When the foot man finally shows up, he’s nicer, somehow, than Elkie remembered. He shakes her hand and kisses her cheek, and tells her to keep her underwear on. Then, yes, he masturbates while sucking on her toes, but he’s done quick and it doesn’t tickle too much.
“Those blisters are huge,” he says. “It’s good you didn’t try to pop them.” He buckles his pants without bothering to zip his fly, then he reaches for a briefcase by the nightstand. “I have a couple things.” He pulls out a first-aid kit with a tiny bottle of yellow liquid, which he explains is castor oil, and cotton balls. He pours the castor oil on the cotton and wipes Elkie’s arches.
“Do you lift heavy objects?” he asks her. “Maybe carry them around the room? You have interesting callouses.”
“I lift my grandma when my mom needs help.” Elkie is surprised at how much she likes the cold feeling of the oil on her feet. It soothes her blisters almost instantly. She wonders whether the foot man carries around his first-aid kit all the time, how he got so helpful, if he inherited helpfulness genes. If he comes from a long line of podiatrists.
“Your grandmother can’t walk?” the foot man asks. He is circling her blisters, playfully, with the cotton.
“Or talk to us. She had a stroke, an embolism. Now she can only speak German.”
“Is she from Germany?” The foot man is squeezing her toes again, breathing hard.
Elkie figures if he’s asking questions, he wants her to keep talking. “She’s never told us.” Elkie tries to sound untroubled and sexy for the foot man, but her grandmother’s past is a sore subject. Before the stroke, if anybody ever asked Elkie’s grandmother about her childhood, she’d stare off into space and mouth something to herself for maybe a half-hour, ignoring the people around her. A person could pull the chair out from under her when she got like this, and she wouldn’t notice.
The foot man is looking at Elkie expectantly, like he wants more of an explanation, so she says, “Grandma used to get weird when we asked where she was from. Even Grandpa had no idea. But she didn’t even have an accent before the stroke.”
“Maybe she practiced to get rid of it.” He throws the cotton swabs in the trash bin and pulls a pack of moleskins from his first-aid kit, placing one over each of Elkie’s blisters. His fly is still open, and his penis sticks out erect in front of him.
“My mom says I should take German next semester,” Elkie says.
“Das ist eine gute Idee,” says the foot man. He masturbates again, then he packs up his first-aid kit and briefcase and tips her a full hundred on his way out. Even Don never gave her this big a tip, not even that first night at the Pussycat, though he did spend freely on champagne.
Elkie turns on her phone one last time and is relieved to see no new messages from Don’s wife. She lounges around the room waiting for the next client, the second new client, but he never gets in touch. Elkie’s been stood up. She blocks his email and his phone number, grabs her bookbag from under the bed, and then heads to her car.