The terrible story of my left big toe

The terrible story of my left big toe

This is a cautionary tale and it all started like this.

“Stop the car! I need to look at that shelf!”

And he did, because sitting on the curb for free was the cutest little shelf you ever did see. We all need a shelf to put more books on, and because we were perusing houses in a neighborhood he likes, he pulled over.

I jumped out of the car and went over to take a look. The shape was just what I wanted, but could see that it was compressed wood. My heart sank, but because I am the thrifter that I am, I needed to look it over. I pulled it forward and in that instant my next six months changed forever. The top shelf fell out and with an innocuous plop, fell directly on my left big toe.

It hurt. Bad. And when I got back in the car I told him what happened and he laughed in a decidedly derisive way and said, “That’s why you shouldn’t pick things out of people’s trash.”

George doesn’t like curbing. He thinks it’s ridiculous while I find it thrilling. He didn’t have much in his growing up years and picking through trash is intolerable to him. I, however, will dig through whatever it takes to find something cool.

My mom used to take us on rides in the country and you can bet she knew all the places that people dumped rusty junk. My love affair with it began deep in the Holmes County hillsides in the woods, traipsing through discarded things. My heart beats fast just writing this.

But not him, so when he actually pulled over for me to check out the shelf I was in disbelief. I can count on one hand the times he’s stopped for curbed pieces.

—Wilmot: round wooden coffee table with lions for drawer pulls

And as I tried to think of the second piece he’d stopped for I couldn’t — because it’s only been once in 35 years together.

I should digress, because he will stop at almost any garage sale and he buys with aplomb. He loves the Habitat Restore and Stockpile in Canton, and will sit in the car while I meander the big Goodwills up there. It’s the curbing where he seems to draw the line.

But my toe.

I knew it was a bad hit and I’m no rookie when it comes to not wearing sandals when you’re picking junk. But it was a Sunday and we’d just had tacos — no one was prepared to go curbing. My toes were nestling safe in the Birkenstocks, but were now throbbing in pain. And I was ticked.

I tried to deny what would happen. I even had my daughter in law give me a pedicure, thinking the gel procedure would keep the nail in place. And for two months it did. I was silently rejoicing that I had beaten that shelf drop and wouldn’t lose my nail.

But then it started to do funny things, growing thicker and thicker, rising up from the nail bed like a mummy coming out of its sarcophagus. And one day when I was out to lunch with friends, I went in with a bright orange left toe nail, and to my horror came out the door without one. I didn’t know where it had fallen off and I’m sorry to whoever found ir.

All because of a cute little shelf sitting on the curb.

This is all TMI, I know. But the story couldn’t be more me because of my absolute death wish to sift through all the junk. George just laughs at me as I pamper my toe and watch each day for it to grow back so I can paint it again just in time for fall colors .

“You deserve it, babe,” he said.

I just tell him to shut up because I know I’ll do it again the minute I see an enticing pile stacked up on the curb. And if you see me around town with a bandaid on my foot, just smile and mind your own business.

Melissa Herrera is a published author and opinion columnist. She is a curator of vintage mugs and all things spooky, and her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” can be found at For inquiries, to purchase her book or anything else on your mind, email her at or find her in the thrift aisles.

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