2 min
Runner up

Susannah is a writer, filmmaker, and Davidson College alumna rediscovering her hometown of Columbia, SC, in a time of pandemic  [+]

Image of Summer 2020

Also available :

Joan feels remorse for having hated her toes most of her life. She inherited them from her grandmother, who had hated them too. Her grandmother had cried at the swimming pool on Joan's 11th birthday while her friends stood around her singing and dripping on the cake. At first, Margaret, Joan’s mother was touched. Her mother’s first grandchild was growing up. She squeezed her shoulder and smiled.

But then the cake was cut and distributed, and Joan’s grandmother was still weeping. Really, Mom, it’s okay. Joany is still a little girl. That’s when the shaking woman pointed to Joan’s overlong toes, and then back to her own feet, concealed beneath brown mules. She’s going to get bunions, she said loudly.

She was dead a week later after a massive stroke, and that was Joan’s last and strongest memory of her. For about a month, Joan worried that the sight of her toes had killed her grandmother.

But she grew up quickly and learned it was not the case, though she would forever associate her toes with guilt and horror. She painted her toenails pink, red, purple, blue, but paint could not conceal their shape. She began stuffing them into mules just like her grandmother had worn, and soon she had bunions.

She moved to Connecticut, where it was practical to cover your feet. She was pre-law for a time, but a boyfriend of hers said she didn’t have it in her to talk with criminals or argue with men who were old enough to be her father. She began to smoke, and she didn’t pick up her books again, even after the boyfriend left. She only took her shoes off when she could be sure she was alone. Her cat, Patsy, liked to sit in Joan’s lap and nibble at her toes. Joan loved her for it. 

Now they say they have to go, that the tobacco probably messed with her blood vessels and now her tissues are dying. She imagines angry blood vessels scowling as they inflate like pufferfish.

The toes are the first of her body to crumple and fall away. Her bad habit has gone too far and she regrets it. She regrets not letting her toes see the world before they leave it. 

She wonders what they would enjoy most before they are let go. She thinks of the photos she’s seen on calendars and vacation brochures of feet at the ocean’s edge, the waves coming up to tickle them. She drives to the Jersey shore and tries it. But it’s April and the water is cold and dark, and she cries out when it reaches her. This has only made her more afraid.

She decides to have it done at home, in Florida, where her mother can care for her afterward. Margaret has just remarried and moved into a house with a pool out back. The night before they have to be let go, Margaret makes everyone cookies, and they stay up late talking about everything but what’s going to happen. When everyone is finally asleep, Joan goes out to sit in the dark by the pool with her feet in the water. She thanks her toes for hanging around so long where they were not loved.


A few words for the author? Comment below. 15 comments

Take a look at our advice on commenting here

To post comments, please
Image of Keith Simmonds
Keith Simmonds · ago
My congratulatios for this fine runner-up performance, Susannah! Hope to see much more!
Image of Charlie Cate
Charlie Cate · ago
Way to go girl! Proud of you!!
Image of Sunny Lancaster
Sunny Lancaster · ago
Congratulations Susannah!
Image of Houda Belabd
Houda Belabd · ago
Congratulations, Susannah !
Image of Mary Tabor
Mary Tabor · ago
Congratulations on you win and on your story!
Image of Susi Bocks
Susi Bocks · ago
I wish I could have given more votes! :) Good luck!
Image of Keith Simmonds
Keith Simmonds · ago
My support for your great storytelling skills! Good luck!
Image of Marian Kelley
Marian Kelley · ago
What impressed me was how one minor happening in childhood can shape the outcome. So often that’s true, and Susannah made the point so dramatically in a 2-minute read. Remarkable!
Image of Julie Wilkerson
Julie Wilkerson · ago
The story is light and relatable, especially for those who have lost tissue or toes with surgery!
Image of Jerry Leonard
Jerry Leonard · ago
"Angry blood vessels... inflate like pufferfish"... that figurative language!! So well-written. I felt like I could clearly envision every scene you described. Just detailed enough to pull me in but not lose me. I love it!

You might also like…

Short Fiction


Nicholas Perilli

A woman who claimed to be a chimera called the library most Tuesdays, on the old line they never got around to disconnecting after the renovations. The call went straight to a yellowed phone hung on... [+]

Short Fiction


Karen Heuler

“Who are you?” her mother asked.
“I’m your daughter, Alice.”
“I know that. But I mean, who are you?” Her mother’s eyes locked onto hers; she was clutching Alice’s eyes. What... [+]

Short Fiction

Plan B

Nicolas Juliam

I can see myself going into my shower, quite happily, whistling. I can also remember that irresistible urge to smoke. The one that comes upon you anywhere, at any time. And you have to obey it.
So I... [+]