My ten little piggies are still where they’ve always been, waving to me from the other end of the bath. I instruct them to pour more hot water but they can’t manage the tap. I ease myself into a sitting position, lean forward and do it with fingers, then sink back and rest my head against the porcelain edge, face towards the nicotine stained ceiling, scanning for cockroaches.
The room needs fumigating, or demolishing, along with the rest of this grotty hotel where I’m spending the worst night of my life.
I’ve never thought much about my toes before. I know precious little about the critters, apart from how nice they look like with two coats of Fille Méchante nail polish, flamingo pink with iridescent flakes. Of their inner world I know nothing. How do they feel inside? What’s it like being a toe? Who knows? Who cares?
Here’s a thought. My next short story could be written from the point of view of toes. Now that’s an original idea. I don’t think it’s ever been attempted before.
Here we go again, off together on another walk. The ten of us,squeezed into a pair of Ganni slingback pumps in bright red patent leather with genuine fur innersoles. We judder along the unrelenting pavement, followed by two heels strapped in with sophisticated elegance.
Haha! Pretty strange. Bit of fun to take my mind off things. My husband always said I used writing as an escape from reality, but I saw it as time-out from my husband.
I’m 69 years old and, yes, I’ve left him. I don’t want to talk about it, though. It’s none of your business. Something I’d rather forget. Tearing at my mind, tormenting my soul, ripping into the heart of me, or what’s left of it.
Creating fiction is the only refuge I have. A temporary fix, but better than nothing. And quite addictive. Ask any artist or writer.
I think I’ll lie here all night, die here. They can find me in the morning.
It’s tough being toes. You’re nothing really, just appendages, like you don’t exist in your own right, but in somebody else’s. Do as you’re told. Go here, go there. Get stood on, stubbed. Lined up for pedicure and painted some ghastly shade of pink.
I don’t believe in myself anymore. Just don’t trust my own thinking. I try to figure things out, but I know I always get everything wrong. So I think one thing then tell myself the opposite is more likely to be true. I think I’m losing it.
Change the subject. Turn the record over. Nothing tickles a toe’s fancy faster than the prospect of being sucked, thought First Little Piggy, arching her phalanges distales towards the gentleman’s mouth kissing its way south towards her.
Toes, twenty-first century woman’s most neglected erogenous zone. Good title for an article in Erotica Daze magazine. I start to laugh, loud and fast, till my tummy aches, then my laughter turns to sobs that convulse my body. My chest tightens. I can’t breathe. Another panic attack. Try to ground myself. Find something to hang onto. Think of something concrete. The sides of the bath, cold, white, porcelain.
After a while, I calm down. The ten piggies, who’d been wriggling around anxiously, start chattering among themselves. I strain my ears and can just make out what they’re saying in their squeaky little voices.
“Idiot husband was just a bloody boss pot.”
“She had to do what he told her.”
“Got pissed off when she didn’t.”
“Slapped her round.”
“She tried real hard.”
“It weren’t doable.”
“Yeah, I reckon.”
“She oughta get that into her head…weren’t her fault”
“With a man like him, it just weren’t doable.”
“The sooner she knows that..!”
“He was a creep.”
“Glad she’s left him.”
They go on chattering like this till the water grows cold. I rise from the bath, wrap myself in a vast fluffy towel, park my elderly bum on a grotty, three-legged stool and dry and caress my toes tenderly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After studying foreign languages and literature in the late sixties at the University of Canterbury, New Zealander Bruce Costello spent a few years selling used cars. Then he worked as a radio creative writer for fourteen years, before training in psychotherapy. In 2010, he semi-retired and took up writing to keep his brain ticking over. Since then he has had 142 short story successes – publications in literary journals, anthologies and popular magazines, and contest places and wins.