Special toes

The other day I was cleaning out my parents’ attic. It had not been cleaned out since God knew when. I knew my parents were not up to it. They were getting on in years and could no longer climb the stairs. So I took a weekend off.

I emptied box after box, making a list of items. My parents could choose what was to keep and what was to be gotten rid of.

It was late Sunday afternoon when I came across an old wooden chest filled with my stuff. A chest I had forgotten existed, packed with mementoes from my childhood and teen years. I unlatched the beast and opened it. It squeaked.

The chest was stuffed to the brim. There was all sorts of paraphernalia. A baseball cap and a trophy, my scout uniform and my high school yearbook and other treasures. Setting them on the floor next to me, I soon had a pile of yesterdays. I was almost through when I noticed a picture of a toe. How could I have forgotten that toe?

I took the picture and studied it. Sure ‘nough it was Joey’s eleven-year-old toe.

Joey’s family moved into the house next door. From the first, Joey and I took to each other. All that summer we did everything together. Bike riding. Baseball. Glueing together model airplanes. Watching monster flicks while baby-sitting his little sister.

One afternoon we rode our bikes over to the swimming hole on the Rustin’s farm. We went skinny-dipping. Finally we crawled out of the water and laid out on the grass, looking at the sky, proclaiming what each cloud was.

As we went to pull on our socks, I looked over at his bare feet and said, “Wow, you have six toes.” I couldn’t believe it. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

Joey quickly pulled on his socks to hide his extremities.

I grabbed his arm and stopped him.

“Don’t,” he yelled.

“B-b-b-but that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” I gazed in wonder at that foot. Then I realized he didn’t have an just one extra toe on. Both feet had six toes. “How come you have the extra toes and I don’t?”

“Usually kids laugh when they see my feet. You’re not laughing.”

“Laughing? Why would I laugh? I want extra toes like you. How can I get them?”

“Don’t know. I was born with them.”

When I got home that night, I asked my mother, “Joey has six toes on each foot. How come I don’t have six toes?”

My mom thought for a couple of minutes, then, “Joey’s special.”

“How come I’m not special?” I asked.

“But you are. Only in a different way.”

“I want to be special like Joey.”

When Dad got home, I confronted him.

He said, “Joey’s special in his own way. And you are special in your own way.”

I wasn’t satisfied. When I went to the pediatrician, I brought up the subject.

His answer, “You’re special the way you are. Joey needs a little bit extra to be special.”

“I want you to give me extra toes,” I demanded.

“I don’t have any to spare.”

I was not one to take no for an answer. I wanted to be special like Joey.

Joey and I spent the next month of Saturdays, scheming on how I could get those two toes I wanted. We thunk and we thunk as young boys often do. Finally we agreed that there was no other answer than digging up a kid’s grave and sawing off two of his toes.

Then we realized we didn’t have to do no digging. The following Friday night happened to be Halloween. We decided Halloween at midnight would be the perfect time to catch a ghost kid. We’d get one of the ghosts as they returned from their hauntings to the grave.

We arrived at the cemetery early. We were not going to miss our chance. The moon was out and it was showing its smiley face for all the world to see. We pulled out two brown paper bags of peanut butter sandwiches and a canteen of water and consumed the food. Then we watched.

Just about midnight the first ghost arrived and headed for its grave. It was a old woman. And she had big teeth. We decided this one was not the one for the toes. Slowly more and more ghosts passed us by. Now you’d think we should have been scared. But we weren’t. We’d seen enough haunted house movies to know just what to do if we had to take one on. We had more bravery than we had sense.

Finally a eleven year old kid came by us. Before he could slide back into his grave, we jumped him. He slugged me first, then Joey. I jumped back on him and Joey grabbed his skeleton arms.

“I got him,” Joey shouted. “Get the knife and cut off the toes.”

“No,” he screamed. “Please don’t. I have to keep my toes.”

Out of curiosity, I asked,”Why?”

