Royal Franklin’s limp is hard to miss. He hobbles along like Clyde Barrow was said to do, and for the same reason: two missing toes on the left foot. Unlike Clyde, however, Royal didn’t do it to himself on purpose. Clyde hacked his off with a hoe in order to avoid the hard labor of Eastham Prison Farm down in Houston County. (This was before he and Bonnie went on their spree, naturally, because after their spree, he did nothing but rot in a Dallas grave). Royal says that he went from ten to eight when he stepped on a toe-popper in Vietnam, but everybody who’s old enough to remember knows it happened instead during a drunken game of barefoot mumbledy-peg after he got back to town from Fort Polk (which was as close to Vietnam as he ever got). Rather than playing with pocket knives as smarter folk do, he and Dorie Gilliland decided to impress their girlfriends and play with Bowies freshly sharpened on a spit-wettened carborundum stone. As the story goes, Royal’s throws had Dorie on the verge of splitting his jeans when Dorie sunk a toss into Royal’s left boot down to the cross-guard, thus forever separating the little piggy that had none and the little piggy that cried wee wee wee all the way home from their three little piggy brothers. 

To this day, Dorie says it was an accident, and maybe it was, but Royal never forgave him. It probably didn’t help that Royal’s girlfriend left him while he was still laid up, or that when he was finally able to hobble over to the Bar None on crutches he discovered that she’d left him for Dorie. Or that she then married Dorie a year later. For a wedding gift, Royal gave them an ornately carved box. Inside it were his toes, which he’d saved. They’d dried and shriveled into something resembling shelled pecans. Rumor has it that Royal’s old girlfriend and Dorie’s new wife fainted and dropped the box, which caused the toes to tumble across the kitchen floor and under the fridge, where they remain to this day. 

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Kevin Grauke is the author of Shadows of Men (Queen's Ferry Press), which won the Texas Institute of Letters’ Steven Turner Award for Best First Work of Fiction. Originally from Dallas, he now teaches at La Salle University and lives in Philadelphia, where he is a lonely Cowboy amidst Eagles.