Toenail Clippings

After the two really cool Creative Writing course stories which already have been posted (Carmen’s Casting Bones and Ciara’s Calling Mary) here’s one of mine. It’s a “shortest short”, written for last year’s Creative Writing course – hope you enjoy it!


It started last week, on Monday morning. I was on the bus on my way to work, when I suddenly noticed a tingling sensation in the middle finger of my right hand. I tried to get rid of it by moving my fingers and shaking my hand, but it would not cease. By the time I arrived at the office and started to work in my cubicle, the tingling had intensified and was painful, but, apart from being a bit irritating, it did not impede my work. It was when I wanted to leave, around five, that the finger came off. Without blood or pus or whatnot, it just detached from my hand. I was in a hurry because I wanted to catch the bus, so I put the finger into the outside pocket of my briefcase and left.

At tea, my wife noticed that I was eating even more clumsily than usual – she frequently criticises me about my table manners – and she noted, looking up from her newspaper with a frown: “You’re missing a finger, have you noticed?” I answered that I had, and tried to eat my soup with as little trickling as possible. “Have you lost it?” she asked, returning to the article she was reading, but I assured her that I hadn’t and that it was in my briefcase. We did not talk anymore for the rest of the meal.

The next day the same thing happened with my left thumb and two of my toes. Initially, there was this tingling feeling again, which intensified and stopped when the parts came off. I took the toes out of my sock before leaving the office lest I crush them while walking and I put them together with the thumb into the pocket of my briefcase.

That evening we met one of my wife’s friends and her husband in the Savoy for dinner, and I was happy that I had not lost any more fingers as we were having soup for starters. At one point, our conversation, naturally enough, turned to my falling apart, with my wife’s friend helpfully remarking: “You have to take care that you don’t lose any more body parts. A friend of mine started losing more and more of them and she had terrible trouble finding them again.” – “What happened to her?” asked my wife out of politeness rather than out of genuine interest. “I don’t know, really; they moved to Coventry,” her friend replied, and the two of them continued to talk about their old friends from college.

The next morning I woke up around five with the familiar tingling feeling, this time in my left ankle. I was annoyed, since if I were to lose one of my feet, it would look quite awkward when walking. I noticed, furthermore, that I had lost two more fingers and some toes during the night, and I set about finding them between the bed sheets in the dark. I remembered only too well what a row my wife had once started when she had found toenail clippings in the bed. “How disgusting of you to leave parts of your body in our bed! Do be more careful in future, won’t you?”

Fortunately, my foot did not come off during work, but it did so in the evening, just as my wife arrived home from tennis and I was watching telly. It was too big for the pocket in my briefcase; hence I put it, together with my collection of fingers and toes, into a little box I had found in the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink.

At breakfast the next day, I asked my wife whether I might have the car to go to work, since I did not know how I could possibly take the bus with only one foot (I figured I could still drive the car, as we have an automatic and it was only my left foot that was missing). She answered, “No, you know that on Thursdays I need the car because I have to drive to the community centre for my pottery class straight after work. You should be able to take the bus like that,” she added, walking out of the kitchen. “Just think how many handicapped people use public transport every day!”

When she had left for work with the car, I remained seated at the breakfast table for a while, pondering my situation. As I was finishing my tea, I felt my head begin to tingle. In that case, I thought, it would only be polite to call work and tell them I probably wouldn’t be in today.

Manu Signer


One response to “Toenail Clippings

  1. Witty, yet with a very realistic setting and characters – I liked the wife’s comments especially! Well-done!

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