Tag Archives: short story

Where can you get a tooth extracted in this town? story by futsem

There are few aching pains in life that wake you from a sleep, and the worst, I feel, is the ache of an infected tooth. The pain is constant, not like a cramp that goes away for a few moments before returning or a cough that hurts your chest leaving you with the chance to gather yourself. The piercing pain of a tooth ache reverberating through your nerves not allowing you to focus on anything else other than the pain being shot straight to your brain is the king of all pain. With nothing greater in my reach than a mild aspirin, I reach for the bottle of Jameson to blind this great pain away from my usual troubles and give me some time to deal. I take a glance at the clock and it is five thirty in the morning.
The alcohol is taking its time working away the pain and the cold of the liquid on my infected tooth seems to be working against me. I try to drink more, but then begin to heave and vomit, with nothing in my stomach from the night before. The strenuous act of heaving has masked the nagging, aching pain for a split second and I am overjoyed for that second until the pain returns as if to laugh at my attempt to drown the king. It is now six in the morning and I gather my socks and boots, put on my shirt and grab my jacket heading for the door. The ‘healthy smiles’ van that sat in front of the government building the other day should be open and they will be able to pull my tooth and rid me of this horrible, unstoppable pain. I shoot out of my apartment and walk down the few blocks to the main drag, keeping a wet tissue in my gums to stop any cold air from irritating the tooth anymore than it has already. I am breathing hard and if you were walking anywhere around me you could hear it, the pain, and it was winning. I kept my head down and walked fast, hoping to run into a cab instead of courting one, per usual. My first thought was to get to the bus just as it made its way to my stop. At that moment, the pain almost dropped me to my knees as if it had entered my mind and denied the thought from inside my head. I found a cab, got inside and mumbled DC General Hospital as quickly as I could.
He was Ethiopian and the pain had stopped me from the normal how-do-you-do’s that would get a cabby to empathize with my situation. King pain and I just shouted orders at him and explained that I needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. The cabby driving down the road, with a green light ahead, pulls off the gas to explain he recently got a ticket for driving too fast. I pointed at the green light and interrupted him, as the pain started to swear obscenities at the window and I began to breathe hard. The pain did not change. It did not care that I was in someone else’s cab or that the stupid cabby pulled onto a residential, one-lane street behind a garbage truck. We seemed to be getting all the lights that would turn yellow then bright red as soon as we approached. The breaths were getting louder and turning up the talk radio didn’t help anyone. We finally pull up to DC General, after a few wrong turns as I open my wallet and fling out the few dollars I had. I threw the fare at the front seat and slammed the door, running into the old building to be greeted by a few officers and people who were going through a metal detector. I point to my mouth and the lady guard tells me to walk across the campus to the dental center.
I hurry across the parking lot and bit of grass only to see the cabby making his turns and we pass each other as the pain, impersonating me, cocks back my arm as if to punch the cab window out. I keep walking and enter the automatic doors to a guard sitting alone. I again point to my mouth, telling her I am with great king pain. She tells me that this is now residential housing and that they do not have doctors on site. The pain asks her to repeat it. Then when hearing the same lines come from her, the pain proceeds to walk out, not before punching and moving the door off its track. I look back and a few people outside begin to stare. I walk back across the parking lot and head for the main road.
