this little piggy played in the mud…

by bam

all my life, my toes’ve wanted to curl up and hide. they are not proud, long wigglers, the sort you see when you flip through the slick glossy magazines, the slicks you might not subscribe to but might maybe flip through as you sit at the doctor’s, waiting your turn to get poked, prodded and measured. to see if, perhaps, you’ve grown any which way–up, down, or sideways–since same time last year.

no, indeedy. my toes are decidedly the sort you would not find in a tight shot in some hollywood movie, where the lens pans the bedsheets, starting down at the wiggly pigglies.

nope, not the toes you would find playing peek-a-boo with the dare-me-to straps of some high-steppin’ manolo blahniks.

in fact, my l’il baby toe pretty much has gotten along curled half in a ball, her sweet little end part (you can’t quite call it a toenail since it’s mostly not there; there’s no room for polish, not even a speck) cowering there under her next-door toe.

(note to self: be sure to ask for a discount, the eight-toe cut-rate, next time at the pedicure palace. note no. 2, this one to you, dear read-along reader: i only get pedicures when my newspaper pays, or i find i’m the bride. thus, the rare recent spell in the vibrating chair. but that’s tiptoeing ahead in this bare-footed epic.)

so help me, last thing i ever thought is some man with a really long lens would come to my house, bang on my door, tell me to take off my socks and my shoes and go stand in the mud.

but, dang, that’s what happened today.

i stood like a stork. he shuttered away. clickclickclickclick.

folks driving by, must really have wondered. (hmm, i just realized, more likely than not they musta figured right off he was a scientist zeroing in on the emerald ash borer or some other tree bug. highly unlikely they wasted a thought thinkin’ my shriveled ol’ toes could be in the cross-hairs of quite such a ruckus. so much for wowing the neighbors.)

ain’t easy, i tell you, bein’ a foot model. there i was ankle-deep in the weeds, mosquitoes flittin’ all over, thinking, most likely, “hey, here’s a sucker, all right. we bite, she wiggles. but, darn thing, she won’t barely budge. just stands there, making like the post of a mail box, only minus the letters.”

that would be me, two denim posts, spilled out to bare naked feets. slathered with mud, for effect.

it was real mud, all right. nothing faux about that. but the whole standing there thing. that was really all just for show, for the picture. for my odd little feets’ short season of fame.

fame, you ask? re-reading the word. thinking surely you must’ve read wrong. mais, non. it’s the relative truth.

here, let me explain: come the week after next, i bare my toes, in no little way. whole spread of a news page, as a matter of fact. my feets quite big enough, thank you, for you to set down your coffee, right there where the little one curls.

i figgered you might like a warning. might wanna hold off the paper that morn, till after you wolf down your eggs, or guzzle your OJ.

so here is the warning: week after sunday, beware of my bare naked toes, all smothered in mud on a page in the news. not hidden inside, but right out in front. on the cover, in fact, of the gardeny section. no namby-pamby, half-footsie under the table, not here anyway. this is bold, skin-struttin’ stuff.

the backstory behind the fame of my feets is basically, straight-forwardly, this: it’s just that i noticed that this here sunshiney season, the one when what grows in the garden calls out your name, well, it’s pretty much the time of the year when really–if you’re inclined toward the garden at all–you’d do best to wear gloves and at least little anklets, whenever you step out of the beds.

this time of the year, it’s one of two things: mud season, or, the dehydrated version, the season of dirt.

if you, like me, can’t stay out of the dirt, well then, you know what i mean: you can’t for the life of you leave the garden behind. it sticks and it clings, in streaked epidermis. gives you away, in great hard-to-ditch globs, for the mudcake you are.

the cringe comes in moments like this: you reach for your wallet to pay for your groceries, and all of a sudden, you notice your arm. looks like maybe you just came from the spa. uh, huh. that’s what you hope the cashier is thinking. that maybe you just had a mud bath. some rare siberian mud, slathered from head to your toe, only the timer went off, and the slatherer missed a few spots, when hosing you down. so you up and you left, still slightly streaked.

only what really happened was this: you got carried away. one weed led to another. and next thing you knew, you, once again, looked like a mud puddle with legs.

remember dear pigpen? the mess who was charlie brown’s friend? the one who, wherever he walked, poofed up fat little clouds of pure uncensored dirt?

well, yes. ‘tis the season, and, as often happens when a wee little thought takes a trip through my brain, i wound up spinning a yarn for my dayjob.

told tales of all sorts of folks with frankenstein shoes, caked with inches of mud. smelling a tad like manure. going all sorts of places–the hair-dye parlor, the grocery, even the diner. not noticing, till they saw all the stares, that they, once again, had succumbed to the filth that is the plight of the everyday gardener.

and so, in that odd-round-about way that is the life of a muck-raking scribe, i got the note in the mail from my boss: would you please bare your toes to the world? show off your mud paws? just stand in the dirt, and make like the mess that you are?

except for the bug bites, ‘twas all rather painless.

and now i know how it feels to get (somewhat) paid to stand there and twiddle my toes.

and here’s the biggest relief: when the man with the lens yelled to take it all off, i had to only obey from the ankles on down. and only to prove that a happy gardener is a muddy one, too.

now i know what you’re thinking. what in tarnation does all this have to do with my life? well, maybe not much. maybe you are pristine in your pruning of weeds. maybe you don’t make like a piglet and roll in the mud. or maybe you too have tales of how you, like me, and my friend with the frankenstein mudboots, forget and forget that what we do in the garden, sticks like ooze to our hide-and-seek parts. what, pray tell, are the tricks up your cuffs or your sleeves, to stay clean as a whistle when plucking the weeds, or simply picking the posies of summer?