top of page

Smiles and feet

The prompt

The prompt, from the Happy Writing Society, went like this:

Go to page 52 of the book you’re reading now, line 10, take the first noun – write.

The whole sentence, from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 was, ‘There was so much to see – dragon’s teeth, machines, corpses with bare feet that were blue and ivory.’

Through an accident of printing, I got feet.

Feet of clay, said Gonzo (my creative brain).

Me: Bit of a cliché risk, isn’t it?

Gonzo: How rude. That’s my best idea ever.

Every idea Gonzo has is best ever. I thought I’d better look the phrase up, before Gonzo made a fool of us. It meant what I’d assumed, a character flaw in a hero/leader, except in psychology, in which it was disappointment on discovering a parent’s fallibility.

Me. Ooh, that was a scene-flash.

Gonzo: *pogoing* Told you! Feet of clay! Hooray!

Unfortunately, Mr Google found no other references to that definition. I began to doubt it, and the scene's lights went out. However, it was Serendipity Day. Wandering about in psychology, I found 19 types of smile.

Gonzo: Smiles and feet. Go-go-go!

Smiles and feet

Smiles were the worst thing about people, even worse than feet.

Smiles were lies. Most were pretending to be happiness because happiness was the socially acceptable wonder-goal everyone was programmed to believe in. Smiles were pretending not to be feeling real-important-everybody stuff like fear, embarrassment, defeat and misery and agony. You’d never know if a smile was genuine, not for sure, so it might as well not be.

Kim would never return a smile again. Simplest never to do it at all. Happiness, at least future happiness, was a theoretical possibility, but, hey, if it turned up, she could always have a t-shirt printed saying so.

She was unlikely to need it until she’d dealt with the feet. Horribly-knobbly-ugly, sometimes stinking, needing frequent maintenance, cutting and scraping and, despite all that gagging effort, they still itched and ached and needled. They were impossible to ignore. They couldn’t be disguised: sticking big boots on them just made them more obvious, and even stinkier.

Her ankles were on the line. She had nothing against her ankles. She knew reflex was a risk, and so had tied them tight. They were a necessary sacrifice. Super-futuristic carbon fibre prosthetic blades would more than make up for them. Smooth, scentless, easily removable.

The last train never ran late, but she took another painkiller, just in case, a moment before the rails began their quiver and whine, and the lights of the last train rounded the curve, speeding up the straight towards her footless future. Knots held tight. The horn howled. Kim couldn’t help but smile.

Main image: Study of Two Feet by Albrecht Durer

bottom of page