I finally get another cab, this time an older West African man, and he is taking his time with ending his phone call, ignoring the great moans and loud breathing coming from the backseat. I explain that I need to go to Howard University Hospital and I am with great pain. The pain has introduced itself, by having my head gently pound itself against the window as I begin to massage my jaw line. The massaging did not alleviate any pain but it didn’t confuse it for a few seconds and for that I was grateful. I did not stop massaging. I didn’t stop when I explained that I needed to make a stop on H street to take out some cash for this unexpected trip. I got out of the cab and walked to that bus that I had seen a few days earlier. The workers were handing out cards and telling everyone that dentists on the bus were able to clean, treat or extract teeth and it wouldn’t cost a thing. I decided to ignore their suggestions at the time. The pain was worse now. The massaging was just a thing to do, at this point. I get the bus and knock on the door where an eastern European man opens and explains that they are not open until nine or nine thirty that morning. It was seven and the pain took over, asking him to explain himself. He told the pain that no doctors are here and he was simply a driver. I walked away and tried to grab another cab, this time to the hospital where I knew people were working.
I get to the emergency room of the hospital and immediately feel the disrespect of someone in pain, while others are just trying to do their job and get their bills paid. The women at the desk did not seem to show any urgency for my situation, still on the phone repeating her hours and schedule to someone on the other line. The pain let out some more obscenities and another woman come to my aid and quickly entered my information into the system and put my name on the list, next to the handful of strangers sitting in that desolate waiting area. From the looks of it, I was the only one is constant, aching blatant pain but how was I to know. The others may have had a worse situation and nobler pain than mine, but didn’t show it. All I could do was to keep massaging and hope that my name was called in the next few moments. Those moments turned into tens of minutes.
When inquiring about my status, I was told that I had to walk to another area to be help so the pain shuttled me to that destination, leaving a flurry of remarks, in case someone wanted to find me. I get to the triage and a male nurse asks me general questions and takes my blood pressure. This was all done with my head down and my hand continuing to massage my jaw. After a few more minutes, I am put into a room and told to wait until the sole doctor is ready. The pain had other plans for me and began to pace me around this little room and even pushed me out into the hallway. I looked around each time I circle that little room and hallway and saw no one around, to then seeing a worker pulling and dragging equipment to no one in sight, again. I stared at the tight outfit of the worker and how it hugged her body, staring at her visible panty line, in some sort of natural reflex. The nurse came back with a single pill for pain relieve and then second guessed whether he should have brought another, seeing myself standing beside my pain. The second pill took a while, as it had to be approved by the doctor. It took a good, long while, but the pain was now cooling down but not enough for me to collect my thoughts of the frantic morning activities. The massaging continued as I jumped into the hall and noticed the doctor to be, sitting in front of the computer entering data from her clipboard.
The pain began to have a couple of good arguments as to why the doctor could not wait to proceed with data entry after she had seen all the patients that desperately needed assistance. I agreed with the pain and began to lobby and plead with the empty room to take these valid messages to the doctor. The doctor finally arrives and begins to ask what the problem is.
I tell her of my accompanying pain and that my infected tooth has begun to take over any and all control of my body. She pauses, then reaches for her equipment, tilting my head back, then explains to me that I have an infected tooth.
She then tells me that the dental department of the hospital has not begun to work on patients and I would have to wait for them to open, with a warning of also having to secure an appointment before any work can be done. Before she exits the room to retrieve my prescription note, I explain to her the severity of the pain and how the pain has asked me to not be given a simple aspirin, and instead a possible high-tier pain reliever. She says nothing and returns with a note for some antibiotics and a mild pain reliever. The pills were starting to combat the pain and its army. The time is eight in the morning. The king is dead, for now.

