I kicked my toe on the fireplace. My sister was in the room at the time, playing with Charlie. I thought: Don’t say a word! Because I knew if my sister said, “Oh, you kicked your toe, are you okay?” my head would explode. I knew that.
She did not say a word. She just kept on playing with Charlie. I waited a moment and then left the room. I felt extremely grateful to my sister. There had been a silent communication between us – a beautiful understanding.
This was weeks ago. The other day, taking Charlie to the doctor for his 12 months shots, I said, “Look, there’s nothing you can do about a toe, is there?”
The doctor was silent. She gazed at me.
“I mean,” I said, “if I kicked my toe weeks ago and it still really, really hurts – I mean, it still makes me go aaah! just when I’m walking along – well, it’ll heal itself eventually, right?”
She asked me to take off my shoe.
“It’s swollen to twice its size and it’s quite crooked!” she exclaimed. I wasn’t sure if she was pleased or angry.
She told me to get x-rays.
“But,” I said, carefully, “even if it’s broken, I mean, there’s nothing – I mean, what could you do?”
“That,” she said, “is a multiple choice question.”
So I got the x-rays. They tied a ribbon around the other toes to pull them apart from the crooked one for the photos.
The x-ray report said that the toe was fractured. Charlie, I said, this is my first ever fracture. One day, I said, this toe will predict rain.
The doctor said it was a good fracture. She sent me to a podiatrist. The podiatrist trimmed my toenails for me, and told me she’d once lived in Burlington, Vermont.
“We spent a lot of time
,” she said, “at the Ben and Jerry’s factory.”
She said she was going to make a splint for the toe. But the splint was a disappointment. It looked exactly like squashed pink bubble gum.
The whole time I was there, she kept Charlie entertained by handing him objects to play with. He was sitting on my lap on the white reclining chair.
The first object she gave him was a foot.
“Don’t worry,” she told me, “it’s just bones.”
Then she murmured to herself, “Not real
Later, it emerged that my sister had not even noticed me kicking my toe. That’s why she hadn’t said a word.
“I can’t believe you broke your toe,” she said, “and didn’t say anything. That’s so - ”
I thought she was going to say ‘brave’. I was ready with a brave, modest smile.
“That’s so weird,” she said.