From the time he was born, everyone who visited the boy’s family remarked on the beauty of his small, perfect feet. Cousins, aunts, uncles, friends – they all took notice of the impossibly high insteps, the faultless curvature of the arch which ran from the ankle all the way to the toes. They came to the house often and stood adoring at the foot of the boy’s crib.

He should be a ballet dancer, with those feet.

Just like his father!

But his father never had those feet! No one has ever been so lucky!

His father, seated in the opposite corner of the room, struggled to appear indifferent to their comments. He bristled at the touch of another to his son, his face rushing at once with a sudden suffering, as if someone had struck him from behind. His eyes widened with each innocent stroke of his son’s tiny feet and he stared with suspicion at the friends who surrounded the crib. The shadows their figures cast upon the carpet grew darker as the afternoon sun burned through the window pane. He turned away and focused on the window for as long as he could until the sunlight began blinding him. Yet still he continued to stare, reveling in the sensation for a second past the moment it registered as pain. He finally rose from his chair to lower the blind, but he hardly seemed to have the strength in to pull the chain, and he began to perspire in the heat of the light pouring through the glass. His hands shook with the effort. When he finally managed to lower it he could see almost too clearly and the plainness of the room startled him. Despite the general chatter among the group and some Chopin from the radio there was a silence pounding at him. It beat at him as he looked upon the white walls, grey without the daylight. It beat at him as he looked upon the old photographs of himself dancing which lined the mantle. The beating only worsened when he looked upon his son, asleep in the crib, surrounded by his worshippers.  

What do you think, huh?  

Gonna get your son in the business? They are starting them younger and younger now!

Well he’s got it! Aren’t you glad you finally got the feet you always wanted?

They laughed at the last remark. He could scarcely hear them. The silence enveloped him. It had enveloped the space between him and the crib, the space between him and the old photographs. He floated over to the crib and stood smiling down at his son’s sleeping face, at his lips which parted ever so slightly in his dreams, at his feet just peeking out from beneath the blanket. He felt the weight of his own arch flat against the floor as he stood gazing at the baby’s feet. The feet for which he had ached, for which he had spent his entire career wishing. Looking down at his own toes, deformed from years of dancing, he grew dizzy from the remembrance of the hours he spent stretching them, breaking them. All in hopes of the ideal line which remained nothing more than an unborn horizon. Yet now it seemed so close as he cradled his son’s feet in his hands. He held the essence of all his anguish and failure in one tiny little foot, which finally he could twist as easily as it had twisted him. The beating silence deafened him and he could not hear the cries, only the soft Chopin waltzes which always made him want to dance.

 

By Phoebe Roberts

 

“Baby Feet” by David Dodge is licensed under CC BY 2.0.