Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Foot Notes

Some of you may have been wondering what ever happened to the Alternate Side Parker’s right foot. Did it ever heal? Or did she Google her foot surgeon after the fact and discover that he was a barbaric quack? What sort of alternative therapies did she seek for chronic irritability due to minor foot pain? What finally worked?

Answers: Sort of. Yes. Acupuncture. Herein lies a tale.

I did not go out to the bungalow much this winter, though it was so mild. My neighbors, after scaring me last fall by acquiring a car of their own, sent that car back (it had a rusty underbelly) and kept the Éclair, using it to take their little boy to nursery school, thus continuing our winter long-distance valet-parking arrangement. The last time I saw the car was when I got my winter coat out of storage, in the trunk, in December. That day, I puttered around the house for a few hours—my friend C. had come out with me—and only when I was leaving, after I had potted up the last of the tulip bulbs and put the padlock on the door to the back porch, and had come around to insert the hook into the eye on the inside of the porch door, for added security, did I notice that there was a hook, but there weren’t no eye. Just then, C. put her hand to the screen next to the door and lifted it like a flap. Security had been breached.

Because I am always trying to stretch the season, I hadn’t completely closed up the house, which means locking the windows by the rather primitive method of sticking nails through the frames. So anyone who gained access to the porch would be able to open the windows and climb in. I accosted a neighbor and asked him if he’d noticed anyone in my bungalow, and he said, with maddening casualness, “Oh, yeah.” Another neighbor had noticed it, too, he said, but they didn’t have my phone number, so they didn’t do anything. This neighbor, whom I call Pee-wee, and to whom I now reluctantly divulged my phone number, is the kind of guy who, when you take an old falling-apart grill that belonged to your neighbor on the other side who got evicted and that you were tired of looking at and put out on the street for the garbagemen, retrieves said grill and hauls it back and installs it on the other side of the house, where you get to look at it some more. Once, last summer, I heard someone calling my name and went to the door to find Pee-wee, on his bicycle, the basket full of pesticides—partially used spritzers of aphid poison, etc.—that he had scavenged and that he now offered to me like a door-to-door salesman: "Ma'am, can I interest you in these perfectly good insecticides?" And I accepted! So now I am indebted to my neighbor for an unwanted arsenal of bug poison. What was I thinking?

But I digress … The stapler, of course, picked that moment to run out of staples, and it was not immediately clear how to replenish them—at least, not to me and not to Pee-wee—but while Pee-wee went home to get his own stapler, C. read the directions, inserted fresh staples, and calmly reattached the screen to the porch frame. I fretted and went around with a paper cup of rusty nails to drive through the window frames, and made sure nothing was missing (there is not much in the bungalow worth taking), and that no one had slept in my bed or defiled my space with empty Budweiser cans. I had, after all, been in the house for at least two hours without noticing anything wrong, so if there was a squatter at least he was a highly respectful one.

It was only when we were on our way back to Manhattan that I realized the upside of the situation: it was not that I had engendered good karma by giving shelter to the Bodhisattva on a rainy day but that for several hours after the squatter, in the crazed effort to secure the place with staples and fishing line, I completely forgot to remember that there had ever been anything wrong with my foot.

(Cartoon by Joe Dator; The New Yorker, February 13, 2012.)

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