Footloose at the foot store

Friend of mine went to buy a foot the other day. Left foot. He lost the original in a war, and he didn’t replace it for a while, being distracted by other things, as he says, but eventually he did replace it, first with a bamboo foot, which was a terrible foot, he says, and then with a rubber foot he made from a tyre, which was actually a pretty good foot, he says, and then with a series of wooden feet, which were pretty much worthless, he says, and finally with a series of plastic feet, which are much better than wood or rubber or maybe even the original, he says, although the fact is I hardly remember that one at all because we parted company so long ago.

But recently when he was coming down a ladder he broke his current foot, a plastic one, though he didn’t discover it was broken until he got home that night and took off his boot and half his foot fell off.

I tried to glue it back together but it was just no use, he says, so I went to the foot store.

The foot store was founded by a guy who lost his leg in a war and carved a new leg from barrel staves. At the foot store you can buy all kinds of feet. You can buy feet with or without toes. You can buy feet made from plastic or steel or wood, although most feet in the foot store are made from carbon fibres arranged in a stunning number of ways.

You can buy feet with toe and heel springs. You can buy feet with adjustable heel heights. You can buy waterproof feet. You can buy feet designed for golfing and rock-climbing and swimming and skiing and sprinting and snorkelling and scuba-diving and mall-walking and hiking and tennis, among many other things.

You can also buy ankles and knees and legs at the foot store, and there are foot stores, says my friend, where you can also buy hands and arms and elbows, but this foot store focuses on feet and has by far the best selection of feet in the city.

Most of the feet you can buy don’t look like feet at all. They look like the sort of wild modern sculptures you might see in a hip downtown gallery and when you wander in to see them more closely out of sheer curiosity you notice the little white card with the price, which makes you gasp, and the irony there, says my friend, is that a good foot these days is just as shockingly expensive as hip art, many thousands of dollars, but when you need a foot you need a foot, so you buy one.

My friend got the basic model, no frills, size nine, and he’s pretty happy with it, especially given the poor left feet he’s had over the years, of which the worst had to be that bamboo foot, he says, which was just awful, it lasted about three days, but that was my first try at making a foot, which is a lot harder than it looks, and then I made three wooden feet, one from camxe wood, which is red, and one from go wood, which is black, and one from sen wood, which is grey, but then I made that rubber foot, and that was one good foot. You wouldn’t think you could make a foot out of a tyre but you can. I should have kept that one to show my kids but at the time I was distracted by other things and not in a position to think about kids or a wife or anything other than figuring out how to make a foot and get the hell out of where I was, which was absolutely no place to be.    

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine, in Oregon, and the author of five collections of essays, most recently Spirited Men. His new book, The Wet Engine, about ‘the magic and muddle and miracle of hearts’, will be published next month by Paraclete Press. Illustration by Lucille Hughes.



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