Toe-to-Toe

My feet started to itch and I blamed the wet weather. The flooding has been at least ankle-deep for the last few weeks, only easing in the last few days, so boots are essential just to step out of the house. I’m sure that any day now, I’ll need them inside the house as well. When the itch started I immediately thought of trench foot, but that’s probably because our Ted is learning about the first world war at school.

I went to my GP because my toes were red and sore. At least the surgery is on slightly higher ground, above the flood levels.

“I think what you have is most probably a fungal infection,” she said, writing a prescription.

“So, not trench foot.”

“No. Not at all. But come back if it gets worse.”

Every time I see my GP she says that – come back if it gets worse. I never do, because it never does, except this time. I applied the ointment and my toes got worse, a deepening red and maddening itch. I would have given it a day or two, but then my eldest sat at the kitchen table and presented his right foot just when Margi was getting ready to lay out supper.

“Dad. Think I got athletes toe or something.”

I took a look and saw the same red mess as my own toes.

Margi looked.

“Get your feet on the floor where they belong.” Margi set out the plates. “I’ll take you to the GP in the morning.”

Translation. Dad will take you to the GP in the morning. It was a good thing, though, the way my own feet were getting worse.

“I could still be a fungal infection,” the GP told me with all the reassurance of a politician denying a scandal. “But it’s seriously infectious and we are seeing more cases. I am going to prescribe a stronger anti-fungal treatment. Nip it in the bud.”

Honestly, the new ointment stings a bit, but I toughed it out for Ted’s sake.

“You know it’s working when it stings,” I told him and got a derisive grunt in reply.

I dropped him off at the top of the hill to walk down to school because I don’t drive a Chelsea tractor that can handle water that comes part way up my wheel arches. Then I went home to find a different pair of shoes because my feet were being crushed in my wellies.

That was when I rang my boss to say I was taking the day off. My feet were puffed up, my toes so swollen they were no more than a big, continuous ripply blob. I put more of the ointment on, which stung like crazy, and Googled for what to do. The only answer that made sense was to elevate them. I lay on the floor with a couple of cushions to hold my ankles up.

It’s really hard to watch the TV like that.

I had to crawl to the kitchen to get lunch because it was just too painful to put any weight on my feet, which were both the size and shape of a melon. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse my feet literally went pop. I felt a pain like the day I dropped a concrete block on myself and heard a wet snap like an elastic band.

It’s best not to look, not straight away. When something that bad happens, give it a moment or two to settle, let the pain go down. The moment you look, it’s real.

I looked.

My feet were still there.

When I say feet, I mean something more like a duck. The swelling wasn’t gone, just spread sideways. I could see the bones splayed wide, and scaly mottled skin stretched between them. My toes were no more than stubs.

I think I may have screamed. There was certainly a lot of noise, and then I vomited. There is a gap in my memory after that. Perhaps there was more screaming. I’m really not sure. In the end I crawled to the kitchen to get a bucket and sponge to wipe the mess off the carpet.

I had to stand to reach the tap, putting as little weight on my feet as possible, but surprisingly there was almost no pain. Cautiously, I stood properly, filled the bucket and walked back to the lounge.

Or waddled. My feet were too wide to walk comfortably.

Once I had cleaned up, I phoned the GP, but the receptionist said she had been taken ill. I thought about calling for an ambulance, but duck feet didn’t seem like an emergency. I decided to drive to the nearest hospital instead, but quickly discovered that the pedals in the car were mean for a human foot.

Ted came home a bit after four. I was calmer about my feet and showed him what had happened.

“Wow. Greg was right. Duck-foot virus.”

Greg is Ted’s best mate. He’s also trouble and a bit wild where my boy is steady. If Ted influences Greg then I bet they will grow up to be best mates, down the pub for a beer, taking their kids out to the park and all that. If Greg influences Ted, I expect they’ll both end up in prison.

“Duck-foot. Right.” I could hear Greg’s troubling influence. “Just so long as I don’t start quacking.”

Naturally, Ted got his phone out, took a photo and set it to Greg, quacking and giggling alternately. Greg answered almost immediately, and that wiped the grin off my lad’s face.

“Greg’s got it bad,” he said and showed me his phone.

“That’s duck-foot alright,” I agreed. I would definitely be screaming if my feet turned into a plaited mess of stretched out toes all merged into one. “I reckon I’m going to catch the bus. Get myself to hospital. You stop here until Mum gets home.”

Ted nodded. “Right, Dad. Right.”

I rolled my trousers up to keep them dry and stepped outside. Water lapped up over my toes, but my feet felt fine. I walked with a bit of a shuffle because those duck feet were meant to have legs further apart, but apart from that it was fine.

Then I stumbled, half way down the garden path. It was nothing serious, and I managed to not fall, just took a couple of clumsy steps on to the lawn.

Just a matter of practice, I told myself. Just got to take a moment.

I tried to take another step and my feet were fixed down. The water was murky so I got my phone out to get a bit more light. My feet were spreading wider and merging down into the mud. In moments I went from being able to rock from side to side, to being completely stuck. The lawn actually bulged upwards out of the water as my feet put down swelling roots.

I tried to bend down to look more closely, but my knees locked up.

At least I had my phone out. I called for an ambulance.

“I got that duck-foot virus,” I told them. “But it’s not duck feet. I’m turning into a tree.” I looked down, which was a mistake. I was part of the lawn now and my toes re-appeared, growing upwards, five eager saplings. “I am going back to nature. I am the forest.”

My hips seized up and my toes were as high as my knees.

I don’t want to be a forest.

# # #

This was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt of Merge.

5 thoughts on “Toe-to-Toe”

  1. Twisted yet terrifying! 🙂 Not only do I feel sorry for the narrator, I’m also concerned about his son’s toe…. Very entertaining to read and I loved the line about the GP reassessing the diagnosis with ‘all the reassurance of a politician denying a scandal.’ Glad you got that story in this month!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is possible that I had our revered Prime Minister in mind whilst I was writing it. 🙂
      I think this one had the scope to be a longer story and explore more, and I know #BlogBattle now allows up to 2k words, but I don’t think I could have got that done in time. (That said, I do also like the discipline of trying to keep to about 1k words!)

      Liked by 1 person

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