[Author’s note:] The next few hours play out this way; I get called a pervert from a school girl while waiting at the pharmacy. The receptionist on the bus where I head to next distracts me with her disproportionately inflated backside and continues to bend over in front of me, directly challenging my medication with arousal felt each time she passes. The doctors on the bus that I returned to, heavily medicated, tell me that my tooth needs to be taken care of at a hospital. And, most importantly, I am down to my last few pills.

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MINE, a short story by futsem

1. Early, Happy Days

“Yeah, I’ve always dreamed of being a writer like the piano bar guy dreamt being
the piano bar guy” was the exact quote that snuck out of Fitzgerald’s lips during
our lunch meeting that made me believe he was a real, living person. The moment it
was said he began to think about how perfect he had phrased his life up to that
point. This had been happening more recently to him; the overwhelming just
feeling of saying the right thing at the precisely the right time, to anyone that
would listen. To suggest that this was a natural evolution of the man would be a
stretch if you asked any of his childhood friends or close family, he would be the
first to say.
“Being the youngest of four children in a single parent household allowed for
more listening and watching then speaking out”, he recalls.
“I began to write at the start of my teens, after a bad thing happened to my family
and it sort of was just easy, after that.” he explained between sips of water.
The waiter has become short with him as he would constantly look over to their
direction in search of more fill. He uses the ‘thank you’ sparingly and when it
suits him, it seemed. I have been sent by a distinguished national periodical to
describe to our readers who this mystery man is, in three thousand words.
Reviewing the few, broad articles on him it seemed as though he just appeared
from nowhere. Conversations of his first novel, MINE, have been making the
rounds of the writing elite, trickling down to all those who take themselves too
seriously in the fleeting, literary world. Without looking at the menu, he ordered
a steak salad, medium, with a pair of fish tacos. The chips and salsa came
promptly so I began by starting with the dull, average questions. It was the end
of summer and just a few more unbearably humid weeks before fall, in our
nation’s capital.
For being so talked about, Fitzgerald was fairly young at thirty-two and,
at times, made comments and joke references that were not specific to his
generation. Some of the jokes that made me laugh the most seemed as if he had
heard them in a private social club with some of the greats of our time. There
was something about it that did not fit. The humorous wit and snappy dialogue
did not match the club security guard frame that he seemed to carry with a bit of
disdain. I did, however, notice how coordinated he seemed to be in a small space
as he explained that an adolescence filled with sports was the foundation for his
‘body confidence’ he so convincingly summarized as my next line of internal
questioning, without a hint of a lead in from myself.
“I used to work as a doorman, actually, for bars in the city” he explained, “and
there was an old black man that was a regular and he would always be dressed in
cowboy attire. You know, the boots and solid colors with the same, straw gallon
hat.” he began to say as the food had arrived.
“Well, one day I caught myself just staring at him as he walked down the long
dock towards the parking lot and realized that his ‘look’ was as natural as ever.
Throughout history in this country, black men have been every man and done
every job, so, to see him as this ‘cowboy’ and to be thrown off was only the fault
of my own.. I was pretty impressed with him, after that” he finished, and looked
over to his childhood friend, who had been sitting quietly, almost to a
non-existent hush, aside from his matching broad shoulders and abnormally large
frame that would let out deep breaths and sighs.
The few noticeable differences between the two men was the full head of hair on
his friend, as Fitzgerald had been balding since his early 20’s, he revealed.
“I used to wear a lot of hats” he confessed, as he took off his vintage newsboy
cap occasionally to scratch his head.
“One day, after remembering remarks of past women who told me that they
found me attractive, I simply stopped” he stated.
“Now I have money so it’s just a fashion thing” he whispered, as he began to eat
his tacos, almost without stopping.
I had a feeling that we would be sitting for a while, as the bill for our lunch
gathering would be graciously taken up by the magazine. I had explained that to
him upon arrival, and he nodded, then shared a quick smile with his longtime
friend.
“It would be easy for all of us, for me to just say that all of this is so foreign and
unexpected and that I am grateful for all the hype and accolades” he began, “and
it is, but you always read that and it’s such a ‘good boy’ thing to say. I would
rather you just write whatever you see and interpret from this lunch, as I’m sure
you will put in the bland, biographical filler as you see fit.”
He stared into my face for longer than usual and put a hint of fear into me but
then quickly tried to erase the hostility he sensed by tapping me on the arm and
squeezing my bicep. I’m sure he was just messing with me, but the sting in his
grab lasted longer than expected. For a brief moment I sat there in a haze, trying
to distinguish the persona’s of Fitzgerald’s presence; the man sitting before me I
began to gather as being a real life tough guy, posing as a literary darling. I
immediately began to think of the self-inflicted damage that would occur if I had
shared my last thought of calling him ‘a darling’ and what might have ensued at
that point.
“Growing up, I mean, this.. you guys picking up the check for us, so you can get
a story about me, is just so funny to us.” he began to recall, as his friend let out a
perfectly timed chuckle.
“To be honest, I don’t really like to think to deeply about things like that because
it tends to bring about memories of our childhood in a darker light, as if we were
just waiting for this day” he said.
“The reality is that we always had food to eat,” he remarked, pausing with a fork
full of salad and steak, “but the difference was we always watched it being
prepared or killed.”

