For most people it is a word that means a group of male human beings or people working on the road.
But for my wife it is a exclamation of frustration, in some ways almost a cursing of a deity, although she hardly considers the people she is saying it about as gods or even demi-gods. She is usually saying it about me or one of my sons. Actually we are probably more like fallen angels in her eyes.
So there I stood in the bathroom, shaving as my wife walked in and stared at the floor.
"Look at those toes," she said peering toward my semi-large feet that are hooked to the end of my legs. I held my razor away from my face for fear I would accidentally stab myself and looked down at the pale pink feet peaking out from beneath the end of my blue jeans, highlighted by the curious red carpet that was on the floor when we bought the place.
They looked okay to me and I said so.
"They don't look okay," she continued as if I couldn't see my own feet. "You still have that discoloration in the nails. Can't you see it?"
I didn't bend over and look at my toes, because I knew what she was talking about. It was the ever present infection that makes one of my toe nails turn about 10 different colors.
"You need that stuff they advertise on television," she said as she looked in the tub to make sure I had cleaned drain strainer so water wouldn't accumulate in the tub from my loss of hair. Many of my friends are amazed that I have not turned gray, but then when you are losing it daily down the drain as fast as I am it doesn't have time to turn silver. "You have an infection in that toe nail. You need to go see the doctor or you'll lose that nail." Then she walked out and left the house to go to work.
I managed to finish shaving without cutting up my face and got dressed the rest of the way. I walked into my office to pick up some things I needed for work and as I peered down there was that brown Samsonite briefcase sitting under my desk. I looked at it and sneered.
"I blame you," I said to the square piece of poly that was sitting there so smugly. "It all began when you fell on my toe."
That was long time ago, before I used the valise sized case to store my tax papers in a "to go" form for those flash audits the IRS sometimes springs on people. It was a cold January morning and I was standing on the carport fumbling for my keys so I could get into my car and go to work. While I was doing that, a small dog I owned at the time came running up to greet me in his own special way. This pooch liked to urinate on peoples toes, but he only did it when we were outside the house so we accepted this idiosyncratic behavior from what was an otherwise normal canine.
As I tried to find the right key in the dark of a winter morning and my dog danced around trying to aim at my black oxfords, the brief case slipped from my grip. At the time this was not the lightweight case it is today. No, it contained many valuable files that made my management world run, so it probably weighed about 50 pounds. And it landed hard with three of it's metal feet smacking with a clank on the cement. The fourth metal foot met my toe and despite a thick layer of top grain leather separating the two, it made me scream.
My big toe felt like it was caught in Moe's nose grip ala the Three Stooges. I danced around calling out many names, some of which I have not repeated since. Lights came on in the sleepy neighborhood and people came out of their houses to see what the noise was about. My wife came out too.
"What is wrong," she said, with a makeup brush still in her hand. The dog was working harder than ever to catch up with my jig so he could cool down my toe.
"I dropped that #!%*#@&* brief case you bought me on my toe," I screamed.
"Well you don't have to yell," she said as she walked back toward the door. "Come in and we'll look at it."
I followed her into the kitchen and sat down. The dog was now inside too. Luckily he only liked to skeet shoot at outside venues. I pulled my shoe and sock off. The toe already looked like a very large concord grape.
My wife stared down at it.
"Your going to lose that nail," she said matter of factly. "It looked strange before, now it is even worse. You are going to lose that nail."
No way I thought. Years before my ex-wife had tried to remove the same toe from my foot by running a vacuum cleaner over my bare feet for the fun of it and that didn't make the nail fall off, despite months of pain and discoloration. Same toe, same result. The nail never came off. As far as I was concerned it was an indestructible shield of dead cells. I told my wife this.
"Your going to lose that nail," she said again, in the same tone mothers say "You'll shoot your eye out" to nine year olds who want BB guns.
I didn't lose it, but it has never been the same since. I guess running parts of a body through mechanical devices and having huge weights attached to what amounts to a spike heel fall on them is not consistent with good health.
So, ever since I have had a deformed big toe nail. It actually seems to change colors, depending on the holiday that is currently in vogue. Around July 4, it turns red, white and blue. At Christmas the red seems more pervasive, but there are also specks of green. At Easter, pastel yellows and pinks appear.
So I have heard about this toe from my wife for nearly 20 years now, but even worse, I think she has spread the word about it's condition as well.
Last week my boss gave me a manicure set for Christmas with a great big pair of toe nail clippers in it. That precipitated me telling her the story of my toe nail. And you know what she said?
"You know, eventually, you are going to lose that nail."