Forty Years Later—Elaine Bonow
Forty Years Later—Elaine Bonow
“Doctor, I have no idea what to do anymore! The last few months have been so blah. All I do is work, work, work—the same old thing over and over again. I get up every morning at exactly six-twenty. I roll over on my left side. I put my right foot down first. I can see it now, my foot so pale against the little green rug next to my bed. I tell you Doc my feet really bug me. My second toe is so much longer than my big toe and the toenails are all yellow. Don’t get me wrong. I love going down to Chinatown and getting a manicure and a massage at the Emperor Foot Spa. The girls are all so nice to me they call me Mr. Johnny and they know just how to scrub my feet without tickling them. There is nothing worse than someone tickling my feet. Since I was a kid I never liked being tickled.”
“Why is that John?”
“Oh Doc, you know I told you about time when my uncle Joe used to torment us kids.” John sat back into the recliner, crossed his arms as if hugging himself. He rocked a bit forward and back. His white shirt was buttoned tightly at the neck and pushed his Adam’s apple up above the frayed collar.
“Doc, it’s like this. I grew up in a small college town back in the Midwest. I remember it well even though that was forty years ago. Uncle Joe and Aunt Beth would visit us every Christmas and bring the cousins Chad, Big Rob and little Joanie I was an only child so I really enjoyed visiting with my cousins.”
“Hey little Mr. Johnny,” Uncle Joe would corner me outside, “Have you learned how to ride a bicycle yet?” He never talked he always shouted, his voice bellowing from his enormous plaid flannel belly.
“At this time in my life I was just a scrawny kid. I didn’t know anything. I couldn’t do nothing. I couldn’t ride a bike. I was too scared. I couldn’t ride horses. I was afraid of their tails and those big heads. And doc, those giant eyeballs scared me shitless. I couldn’t feed the chickens. They had those sharp beaks and those awful chicken feet with those three big toes. They aren’t even toes. My feet remind me of chicken feet with my one big toe sticking out.”
“John, do you think your fears were taken seriously by your parents?”
“Oh, no way Doc. You must be kidding me. I remember many times they would play tricks on me and my Uncle Joe just loved coming to visit us and he took special pleasure in making sure I was tormented by a different farm animal each time he came to visit. It was like he stayed up nights just to think of ways torment me with one animal or another.
His wife Aunt Beth always laughed. In fact she doubled over laughing so hard her thick John Lennon glasses always fell on the floor, her buckteeth dribbling spit and that laugh, as close to a braying donkey as you can get. My cousins were embarrassed and tried to console me. I guess their lives must have been miserable living with those two. You know doc, I guess that’s why they all left the country. Chad funnily enough the last I heard was doing Peace Corp work in Chad of all places. Big Rob went west. I think it was China and little Joanie married and moved to Singapore. Come to think of it I never really saw them after that last visit.
“Ok John, just what happened on that day?” Doctor Simonson said leaning forward with a renewed interest that he cleverly disguised behind his thick rimless glasses.
John uncrossed his arms crossed his legs his grey chinos bunched around his balls. “Well Doc, I don’t really want to go there.”
“But John, that was long ago and you are a grown man. Your childhood was decades ago. Just pretend you are telling a story about a character in one of your books. You can do this.” Doc Simonson thought back to John’s first visit to his office. It must have been twenty years ago and he was pleased at this big break through.
“Come on John, let’s do this together. Let’s start the meditation mantra. Clear your thoughts. Relax your mind. Now tell me what was going on that day forty years ago.”
“Well Doc, it was Christmas. I told you Uncle Joe and his family would come out to the country to visit us. I must have been all of ten years old. I was a scrawny kid afraid of everything. For as long as I remember Uncle Joe would tease and torment us kids but especially me. Well Doc, this day he went too far. After he laughed at me about my inability to do anything around the farm he grabbed me around the neck.
No one was around. They were all inside getting ready for dinner. I had gone outside to get a book I was reading from our station wagon. Uncle Joe snuck up behind me, spun me around, grabbed me around my neck and lifted me up on the hood of the car. I was too scared to yell or anything. It was a cold frosty night. His breath rose over us like a steam train going up a mountain. He was so fat it was difficult for him to breathe easily. His face was red and shiny with sweat. His baldhead loomed above me like a big fat pink moon against the clear blue Starry night.
He grabbed my right foot and yanked off my Converse shoe without even unlacing it. I didn’t have on any socks because this was just supposed to be a quick dash out to the car and back. He proceeded to tickle my foot howling with laughter. I almost threw up. I started screaming and crying. Doc, it wasn’t funny. I was terrified. No one had ever done anything like that to me. Doc, I guess I’d better show you instead of telling you.”
As John sat up, the recliner sprung back into its upright position. He reached down and snatched off his sock.
Dr. Simonson jumped up from his seat. “Oh My god,” he shouted pointing at John’s foot. “What the hell is that?”
“Doc, it’s just my foot. I told you it looked like a chicken foot.”
Doctor Simonson started laughing uncontrollably. John’s foot didn’t just resemble a chicken foot; it was a giant size ten chicken foot with pale wrinkly skin and sharp yellow nails, the middle toe longer than the other two.