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The Foot Woman

I started to roll a cigarette. The days of correctness, political or whatever
hadn't reached this outpost of the Empire yet and every waiting room was liberally supplied with ash trays. Deeply engrossed as I was in this act, I saw our friend shamble to his feet and set forth in my direction.

''Spect you'll be lightin' up dreckly,' he said.

I looked up. It was not a pretty sight. He was rummaging through the haystack on his skull with fingers shaped like telegraph poles. After what seemed an eternity he produced the stub end of a fag from somewhere behind his left ear which looked as if it had last seen a flame at about the time the last King died.

'Mothers paid the ratting money this week,' he went on,' 'er says buyin' matches 'ave to wait 'till 'er gets 'er pension.'

'Ratting bill! ...ratting bill', I thought. 'Is he a rat catcher? Well at least it would explain his mode of dress and especially the Michelin X covering his, er...more sensitive parts. 'Council sent us one 'o they red letters. Mother said first class post.'

'Red?' I said, mystified.

'Said if we didn't pay we'd be cut off'.

The mist slowly cleared. Rates, that's what he was talking about. His rates demand.'Oh dear,' I said, and passed him a box of matches. He looked too old to have a mother, in fact it was hard to put an age on him; somewhere between fifty and ninety would be a rough guess, so I presumed he was talking about his wife. But you never know! I decided to clarify the situation. 'Has your er, wife gone to the council offices?'

''Ers up there now.' He pointed out of the window, in the general direction of town.

'That's all right then,' I said, 'you won't be cut off.'

The concave face with just the lone brown stump standing as a lonely sentinel,
split into two, it was split from ear to ear like a fried tomato skin. I grinned back, just as idiotically. But what was he doing here,' I thought. Perhaps his wife while passing here had a quick look in and thought it was the very place to deposit him, while she went and did battle up at the council offices. I picked up an old edition of 'Punch' and idly turned the pages.

'They books got good pictures,' he continued,'I seen 'em all.'
'Proper job,' I said, relaxing into the vernacular.
'Every time I comes 'ere.'
'Do you come here very often then?' I asked, intrigued.
'Every time doctor send me 'ere.'
I put the magazine down.
'Wont do the job 'eself.'
'What job is that?'

He bent forward, I thought for a minute he was going to attempt a hand stand, but it was just to pull one of the maize sacks up, uncovering a Wellington boot. 'Cutting these 'ere buggers off.'

The mind boggled.
'Sends me 'ere, to the foot woman 'e does, and 'er does the job...proper.' He looked around the waiting room. 'Don't mind, though. 'He pointed to a fluorescent light on the ceiling and then lent forward towards me as though a revelation from on high had suddenly hit him. 'They got 'lectric in them tubes.'

'Hell,' I thought not wanting to get involved in technicalities, let alone try and follow this thought process. If I did it might well be catching, I could be as batty as him by the time Laura came back.

'Why?' I inquired, 'have you got to come here to have your boots cut off.'
His face screwed up into a fair imitation of an orange that had been left on the shelf for three months.' 'Cos Mother says they mess the blankets up!'

''Er don't take to me goin' to bed with 'em on.'
' Well,' I said, the mind doing somersaults,' I can't say I blame her.'
'Well, I can't take 'em off due to my 'artherities' and Mother can't due to 'er not 'avin' the pullin' power 'er used to'.

'So that's why she sends you to the doctor,' I said, having a stab in the dark.
''An he give me a piece of paper 'an I brings it down 'ere and then the foot woman...'er cuts the buggers off for me.'

'I see.' I said, not seeing at all, but trying to grasp the concept of what seemed to be a significantly new area of foot fetishism.

''Bout every three month,' he did a bit of mental arithmetic on his telegraph poles.' I comes 'ere.' He threw his chest out,' 'spect I be 'er best customer.'


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