Gaily Painted Toes

I looked down at my feet and was surprised to see they were bleeding. I couldn’t feel anything, momentarily I thought the blood might not be mine but looking around me I figured it must. So much smashed rubbish lying all over the floor; I couldn’t have walked through it without cutting my soles to shreds. It was the analgesia of the cold making my feet so numb. Cold & damp penetrating through the few clothes, tattered & filthy as they were, that I had on. I began looking around for some clue as to where the hell I was. It seemed like I was in a derelict warehouse, the roof had caved in and the sun was coming up, the dawn’s rosy light fragmented by the joists and rafters into fingers which pointed out the detritus previously concealed by shadow in the corners of the space I now occupied.
I started picking my way through the shattered tiles, broken bottles and rusting cans left behind by the disparate groups who had shared and exchanged the space before. Making my way toward a bent steel door the sun began warming the flesh of my shoulders, the back of my head and my spine. As I pushed the door open it shuddered and screeched as the rusted hinges were forced from their reverie into unhappy action.
Once outside, unsurprisingly, I found myself among weeds growing through cracks in concrete and tarmac. My bloodied feet smashed the swirling, rippling polychromatic whorls in the greasy puddles that were accumulated between the crevices. As I padded a trail through the muck and encroaching greenery the sun continued to warm me, as it did so the deadness rescinded from my limbs and I began to feel the keening of every scratch and bruise I had suffered. The frayed hem of my dress dragged on the feathery limbs of the plants as if they were catching at me, tugging at my clothes as if to grab my attention. They tried to hold me back or remind me of something I had neglected to resolve. I knew what they were asking but I didn’t want to have to think of that now. To think too clearly about what had happened wouldn’t help me find my way out of this wilderness. I just wanted to find my way back to civilisation and the comforts of hearth and home.
Exhaustion was beginning to take overtake me. I’d been awake all night and I wasn’t thinking too clearly any more, my eyes were growing sore and gritty. I felt so tired I was starting to feel dizzy. At the entrance to the yard was a bank of earth and rubble now overgrown. The berm was laid across the road to prevent travellers entering and making this space their own. I sat down. I laid down in the waist high grass and was soon carried away by Morpheus, kept warm by the sun’s gaze.
Once I awoke the sun was high, the blood on my feet was now black and flaky while my skin had begun to redden. I needed a strategy. Now I was able to think lucidly I was able to prioritise, I was famished and thirsty, I had no money or phone and I needed to get home.
I set off limping a little along the road that led from the warehouse toward nothing in particular. I simply assumed that at the end of the lane I would find a way back, an A road or at least a sign for a town or village. I was hoping I would be able to hitch a ride into the nearest town and once there I could begin to tease the tangled threads of my life back into some sort of order. The further along I travelled the more apparent it became that I wasn’t just on the edge of some industrial town but I was deep in the wilds of the countryside. When the lane I was walking did finally merge with another road it was simply straighter & a little wider, not the multi-laned highway I had allowed myself to hope for. However, cresting the brow of the first hill I came to I saw a small, huddled village a mile or two further along. My heart sang with joy while my feet still screamed with pain. The day had become hot after last nights rain and the sharp gravel of these now arid lanes had defeated them entirely. It was in my mind’s eye that I skipped into the village. The truth was that I ambled in hobbling and staggering, leaning my weight against trees, walls and the village post box as I took frequent rests from my labours.
I found my way to the police station where the blood, tar & grit were cleaned from my feet. The cleansing scorch of the disinfectant felt cathartic, my feet were wound in soft white crepe bandages fresh from the first aid box. I was offered the loan of a pair of shoes that belonged to the local bobby’s daughter. We were about the same size but I refused. The thought of having my feet in shoes never truly appealed to me and the bindings I bore were quite comfortable enough for the time being.
I explained to the officer who I was and where I came from and it appeared I had been missed, not just me but mother too. No body had seen us since we left the house early yesterday evening. Where had I been? Where was my mother now? When had I last seen her? These questions bothered me anyway but the village’s ‘thin blue line’ put voice to my own anxiety..
Where had we been? Simple, out for a drive to collect a few more provisions for last night’s party. The guests would be hungry and thirsty, not simply because it was a sultry summer’s eve but that particular gang of freeloaders and ne’er-do-wells were all raging alcoholics, mother included.
Where was my mother now? I remember now, she’ll be were I left her. That much would have been obvious to anyone had they known what had happened.
When had I last seen her? Now we really come to it. The memory pushed it’s way thought the diaphanous gauze of not really wanting to remember but one must, but when you do, don’t tell, never tell. How can you tell any-one that the last time you saw your mother was when you had your pretty, graceful, tender foot pressed down on the back of her head, pushing her face into greasy, feted stagnant water, your gaily painted toes gripping her hair as the life bubbled out of her and the filth sank in?

Gaily Painted Toes

Dan Cash

Brighton, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Recovering bad memories

Artwork Comments

  • deb cole
  • Dan Cash
  • Jim Hall
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