Skinny, 5th grade Malcomb was at the pool with his swim team. They had finished swimming and were horsing around in the dressing room as boys that age will do. Malcomb was at the end of the bench where he had a good view of the area. And that was fortunate because in came an older man with the ugliest foot and leg he had ever seen. The foot was large and stubby and overly red in color. It had no toes whatsoever and was attached to a somewhat matching leg that looked no better. It looked like something from a freak show.
Malcomb was both fascinated by this sight and distressed because none of his friends had seemed to notice. But the man with the ugly foot was close to him and looking his way, so he pretended not to notice. Then the man turned his back and started to the hair dryer nearby.
The man had noticed Malcomb noticing. Being a swimmer who often appeared shoeless and pantless in pool locker rooms, he had encountered the curiosity of young boys in the past. His most memorable occasion was once when a very small one went and brought his older brother in for a look, then went back and tried to get his mother to do the same. So he did know what was up when he heard Malcomb loud whisper out, “Hey Jason . . .!”
Anticipating something of the sort, the man at the hair dryer turned quickly. He caught Malcomb pointing and giggling, and the two made eye contact. Malcomb looked away quickly hoping he had not been detected but knowing he had. Any remorse was unapparent.
I thought about sticking my foot in his face and inviting him to take a better look. I actually considered doing this. Then the expression “boys will be boys” came to mind. Then I began an internal conversation with that expression. Boys should be taught better, I said. It’s one thing to laugh at someone who makes a fool of himself, but another to laugh at something a person had absolutely no control over. Such as the color of his skin or the fact that sometimes when they give out right feet a man gets a bad one.