All that could be heard was the dull clacking of teeth as Johnny sucked away during the simmering silence. Clack-clack-clack. Red and blue lights flashed through the blinds and seemed to highlight the unconscious woman taped to the armchair. Her head covered in a helmet of gray tape to keep her tight in place.
A man’s voice through a scratchy megaphone called his name from down on the street. He ignored it. Clack-clack-clack.
–Fucking hell Johnny, spit it out.
He did. The tooth hit the wooden table with a sharp sound. White and triangular, like a fat icicle covered in spit. He gave a blank look and then defiantly reached into the stoneware salad bowl, fished out a molar with a nerve end still attached, tubular and sticky and red with a dark line inside it. Almost black, almost translucent. He stuck it in his mouth and started sucking again with a smirk.
–I don’t know why. Aha, ha! I guess I do. I just love the way she brushed them. I don’t even know her name.
–So we still don’t know her name?
–No, saw her in the bathroom across the street. Kept the blinds open, I always thought she wanted, wanted someone to see her there.
–Oh you just up and glanced at her huh? You trying to tell me you have 50/50 vision and I don’t? Saw her from across the alley? You trying to say you didn’t…
–Yeah I used binoculars, why do you have to be like that?
–Be like that? Be like what, Johnny.
–You’re the one asking me, you’re the one who wants me to tell my story. Everyone out there on the street, they’re all shitting marbles for me! They want to know my life story. You, you don’t mean jack.
–Oh they want you, Johnny; they want to see you smoke.
–Us smoke. Us. If you hadn’t called the cops, this wouldn’t be happening.
–What the hell was I supposed to do, seeing her taped up like that on the chair?
–Anyway, I saw her in the bathroom, and she would lean in, bend her head over the faucet and brush like a kid, you know, like she couldn’t do or think about anything else while she brushed.
–Like a kid, huh? I bet you liked that.
–Her mouth would froth and it would dribble down and she’d make this face like a cat that resigned itself to getting a bath.
–Why not skip the foreplay, Johnny?
–She’d do this in her camisole, you know, after washing off her makeup. I love that, love the way…
–Johnny! Cut it. You promised me we wouldn’t do this again.
–Well, I get this idea, while I’m looking out across the alley, that no one really goes there, you know, no one goes there at all when it’s dark.
–Is that why you kept taking Skip for a walk at night?
–Yeah, how’d you notice?
–He’s seemed tired during the day lately, and never had to piss when I took him out in the morning.
–So I would walk him in the alley, and look up at the buildings, and never noticed any lights on except down at the end, streetside, and it always looked well covered.
–Are you trying to tell me you went in through her bathroom window?
–Yeah, through the window, up the fire escape.
–Fuck Johnny, no wonder we’re pigeonholed in here. That metal BANGS when you step on it. You should have consulted me at least.
–We’re trapped because you panicked, not because I wasn’t careful. It doesn’t matter now, anyway, I got by the window, jacked it with the screwdriver I filed nice and sharp and climbed in. Flashlight in my mouth, felt like I could be on television.
–Stick our head out the window, and you’ll get your wish along with a sniper bullet.
–I squeaked down her hall and opened the bedroom door. What a pit, she had used laundry all over the floor smelling like sweat. She had this bag of Christmas cookies on the bedstand, in a Ziploc, just like mom used to do for us. I really, I really hope she brushed after she ate them.
–I guess she didn’t bring a lot of guys home.
–I got this idea then, that I had to take her back, take her home to our place. Make sure they weren’t crooked.
–You’re incredibly stupid, Johnny.
–So I needed to keep her quiet, I grabbed some of her clothes off the floor and shoved the screwdriver at her neck and when she woke up and screamed I shoved it in, shoved in deep down her throat. The vomit bubbled up, up around the socks, ahaha! Stomach acid is horrible for teeth, did you know?
–Hit her with the butt end of the screwdriver before taping her up. Hit her hard, think I gave her a concussion. She didn’t say anything while I dragged her down the escape, dropped her in the alley. Her eyes were open and she just kept moving her head in circular motions, like she was doing something, like a grey taped worm, hahaha!
–Hold on Johnny, she’s waking up.
The pounding in her head almost had a rhythm as her eyes creaked open. She felt a tremendous pain in her gums. Instinctively, her tongue went to probe them.
“Oh goss, oh goss, my teese! My teese! Where are my teese!”
“Listen, we really want to know, what’s your name?”
“Uuu goss, uuu Jusus.”
“Relax, relax! It’ll be OK, don’t worry. Really, don’t worry. Johnny says he can fix it.”
A lone man stood in front of her silhouetted in red and blue police lights, leaking in behind the closed blinds, a bloody screwdriver in his hand.
“The important thing, important thing is that you had all 32. I was worried you wouldn’t.”
“Oh goss, less me go, please, please.”
“Listen, just make it better, Johnny. I’m not spending my thirties in jail with only you and some tattooed freak. I’m leaving now.”
“Wuu, wuu sare you tlassing too?”
“No one, sweetheart, no one at all. He’s gone now.” Johnny walked over to the sink and pulled out a clean metal vise grip and a small metal hammer.
“Plea, nuu, plea–”
“Shhh, hush now. You see, your teeth were crooked, they were crooked. White and beautiful, but crooked. This will make them better.”
The man shoved the vise into her mouth and screwed it open until it wouldn’t go anymore.
“Uuun, whus uoo doiis uu mee?!”
“I said be quiet!” For an instant his face changed, angry and mean, then collapsed into white smiles. “Just be quiet, sweetheart. This is finicky work.”
He spit out her molar from his mouth, now sucked clean, and positioned it in front of her open gums. The hammer slipped out of his pocket and he pulled back, back, back behind his shoulder.
“The important thing, dear, is that you had all 32.”
Deep inside the synaptic flashes of Johnny’s prefrontal cortex a memory played on loop, separate from the hammering and splashing and the blows and screams inside the apartment and separate from his begs for her to stop swallowing, it’ll make you sick, it’ll make you sick dear and separate from the parade of pounding boots crashing up the stairs–separate, the memory played; first, yellowy darkness. “You think it’s fun to spit, boy, think it’s fucking fun to spit? You like to use your mouth boy, like to use that fucking mouth, huh?” Pain and knuckles and other things in an adolescent mouth and then suddenly white heat. Light, shinning down. A dental office and mother, pushing her hips against the smiling man in white with her cool hand on Johnny’s forehead as she bends over right in front of the man, and gives him a sultry look, right in front and he’s bald. He’s bald. “It’ll be alright dear.” Needles, needles and the light made so sharp Johnny could see the reds of his eyelids and if he closed them tight enough he could see the red puddles in his gums and he could hear the man in white’s gentle crooning. You don’t want them to be crooked, dear. You don’t want that.
By M.D. Joyce