In the weeks leading up to the school sporting meet
my brother complained of an itch on his feet.
I thought he was faking it, thought it a gimmick,
but Mum packed him off in her car to the clinic.
‘I’ve got athlete’s foot,’ he said with a grin.
‘I’m so good at running, it’s gone to my skin.’
‘But look, here,’ I said to him. ‘I’m an athlete,
why haven’t I got that gunk on my feet?’
Dave laughed and giggled: ‘I’m special, that’s why!
I’ve got athlete’s foot and it’s making me fly!
Now I’ll get first place in the annual school race.
You see if I don’t, you’ll have egg on your face.’
Now, his teasing was childish, conceited, precocious –
but how could I match his dermatophytosis?
My plan was both brilliant and unorthodox,
I’d grow my own spores by wearing his socks.
So, two Umbro socks I found under his bed
(next to some half-eaten ham on brown bread)
were musty and dusty with patches of green –
compared to the sandwich, though, practically clean.
They were crusty and damp but they fitted a treat
and I wore them each day of the following week.
Success! – I’d grown seven types of foot fungus:
the angry raw patch on my toes was humongous.
The race was tomorrow, I’d done it in time
now I’d be the first runner over the line.
Spectators would chime out ‘We cannot dispute
on the end of each leg is a great athlete’s foot.’
But all was not well, the next day at the race
and just ten metres in I fell flat on my face.
I was writhing in agony, runner’s nightmare –
they carried me off then removed my footwear.
‘My God,’ cried out one. ‘That’s not what I expected,
Look here, Mrs Hudson, his foot’s all infected.’
I cried out, ‘But Mum, how else could I compete?
I had to match Dave and his two athlete’s feet!’
She sighed, ‘That’s just an expression, you fool!
He got athlete’s foot from the floor at the pool.
Let’s go back to the chemists and see if he’ll serve
some cream for your feet and some pills for my nerves!’
I rubbed in some ointment, and soon it cleared up.
Dave rubbed it in too – somehow, he’d won the cup.
Had I learned my lesson? Well, in a word, no.
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