Falling To Pieces: A Parable for Wooden Ears


One day, as Thomas was getting up, he stepped out of bed, and his foot fell off.

He stared down in horror at the perfectly smooth, almost ivory-like space at the bottom of his ankle.  With considerate symmetry, his former appendage had parted cleanly from his body. Thomas could at least be thankful for that.

The foot had fallen flat on top of the deep shag rug surrounding the bed, with all the seeming weight that his body had usually put behind it. When he was walking. When he’d used it to walk with.

Thomas’s brain started doing backflips: this would take some getting used to.

‘Is this shock?’ Thomas thought, trying to balance but eventually falling back onto the edge of the bed. ‘Am I in shock?’

He grabbed a pillow and held it to his face, burying his nose in its marshmallowy comfort. Thomas took a deep breath and counted to ten. When that didn’t work, he hazarded a further fifteen. No dice: so he then tried counting backwards, but this seemed too much like the timer of a bomb counting down to him, and the metaphor only fed his growing anxiety.

So, what next? What does one do when one loses one foot—one’s foot, that is?

Thomas sat bolt upright, throwing the comfort pillow into a passing herd of old clothes that were escaping his washing pile.


*             *             *

Doctor Harlow steepled his fingers and looked down his bifocals at a nervous Thomas. He glanced at the foot, pristine and whole, which was sitting on the white medical table before him.

‘So, what can I do for you today?’

Thomas looked at the doctor, glanced meaningfully down at his ankle, and then motioned with a raised eyebrow towards the foot.

Harlow smiled in a comforting, well-practiced manner. ‘You’re worried because your foot’s fallen off, I take it?’

Thomas nodded rapidly, crossing one leg over the over, and waving over the void at the bottom of his calf (much like a stage magician revealing a hidden rabbit). ‘I woke up, and it just happened. Poof. Foot was no longer attached. Obviously, this is a problem.’

‘Oh, I hardly think so,’ the doctor said, leaning back in his chair.

‘But, but … I need it to walk with!’

‘Come, come now, sir, let’s not over-exaggerate. You still have one other perfectly good foot.’ The doctor crinkled his eyebrows at Thomas.

‘Look, Doc, I’ve become very attached to that foot over the years.’

‘Well, rather less attached now, wouldn’t you agree?’ Harlow said, smiling pleasantly.

‘But it’s my foot. Mine. Me. What are we going to do?’

‘Mr… Fenchurch, is it?’ the doctor said, looking down at his chart. ‘May I call you, Fenny? Look, Fenny, let’s not leap to conclusions. Yes, your foot has fallen off, an inalienable fact. I would change it if I could,’ and here the doctor lifted his hands to the sky, ‘but I’m a mere doctor with limited means, not Jesus or Our Lord Almighty. There are any number of perfectly acceptable foot-alternatives available at the moment, so replacing the foot will, gladly, not be a problem. I think the main focus should be on why the foot has fallen off, yes? Our first port of call in our diagnosis, so to speak? ‘

‘But… can’t we at least try and reattach—’

Harlow made a short, crisp gesture. ‘No, I think not. Your foot, for all intents and purposes looks fine on the outside, but could be harbouring disease or infection. Your body had a very good reason for wanting to part itself from this foot. No doubt it is a bad foot, yes? Let us seize the opportunity and use it to its full!’

The doctor stood up and gently ushered Thomas out of the room. ‘Worry not for now, sir. Come back next Tuesday, yes? We shall run tests and touch base then. Take aspirin for any pains, and be sure to get plenty of bed rest.’

As a frowning Thomas hopped back to the waiting room, Harlow turned and quickly pushed the foot off the table, and into a bin labelled ‘Contaminated’.

‘Laymen,’ Doctor Harlow said, shaking his head.

*             *             *

The next day, as Thomas was getting up, he began to rub his eye, and his arm fell off.

His left one.

‘That’s my favourite arm!’ he exclaimed.

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