Flash Fiction Friday: Frustrated Gums
by Edmund Colell
Nathan coughs awake, two stony rods and warm, metallic fluid tickling his throat. As he turns on his side and coughs up the two rods, he catches them in his hand: a canine and a molar. The roots of the teeth run the length of his pinky finger. Jagged cracks run up through the yellow enamel. He runs the nail of his right thumb along the molar’s crack and finds it wide enough to push the nail inside. With his index finger steadying the base, he cracks the tooth open. A white strip of paper is rolled among the blood and the spongy bone.
It reads: “Why don’t you floss me anymore? Is it because I’m fat now?” He cracks the other tooth open and reads its strip: “You used to floss me every night. All you do now is let me get hurt.”
Salty tears well up in Nathan’s mouth. Sloppy sobbing rattles from his gums. Amidst the pain of his newly-missing teeth, he feels another canine sliding against his upper lip. He holds his mouth, blood seeping through his fingers as he rushes to the bathroom. Flicking the light on, he peels his sticky hand away to see the gum around the canine quivering as the tooth cries and loosens. He pushes it back into the gum, but winces as the roots scratch nerves and bloody tears spill from the socket. Soon he feels no adhesion of the tooth to gum or nerves, and he slides the pinky-long tooth all the way out.
The tooth’s message reads: “Please, show me you love me again.”
Nathan throws the medicine cabinet open and uncoils a length of mint floss. Blood darkens his teeth as he opens wide. His gums bloat fatter, weeping more tears as he reaches floss-laced fingers inside. Holding his breath, he saws the line between his molars.
His gums moan as pain plunges his jaw. Blood drips from the floss as he dips it between the next two teeth. Sour globs of plaque and grains of tartar spill into the sink. After he finishes the bottom row, the jaw climaxes and snaps shut.
Nathan grunts, his fingers crushed between sore teeth. He pulls against his jaw, feeling freedom as the jaw’s orgasm settles to slow breaths. The dark bite marks on his fingers are a chain of hearts. He throws the gory, gunk-knotted floss away, running cold water for his hands. “I can’t ever floss again if you bite my fingers off,” he says.
His upper left incisor begins to slide, and he drools red while saying “Don’t you fucking dare.”
New floss rubs around the incisor. It stops sliding, jerking up with each moan. Nathan pops the floss around every tooth, yanking his hands away as the jaws snap shut again. He winces through the crunch, watching his remaining teeth. Even as his gums silence, the teeth vibrate with soft gasps and cries. He spits in the sink and rinses with mouthwash. The gums always use you against me, he thinks as he picks up the broken tooth. His fist closes over it and he carries it back to his bedroom. No, I’m sorry too.
Nathan lies on his side as he returns to sleep. His tongue cuddles each tooth, promising that Nathan and his gums still love them.
Edmund Colell’s short work has appeared in or will be appearing in Verbicide, LegumeMan, New Flesh, Christmas on Crack, Kizuna: Fiction for Japan, Technicolor Tentacles, and Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.