The Podiaphile

by M. Thomas Gammarino

I entered this business on a quest to locate the perfect pair: feet like butter rolls, golden and glossy, not too soft nor too tough, youthful though mature, darling but by no means precious, unblemished, clipped, not a hair to speak of, sleek but full, pink heel, toes whose lengths make sense with respect to one another, arches elegant and neither too steep nor too flat, feet that bespeak a certain innocence and sensuality at once, that have gallivanted over grass and kicked through the sea, nimble feet that dance and leap and never crack, feet moist and fragrant but by no means smelly, feet that have never ever been inside a man's mouth before.

To think just yesterday I'd almost called the quest off. Mrs. Blitzer was in for her gazzillionth pair of lavender pumps this month. As always, I was curt and cross-armed and tried to make the experience as unpleasant for her as possible this side of getting myself fired. But she just plopped herself down on her usual chair, sighing as she freed her carbuncular dogs from their lavender cages and bore their horror to the world. In my two years here I've never seen a pair to rival them, so bloated and cracked and blood-encrusted, riddled with corns and bunions, and that geriatric stink that never fails to rend my guts. I excused myself and ran to the bathroom. A gracious coworker covered for me while I spent the next half-hour purging my stomach of lunch and my memory of those hideous feet.

I was mere moments away from handing in my resignation, when today happened. Christine Paumier walked in just like any other customer: she studied the displays, she picked up a sneaker. As soon as I caught sight of her, my palms clammed up and my heart started going like a speed bag. "Do you have this in a five-and-a-half?" she asked.

Language arts, fourth grade: Christine's sitting in the front row, twirling a ringlet of hair around her finger and chewing a piece of watermelon bubble gum. The day is chilly and she's wearing navy blue stockings. Her right leg dangles over her left knee, her penny-loafer hangs from her big toe and she's dandling it to and fro in time with the chewing of her gum. Her navy blue stockings are torn around her right heel, exposing a section of pink flesh to the sunlight streaming in through the diaphanous curtains. Her heel glistens, which glistening I imagine to be sweat, though not disgusting ureic sweat like mine so much as a kind of holy chrism, the essence of Girl distilled down to an unguent in which I ache to be anointed.

"What did you say?" I asked. I gazed down at her feet—she was wearing black leather boots with silver zippers up the sides.

"I said do you have these in a five-and-a-half?"

"Oh, right. I…uh…I'll be right back." I pivoted on my heel and made for the stockroom. I was halfway there when I realized I'd forgotten what shoe she wanted. As I approached her again, she gave me a distinct what-is-it-now look. "What shoes did you say you wanted?" I asked.

She held up a white Reebok and I made a point of memorizing the model this time. I also made a point of noticing how magnificent she looked. Last I'd heard she'd moved to Indiana to work as a newscaster. I never expected to see her back in these parts again. "Be right back," I said, and for the life of me, I would.

I took down a box of five-and-half's, plus a size above and a size below to be on the safe side. I stifled my erection with one of the boxes and returned to my unwitting seductress, who was still standing where I'd left her, though talking on her cell phone now: "I'll be there soon, my gaawd. I just dropped in the mall for a minute. Yes I'm buying shoes. What's wrong with buying shoes?" We made fleeting eye contact and I guided her to a chair. She crossed her legs and they shot off spangles of fluorescent light. I knelt before her on the floor and unzipped her boots. I could hardly breathe. I have loved only this pair of feet in my entire life—never would I have believed I'd see them again.

I took hold of both her boots and stripped them from her legs. She was wearing knee-high stockings underneath and I peeled them off as well. She smelled like a church. I wanted to cry.

"My gaawd," she was saying, rolling her eyes at whomever she was talking to on the phone. "Will you relax? I'll be home soon."

I took a foot in each hand and caressed their soles with my fingers. The years had left their mark in the way of tough patches around the heels and balls, but for once I found this perfectly lovely.

I could not refrain a second longer. I lowered my head, extended my tongue, and dragged it along the sole of her right foot from heel to toe. I was just about to envelop her pinky toe in my mouth when she yanked her foot away and thrust it back into the bridge of my nose. A flabby reverberating pop inside my head. Blood poured from my face onto her feet and I rubbed it in as she kicked and caterwauled. Some customer-hero took me in a full nelson while I cried out, "I'm sorry, Christine, but you don't know how I've dreamt of this!"

"Josh Neddleson?" she said, and I nodded my head vigorously. "Oh my gaawd, I just realized who you were." "It's me," I said. "It's me!" And she proceeded to kick me over and over again in the face. The customer-hero held me in place and did nothing to stop her, and to tell the truth I was glad of it. I was happy. I stuck out my tongue and begged for everything but mercy.


M. Thomas Gammarino has an MFA from The New School and is currently working towards a PhD at the University of Hawaii. Some of his recent stories have appeared in Square One, Lily Lit Review, and The Apple Valley Review. He's within spitting distance of completing his first novel.

The Podiaphile
© 2007 by M. Thomas Gammarino






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