Sunday, November 04, 2012

One squashed toe


The kitchen was filled with smoke this morning and I worried someone had left a saucepan under the flame too long or forgotten to turn it off. 

No flames, no saucepan and it was clear my husband had overcooked his bacon for breakfast.  He had made an early start and was gone leaving behind the trace of his presence in the congested kitchen air.  It is not an unpleasant smell, only there’s too much of it. 

My husband has taken to making his own bacon.  He coats great slabs of belly pork in various spices, sea salt and cracked pepper and then leaves them to cure in the fridge for days.  After this he smokes the pork in the outside barbeque for hours on a low heat, so low that the pork does not cook but instead becomes infused with the smoke from wood shavings he has earlier soaked in water and placed alongside the pork in the oven.  Then the air fills with the rich offerings of slowly smoked bacon.  Again it is not unpleasant and this time it does not matter how much of it there is because the aroma washes away on the breeze. 

I trust it does not add to the world’s pollution, but who knows.  Anything that goes out into the atmosphere must surely contribute to climate change.  The human impediment.  

I feel distinctly human at the moment.  On Tuesday when I reached up to take down a box of dress up clothes from the top cupboard I inadvertently pulled out the shelf with the box.  The box I held firmly in my arms but the shelf came crashing down onto my toe, my left toe – the toe on the same foot I broke two years ago – and crushed it.  Not to the point where it needs no amputation but toes are sensitive.  This one of mine still aches, five days later, though it’s not so bad now. 

I had been looking for a belt that might fit my grandson and the dress up box filled with cast-offs from my daughters’ years at school in plays and performances and the like seemed the obvious place to go. 

In other boxes we found plastic swords, which my grandson brandished with delight. He is into pirates and knights, interspersed with superheroes.  My youngest daughter who is writing an anthropology essay on the difference between sex and gender uses his behaviour as a marker, to point out that although this boy’s parents had worked hard in his earliest years to be as gender neutral as possible, wrapping him in pink blankets if the mood took them and refusing all stereotypes, he still loves cars and trucks and trains.  He has very little interest in the stereotypical girl-type things, dolls and the likes. 

Earlier I had dragged out a box of old Barbies, the toys my daughters once loved, and he took one look at them, remarked on the fact that we had two identical Ken dolls and that all the Barbies also looked identical except for the colour of their hair, and then cast them back into the box. 

I wonder whether my response to my toe was gendered.  By which I mean, would a man or boy, or someone not of my gender react to the accident as I did.  I tried not to get hysterical but I remember calling to my daughter to get me a Panadol of the pain.  I felt I had to do something. 

She raced first to the freezer for ice which she piled on top of a tea towel to cover the wound.   She took over the care of her nephews and I sat on the couch puzzling over our next move.

My daughter had intended to work on her essay but because I had promised to take the boys to the swimming pool, and my older grandson, despite my toe, still pleaded to go, she changed her plans and came with us so that she could get into the pool with the boys while I sat at the edge and nursed my toe, clear of the water. 

At this stage I could not bear to cover my toe and although it gradually came to look like a ‘manky mess’, as my daughter described it, I could not bear to wash it or bandage it until a few hours later. I needed by then to cover it before I started work.  I could not affront people with the sight of it. 



Only my husband can bear to see what lies beneath the bandage.  It even makes me squirm, my toe, like this disowned part of me that has become a purple mess cringe-worthy in the extreme.

Why do I want to show people, those closest to me?  Is it to get some sort of sympathy or to have someone else recognise how terrible it must feel? 

I took it to the doctor the day after the accident and he took a paper clip, spread it apart and heated one end under a flame.  He used an old cigarette lighter for the purpose. 
            ‘I haven’t seen one of those in a long time,’ I said to the doctor.  ‘They’re not as effective as they used to be,’ he said.  ‘Safety regulations mean you can never get a hot enough flame’.  For his purposes that is, namely to sterilize the tip of the paper clip so that he might relieve the tension and swelling in my toe by drilling a hole in the nail. 

Even as I write this it sounds ghastly, but as the doctor said, ‘It sounds barbaric yet it’s not as bad as it seems and it won’t hurt, just a prick.’  I didn’t even feel the prick, but I smelt the burnt nail after the event, an acrid incinerator smell, nothing like my husband’s bacon, and I noticed the thumping pain subside almost immediately. 

My toe is on the mend now but it will take several weeks the doctor said before it recovers fully and I may well lose the nail. 

Is this to much information? as Jim might say.  Too much of the blood and gore variety that people hate to read about because they identify with the narrator.  I don’t know.  I only know that after the event I wondered that I could have endured it at all.

And it could have been worse.  Instead it becomes proof of my nine lives.  Like a cat, I tell myself, I have enjoyed nine lives and still have a few more to go before I run out of chances. 


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