When I Knew Big Foot
by Charles C. Cole
One day during break, Jonas Szeferes and I came in from the shipping yard. Ours was dirty work. Jonas, awkwardly quiet, liked his hands clean, as if he were delivering a baby. He was drying them when Mary-Margaret plunked her clementine peelings into the food disposal, hitting the switch. Distracted, he must have jumped a foot.
“Your hands,” she said, noticing. “You need to take better care of yourself. They’re so dry.” She held one up. “Look, Sue-Ellen.”
“Chapped and chafed,” agreed Sue-Ellen, clicking her tongue knowingly. “I’ll bet he doesn’t do the dishes much.”
Jonas pulled his hand away, but looked closer, interested.
“A man’s hands should be rough,” I said.
“Rough, but not parched, not bleeding.”
“Who’s bleeding?” asked Mr. Fillmore, the manager, poking his head out of his office.
“His hands are chapped,” said Mary-Margaret.
“Are you okay to work?”
“It’s nothing,” said Jonas.
“Why doesn’t someone lend him some hand cream? The girls’ll fix you right up.” Fillmore shook his head and ducked back out of sight, closing his door.
Later, Jonas and I were lifting a large refrigerator because the dolly was broken.
“My hands feel greasy,” Jonas said.
I tipped the unit back toward him. “Got it?” We hoisted it up between us and started walking down the ramp onto the dock.
“I think so,” he said.
“You think so?”
“We’re over halfway there, but if you need to stop...”
“I guess not.”
We were just stepping off the ramp when it happened.
“She’s going!” he cried. The refrigerator dropped right across his feet.
“You okay? I’ll get Fillmore.”
“Funny, they don’t hurt at all.”
Fillmore came running. “How do you feel, boy?”
“Tingly all over. And kind of hungry.”
“That’s the shock setting in,” blurted Sue-Ellen.
“I feel so responsible,” said Mary-Margaret, joining the scene.
Fillmore and I moved the fridge.
“It’s not like that. It’s a good tingling. I’m fine, really.”
“That’s for a doctor to decide,” said Sue-Ellen.
Fillmore had me drive Jonas to the clinic. Dr. Graves reported no broken bones, but he recommended Jonas alternate between keeping his feet up and soaking them. While Fillmore gave Jonas the rest of the day off, I was pretty sure it was only because Dr. Graves insisted.
That night, Jonas went contradancing because it was Thursday and that’s what he did Thursdays. For a big nothing, he was known for great flair on the dance floor, but this night, so I heard, he had two left feet. It was funny at first, then embarrassing.
The next day, Jonas was twitchy. “Something doesn’t feel right,” he said. “My feet feel heavier.”
“Heard you were out,” I said. “Did you at least soak them first? They’re probably still swollen from being smashed.”
“It’s something else, like they’re not my regular feet anymore.”
On Monday, Jonas arrived barefoot for work. His feet were whiter but, except for being the “wrong size” for his body, they didn’t appear damaged. I punched in and pulled him aside.
“Are you out of your mind?”
“My shoes don’t fit anymore,” he explained.
“So, do like the rest of us: buy another pair.”
“It won’t do any good; they’re just going to keep growing.”
Fillmore noticed. “How are the feet, Jonas?” he asked.
“I see that. Do they hurt?”
“Would you say you received adequate and timely medical attention?” Fillmore asked.
“Sure,” said Jonas.
Finally, Fillmore said, like it was an afterthought, “No shoes?”
“I got too big for them.”
“Jonas, here at Fillmore’s Cut-Rate Appliances, there’s no room for eccentricity, but I’ll be glad to be a reference.”
And he was gone. No longer co-workers, Jonas and I sort of came around to being friends. I’ve always had a soft spot for underdogs, being one myself. We were angling through the Burger Palace drive-through behind Millicent Pritchard, the head cheerleader for the Duquesne Sentinels, when I had an idea.
* * *
Sitting at his desk, Coach Ray, my brother-in-law, rolled the chewing tobacco around in his mouth before spitting into this plastic replica Grecian urn.
“You can always use a great place-kicker,” I insisted.
“He’s five years older than most of my boys.”
“He’s never done any high-schooling. You’d probably have him for four or even five years. He doesn’t smoke or drink and he plays a mean game of cribbage.”
“But can he kick?”
After the fifth straight time Jonas had booted the ball through the goal posts from the fifty-yard line, Coach Ray said, “What if they call it an unfair advantage? We can’t exactly hide those things.” Those “things” were, at the time, seemingly paused at a tight size 21 shoe.
“They’re one hundred percent Grade A natural. No drugs. If someone complains, think of the publicity you’ll get out of it.”
“He’ll make the papers for sure. And it’s not like our stats don’t have room for improvement. But if his feet shrink?”
“Then everyone’s still better than where they were before.”
I gave Jonas some breathing room for a few weeks. He went from awkward oddball to overnight sensation.
At the first pre-season exhibition game, the opposing coach threatened to take his ball and go home, except a college scout was there to watch his son, the quarterback. I saw Jonas later at a victory celebration. I had to wade through a sea of curious fans.
“Is this crazy?” he asked.
“So things are well?”
“A few kids go out of their way to step on my feet, but maybe that will change when they get to know me.”
“Been dancing lately?” I asked.
“Just at a friend’s house, and I knocked over two lamps. I’m taking a break from contradancing.”
“See you’ve got friends. That’s great!”
Two girls grabbed him and started pulling him back into the throng. “We caught Big Foot!” they cheered.
We shrugged our wordless goodbyes as he disappeared into the chanting crowd.
And that was the closest I ever came to knowing a celebrity.
Copyright © 2018 by Charles C. Cole