The Agony of the Feet by Craig J. Clark

“Man, are my feet killing me.”

That’s what Ronald Dayton said as he sat down on a handy bench to take a load off. He had no way of knowing it, but his feet really were trying to kill him. They were out for revenge, pure and simple, and the grudge went all the way back to Ronald’s early childhood.

Back then he went by Ronnie and little Ronnie was given to stamping his feet when he didn’t get his way. This amused his parents to no end and they made a big show of not giving them what he wanted so they could see him stamp his little feet in anger. His feet, ignorant of the machinations of Ronnie’s guardians, bore the abuse, figuring he would quickly grow out of it. This was not to be the case.

As Ronnie grew he grew more and more willful and his tantrums became more and more violent. Instead of merely stamping his feet, he started kicking things – toys, walls, doors, table legs, and finally people’s legs. This was when his parents put their feet down, since theirs were the legs he most frequently took out his aggression on. It’s amazing how a few well-placed kicks in the shin will change amusement to annoyance.

By the time he was in kindergarten, Ronnie had been cured of his stomping and kicking – which his teachers wouldn’t have tolerated anyway – but his feet vowed never to forget. They would bide their time, walking him to and from school when he was old enough, pedaling his bicycle around the neighborhood when he got one. They even took it in stride when he joined the marching band in high school. They lulled him into a false sense of security, not realizing for a second that he had no idea his feet felt that way about him – or any way, for that matter. They were his feet. They went where he told them to go. He didn’t have to think about walking, they knew how to do it all by themselves. Yes, indeed, they knew.

Ronald had done a lot of walking that day – much more than he was used to – but he knew he couldn’t afford to rest long if he wanted to make his next appointment. He was in town to take care of a few things – because he could never justify going into town just for one or two – and he was too cheap to take a cab from place to place (and he didn’t trust the public transportation system), so that meant a lot of walking. This usually didn’t bother him, but for some reason today the soles of his feet were especially tender. Maybe he needed a new pair of walking shows – or some of them gelled insoles. He checked his watch. He had time to try to find a shoe store or a pharmacy – anything to help his aching feet.

Ronald stood up and walked to the corner. Traffic was moderate, so he waited patiently for the light to change. At least his mind did. His feet, on the other hand, stepped out into the middle of the street just as a city bus was approaching. Ronald barely had time to register what was happening when he heard the blare of the horn and saw the bus bearing down on him, its brakes squealing. He had just enough presence of mind to jump back onto the curb before it flattened him. The bus screeched to a halt right in front of him and the driver opened the door to bawl him out.

“Hey, what are you, daydreaming? You trying to get yourself killed?”

Ronald couldn’t answer, having been frightened out of his wits.

“Well, are you getting on or what?” asked the driver.

Ronald’s wits returned to him enough for him to nod his head. He didn’t know where the bus was going, but he knew that he could sit down while he went there. Mentally he canceled the rest of his appointments for the day. His feet, meanwhile, realized they would have to be a lot craftier if they wanted to get their revenge.

Over the next few weeks, Ronald found himself bumping his head on tree branches he thought he was swerved to avoid, getting entangled in bushes that he believe had been well clear of, and running headlong into mailboxes, street signs and other obstacles. While they waited for the next opportunity to do him in, his feet weren’t missing a single chance to make life hell for poor Ronald.

Eventually it got so bad and Ronald started getting so paranoid that he stopped leaving his apartment except for emergencies. He also took the precaution of putting foam padding on all hard surfaces, removing the hanging light fixtures and putting a bath mat in his tub after nearly slipping on a bar of soap. The crazy thing about that last incident was he could have sworn his own left foot had dislodged the soap in the first place and then deliberately stepped on it. Did he really have that little control over his motor skills? He decided that he needed to risk going outside in order to get to the bottom of it. He was going to see a doctor.

Ronald got in his car – which had sat idle for weeks while he was in reclusion – and pulled out onto the road. Traffic was light, so he figured the trip would be uneventful. That thought went right out the window the moment his right foot pushed the gas pedal down to the floor and held it there. Ronald tried everything in his power to take the foot off, but it wasn’t budging. The same could be said for his left foot, which he tried and failed to put on the brake. At least he still had control over his hands and was able to steer clear of any danger.

After some petrifying near misses, Ronald decided the only course of action open to him was to try to jump free of the car. But how was he supposed to launch himself out of the car if he had no control over his feet? He didn’t have much time to contemplate the implications of this before the road he was on came to a T and, unable to make the turn, he plowed into a tree at 80 miles an hour. The front end of the car crumpled on impact, crushing his legs and pinning him to his seat. Mercifully, his blacked out before the pain could kick in. He was out for a while.

The next thing Ronald knew he was lying in a hospital bed. A doctor was standing over him, checking his vital signs. At least, that’s what Ronald guessed he was doing shining a pen light right in his eyes.

“Ah, so you are with us, Mr. Dayton,” said the doctor. It was not a question, but Ronald chose to treat it as such.

“Yes, I guess I am. But how?”

“The miracles of modern medicine, Mr. Dayton.”

Ronald tried to piece together what had happened. He looked down, but couldn’t see past his waist because there was a curtain pulled across the bed.

“My feet… Something about my feet.” He looked up at the doctor, who was avoiding his gaze. “Doc, why can’t I feel my feet?”

“Don’t worry about that right now. Just rest.” He whispered something to a nurse, who went out of Ronald’s field of vision and returned with a needle, which she stuck in his arm.

“What’s that for?” Ronald asked.

“It’s just something to calm you.”

“You mean put me to sleep, right?”

The doctor was stone-faced.

“It’s okay, doc. I’ve just gotta know one thing before I go under. Will I ever walk again?”

The doctor sighed and shook his head. “No, I’m afraid not.”

Ronald closed his eyes, relieved. “Good.”


| Leave a comment

I think the legs can also be implicated to a certain degree. Or are they Swedish?

Another good one, Craig. This one reads like the architypical Craig J. Clark piece: strange situation, flawed protagonist, snappy dialog, with a few twists thrown in for surprises and laffs. I like it.

Bonus! Relevant reCAPTCHA: fight injuries.

I like especially how his parsimony finally pushes his feet over the edge.

As our population ages and even the young risk major-injury-inducing "extreme" sports, or are battered in war, it is good to see a tale in which triumph is unexpectedly distilled from tragedy.

This is the right kind of story for these troubled times. And extraordinary fea-- er, endeavour.


Good story. I like how they both win.

Loved the story. I've often thought feet have way too much power and cause way too much pain especially in older folk. This should knock down their egos a size or two.

Leave a comment

Entry Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on April 24, 2008 9:24 AM.

Volcano by Chris Leavens was the previous entry in this blog.

Breath by Chris Leavens is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.