“If I don’t return with my whole body, I can’t get back in. And you don’t know what it’s like when they don’t let you in.”

“But I need just two toes,” I said.

Just as I was about to slice the beasts off, he bit Joey. Joey let go of the kid and he was gone.

I began to cry. Joey joined me with my crying.

“What are you two doing here this late?” came a voice behind a flashlight. “Answer me.”

We told him about the toes I needed.

“Oh, I can fix that.”

The man grabbed Joey’s foot and took out a giant knife.

I jumped him and knocked the knife out of his hand. As he went for the knife, he released Joey’s foot from his hold.

Joey and I up and ran as fast as we could away from that cemetery. When we made it home, I said to Joey, “You keep your special toes. I think I’m special enough.”

micropoem for the day: Saturday afternoons

It was another time and another place. Maybe even another planet. But Saturday afternoons were something else in those one upon a years. We played baseball. I couldn’t catch a ball even if it was made out of cotton. I made up for that by hitting. We played cowboys and Indians. We went skinny dipping. Water pistols at ten paces. We went on long leisurely bike rides. Sometimes there was even a movie but that was rare. The world was our oyster and we knew where all the pearls were hidden.

cartwheels cross the lawn
tag and hopscotch kids
Saturday afternoon

Mr. Smith Teaches a Superhero Class

Mr. Smith stood before seven students on the roof of a twenty-story building.

“For today’s lesson, we are going to fly. Not learn to fly. But fly. Jimmy, you had a question.”

Jimmy, the one with his hand raised, nodded yes. “We’re not birds. We can’t fly.”

“No, we’re not birds. We’re superheroes.”

Emily raised her hand and asked, “Will there be a net?”

“No, Emily, there won’t be a net.”

Jason, the kid with the glasses, didn’t raise his hand. He just asked, “Are you sure? I’ve never flown before. I tried jumping off my dad’s barn. If I hadn’t fallen on a load of hay, I would have broken something.”

“Jason,” there was frustration in the teacher’s voice. “You can’t break something. You’re a superhero.”

Margaret looked scared. “Are you sure, Mr. Smith?”

“Of course, I am sure. I’ve been teaching twenty years and I’ve never lost a student. Now, class, step up to the edge.”

The seven twelve-year-olds turned and stepped onto the ledge. They looked down. It was a long way to the concrete below.

“Now jump off. And don’t forget to land on your feet.” Mr. Smith stepped behind each of his students, confident that they were going to fly.

Well, you’ve heard the old saying that turkeys can’t fly. Mr. Smith’s class couldn’t fly. His students hit the concrete below. And they hit it hard. When he heard the splats below, Mr. Smith’s mouth dropped open. What happened?

Just then, Miss Pettigrew, his assistant, rushed into the classroom. “Mr. Smith, what happened?”

She took the clipboard from his hand and read it, then she looked up at his face. “Didn’t you read this? It says here that this class is the X-ray vision class.”

He took the clipboard and read. The script was blurry. He squinted. Yep, it said “Flying”. He was sure of it. He looked down at the pavement below and said, “Darn kids.” Then he ripped off the page and handed it to Miss Pettigrew. He looked at the next class roster. “Well, it’s not my fault that they didn’t fly. Now, on to the Able-to-jump-tall-buildings class.” He passed the clipboard back to Miss Pettigrew.

She read the class title to herself. “No, Sir, it’s the Shapeshifting class.”

He grabbed the clipboard from his assistant and read, then he looked up at her. “Miss Pettigrew, do not argue with me. It’s the Able-to-jump-tall-buildings class.” There was a lot of frustration in his voice. He was starting to turn blue. When he went dark blue, all hell broke loose.

To calm him down, she said, “Yes, Sir. You’re right.”

Her soothing words brought him back to a state of calm and his body went back to its normal tan. Then he said, “Miss Pettigrew, I think you need some glasses.”

As he left the room, Miss Pettigrew said under her breath, “We know who needs the glasses.”