Toe, Party of One by Aubrie Artiano

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You’ve just walked in the door, stripped off your Lycra and turned on the shower when you see it: the toe.

Not an ordinary toe; not a toe attached to a foot attached to a leg attached to a body. No. This is a severed toe. Freshly severed. It’s upright and propped against the wall. At first, you think it’s a mouse. A bug. A wad of Lisa’s hair. Anything but a toe. It’s the most perturbing thing you’ve ever seen; an upright severed toe.

You squat down and narrow your eyes. It is certainly a toe, no mistaking it, and by the look of it, the toe has been cauterised.

An intentional, thoughtfully severed toe.

But how did it find its way into the bathroom? Whose toe is it? A neighbour’s? Lisa’s? No. You’d seen Lisa’s perfectly manicured toes that very morning, stretched out across your bed, and then again when she wedged them into your woolly green socks.

You inch nearer. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the toe. The flesh is pale, the toenail is unpainted but trimmed short. It can be anyone’s toe, really. But no one has been in your flat, just you and Lisa, and Lisa left before you. Perhaps an estate agent came in, one of those random checks, and somehow cut off his toe. Cut off someone else’s toe? How ludicrous. Has the toe been planted? Are you being set up for toe-slaughter?

The front door to the flat opens and shuts. You freeze.

“Matt?” Lisa’s voice calls. You panic. The toe has to go. You reach down to grab it but think better of it. You can’t have your fingerprints on it. Instead, you wad up some toilet paper and carefully lift it from the floor.

“Matt?” Lisa is trying the knob.

“Just a second!” You cry. You drop the toe into the toilet and flush.

“Unlock the door, please,” she says.

“Sorry!” You’re sweating.

“Let me in, Matt.” You look down. The toe isn’t flushing.

“OK! One second!” You flush again. No good. It just circles the drain. Now you have to reach in with your bare hand.

“What are you doing in there?” Lisa’s impatient. Time is nearly up. You unlock the door and leap into the shower, toe in hand. You stand beneath the scalding water.

“Matt, you all right?” Lisa asks.

“Fine, yes! Just rinsing off.”

“Matt?” Lisa asks.

“Mhmm?”

“What have you done with the toe?” You freeze.

“What?”

“Do you have it?” You look down, the toe is poised between your thumb and index finger.

“Yes,” you say, dubiously.

Lisa peels back the curtain and holds out her palm.

“Give it here, then,” she says. You do as she says.

From the shower you watch Lisa wrap the toe in toilet paper and chuck it into the bin.

“Good.” She smiles. “So, how does Chinese sound for dinner?”

You blink.

“Chinese sounds great.”

******

Aubrie Artiano

Aubrie is a writer and doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths College. Previously, she completed an MA in creative and life writing. Her fiction has appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine and Goldfish, among others. Originally from Washington DC, Aubrie lives, writes, works, and studies in London.

Instagram – @aarty12

Cover Image Carola68

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