I don’t know what it is about toenail clipping that sets my teeth on edge so. Though, there are a few moments from the past that could prove instructive. Crazy D, as a wee boy, went to judo class and I remember once him coming home having been relieved of his big toenails after a particularly nasty run-in with the mats upon which they trained.
And then, in my teenage years, there was my folly of going to Lollapollooza and specifically rocking about in the mosh pit without the benefit of steel-toed boots. After a good eight hours of being stomped on by people much bigger than I, who, quite frankly, may not have even realised I was there– so small in stature I was by comparison– my big toenails simply turned black and threatened to fall off. Which would’ve been the decent thing to do. But they didn’t. They hung on for quite some time and I have a very clear memory of having to tape them on when I went to swim practice. There is no physical sensation more blood curdling than the feeling of one’s toenails flapping about in the water.
Later, in my London days, when enjoying the lido at London Fields, I picked up some kind of hideous fungal infection in my foot, which at first (and by at first I mean about six to eight months) I thought was just some kind of dry skin or one of my usual mild and unnamed rashes showing off. Turns out it wasn’t and my baby toenail has never recovered.
I don’t know what it is about toenails that is so difficult. Why are they like that? Why must they be so unpleasant and difficult? Why must they loathe having shoes put over them, catch on tights and become ingrown?
At any rate, they do.
So the canaries have my deepest sympathies. Why, I remember sometime in my Toronto years, two of my best girlfriends cornering me and insisting I cut my nails at the next possible opportunity. I wasn’t offended, and could see where they were going, but to me, the clipping of toenails is something done only under duress.
Which might possibly explain why the birds hate it so much. The canary toenails do get out of hand quite quickly and The Mom is right when she says there’s not much she can do about it on her own. It’s a two-person job at the best of times.
Though, at least the canaries’ feet are all sort of pointed in the right direction. Newton, my old parakeet, after having suffered some kind of chipmunk-induced trauma, came out of it with his toes all turned the wrong way round. So much so that on one of his feet there was the nail I just referred to as his nose picking nail –which it truly was. His nose, or rather his sinuses – were unaccustomed to The Mom’s preference for A/C and didn’t care much for the heating in the winter either. In order to loosen things up, he would occasionally be found trying to sort things out by scraping his nose out with his fang-toothed toenail, which I thought was fascinating…other people less so.
I am sad, in a way, to have missed this all too infrequent event at home – in fact, it’s normally me and L’il Sis in charge of doing it because The Mom gets a bit nervous with these sorts of things. I am impervious to the biters and squirmers, while L’il Sis is some kind of bird-whisperer and is also of very steady hand – so can cut the nails without catching the ‘quick’ and spilling any blood.
The Mom is always sort of reluctant to bother the canaries with any sort of toenail clipping business, and for a time I could kind of see where she was going with it, though that didn’t stop me from insisting we deal with it whenever I’m home.
But recently, I’ve begun work on my next novel and have been thinking rather a lot about toenails. And the fact that these are what’s going to be the end of us all: as we age, our toenails become even more disgusting: they yellow, get thick and hard in a way that doesn’t bear thinking about. This makes them tricky to cut. Add to that the fact that a lot of people aren’t terribly flexible and can’t even reach their feet, and you’ve got some kind of perfect storm: you can’t reach your feet, nails don’t get cut and pretty soon it’s too difficult to put your shoes on and so you think, Fuck this noise, I’m not going out. You become increasingly isolated and then you die – alone, with hobbit-like feet.
This ranks right up there with the nuisance that is caring for my teeth. I’m not looking forward to the rise of the robots, but I tell you this: my kingdom to the person that comes up with cyborg-like implants for my teeth and my toenails.