Well, it’s Wednesday. And, Wordsmith.org threw out a doozy today:
artiodactyl. adj. having an even number of toes on each foot.
At first, I read the definition wrong and thought, everyone has the same number of toes on each foot. Big deal.* Then, I remembered a girl back in middle school who lost one of her big toes in an accident with a lawn mower. She wore sandals anyway.
That’s intriguing, and brave. I could write about that.
But, the definition says an even number – like two, four, six, eight. Therein lies the challenge to write a story about feet that sidestep the standard five-toe precedence.
It was only because Allison royally pissed off her sister, Maggie, in 2007 that she agreed to the pre-wedding hair, nails, and make-up gig. She was still making amends for the Prom Queen shake up that happened their senior year at Rosemont High.
In high school, Maggie wore a cheerleader outfit and Allison dressed in Goth. When it came time to choose the Prom Queen, half the school voted for “that Carson girl.” It wasn’t until Maggie tried to take the stage, and the crown, at the Prom Dance that they both realized the school voted for Goth, not Glamour. The principal waved Maggie off the stage and motioned for Allison to take the spotlight.
That night, Maggie screamed across the dinner table that she was appalled and angry and “HUMILIATED!”
Allison shrugged her shoulders. “I had no idea,” she told her parents. “You know me, I only went to the Prom, because Maggie insisted!”
Maggie didn’t talk to Allison for the next two years.
Last Christmas, when Maggie got engaged, Allison agreed to stand up in her wedding. Wanting to keep the peace, she promised to do whatever Maggie asked to prepare. An up-do was hard enough to swallow, but when Maggie mentioned pedicure, Allison almost choked. In silent defiance, Maggie dared her to say no, to give good reason for another Maggie boycott. But, Allison just smiled.
“Sure, just say when and where!”
It was on a Saturday at a nail salon in a strip mall on the northwest side of town. After an hour and a half bus ride on a 100 degree day, Allison welcomed a foot soak and a rub. She eased her anxiety by reminding herself Maggie was the star of the show. All I have to do is sit, smile, and let them paint.
When Allison walked into the salon, Maggie was already seated. She wore a plastic tiara branded BACHELORETTE and had three women on her at one time: one caressing her feet, one smiling and rubbing her right hand, the other chattering and buffing the nails on her left hand.
“Allison! Here! We reserved you a chair right next to me.”
Maggie’s Maid of Honor and BFF, Debbie, sat soaking her feet on the other side of Maggie. She snapped pictures with her digital.
“Oh. My. God. Maggie, look at this one. You look like a Queen! This one has to go in the wedding slide show.”
Allison sat down and took off her shoes and socks. She put them beside her on the floor and slid her toes into the water bath. A young woman rolled her stool over to Allison’s chair and lifted her right foot out of the water. The woman shrieked. She dropped the right foot and lifted the left. She shrieked again.
She sputtered words in a foreign tongue, turned her head, and called over the other nail techs.
Allison held out her hand.
But, it was too late. The women, including two from Maggie’s chair, swarmed around Allison’s feet. They whispered and glanced up at Allison. She tried to pull her foot away, but the nail tech tightened her grip. Allison looked over at Maggie who was pouting.
“What?” Allison gestured towards the women. “What do you want me to do?”
The matriarch of the nail techs walked over to Allison’s chair and spoke. “Four. Only four toe. Why? We see six, yes. Six finger. Six toe. Never four. Why? Why four?” She pointed at Allison. “Must be special.”
Maggie sniffled. It felt like 2007 all over again.
“You always have to make everything about you.” Maggie wiped her eyes.
“Come on, Maggie, you’re the one who insisted on a pedicure!”
“You could have said no!” Now, she was sobbing.
Allison pulled at her foot again, but the nail tech still wouldn’t let go. Now there was a camera in the mix, and it wasn’t Debbie’s. The woman at the front counter was on her cell phone, pointing and chattering away.
“God. How was I supposed to know that four toes would mark me like a white buffalo or a sacred cow? Debbie, help me!”
Debbie sat silent. Maggie sulked through the rest of her manicure. Two women massaged Allison’s feet, while two more held up paint and decals. When the pedicure was done, all the nail techs surrounded Allison’s feet for a picture.
Allison, Maggie, and Debbie got up to pay, but the tech refused Allison’s money.
“I have to pay. You don’t understand!” She begged. The tech slid her cash back across the counter.
Allison shrugged to Maggie. “At least we got all that for free.”
Debbie turned to Allison. “You really did it this time.”
“What? It’s not like I can grow another toe. For crying out loud. Maggie!”
Maggie climbed into Debbie’s car and slammed the door. Debbie just shook her head.
Allison knocked on the window. Maggie clutched her purse to her chest and refused to look up.
“I’ll still stand up in your wedding. I’ll wear closed-toe shoes. I promise.”
Debbie pulled out and drove away.
Allison turned around and was blinded by another camera flash. She held her hands up like she was dodging the Paparazzi. As she ran away, the nail techs poured out of the salon and waved.
* Yes, the definition of artiodactyl speaks of animals with an even number of toes. But, this is Wednesday’s Word, and anything goes here.