up.