2. Cellphones

The one noticeable characteristic of Fitzgerald that was immediate was his lack
of mobile technology on his person. He did not have a registered cell phone and
explained that he wrote his novel on a Underwood typewriter that had been
collecting dust at his sister’s apartment. It had been stored there since she
attended college, some two decades earlier and he said that he felt more
connected to the process and the old fashioned typewriter, with all of its errors
and inconvenience.
“For some reason I always remembered that name, Underwood, and quickly
associated it with Blair Underwood, the actor, as L.A. Law was a hit show during
the time I first noticed the typewriter” he paused, as if to relish in that bit of
coincidence.
“We grew up taking keyboarding classes in school and I was fortunate to have a
computer on my desk at home, so I can’t fully explain my fascination with the
typewriter” he said between bites.
“I guess it was just something I thought I should do, or have, you know.”
His childhood friend was the bearer and sole proprietor of an assortment of smart
phones and one tablet that, collectively, took up most of the table space between
us. As he began to explain about why he does not have a phone, he noticed me
looking at the plethora of devices in his friends corner and laughed.
“You think I am some sort of divided tongue, don’t you?” he said, pointing the
questioning in my direction.
I gave a quick, almost unnoticeable eyebrow raise and matching head nod that
changed his current demeanor. He seemed to be in good spirits and was smiling a
lot. One could assume that he had every reason to smile, as few writers get the
chance to do, at the start of a budding career. Upon closer glance, I took extra
time noticing how his smile did not fade as quickly as others, or even, myself.
This made for the first awkward moment of the luncheon and I immediately
broke the silence by asking about his siblings.
“Next line of questions, pal.” he replied, just as quickly.
“I’m not that comfortable with you yet.” he said and looked at his friend in a way
that evoked some hidden message.
My first instinct was a message of violence, naturally being dwarfed by these
men, but then that unnerving feeling was subsided by a round of tequila that was
ordered by Fitzgerald, after his water glass was filled for the umpteenth time.
The tequila arrived almost too quickly as the restaurant was bare, except for a
few patrons, with more staff standing around than there were seats filled. The
cool breeze from the open doors and windows hit us just as we had downed our
shots.
“Something tells me that this will not be the last shot we do today” his friend
spoke out, with a cluttered grumbling in the first few words, as people tend to do,
when joining a conversation in progress for the first time.
Fitzgerald let out an agreeable laugh and proceeded to drink his entire glass of
water. Just then, as if I had choreographed the next sequence of events in my
head, milli seconds before, he raised his hand and yelled to the bored waitstaff to
refill his water, and our tequila, in that order. Another noticeable occurrence was
that all of the mobile devices did not make a sound throughout our entire meal.
“I don’t like to be interrupted with phone calls during meals, now that I have the
money to avoid people, by choice” he stated, almost at the exact moment that I
had noticed the silence.
This young man, was someone that I had not encountered before; a man whose
conversation followed an internal cadence that was tuned and perfected,
seemingly, with each person that he encountered. There was an immediate
easiness about him that I am sure all around him were aware of, even as I began
to think he may or may not fully be aware of, himself. The waiter came around
again asking if we would like to see a dessert menu, while filling up the water
glasses at the table. The friends looked at each other with that same childhood
amazement from before and affirmed the waiter’s suggestion. Fitzgerald ordered
three chocolate pudding tarts for us and explained his routine and lifelong
relationship with sweets. He now only splurged on one dessert a month.
“I was a fat boy, growing up, yeah” he said, as he looked more at his friend with
a smile and look of confirmation.
“I always told people, with pride, that I was not allergic to any foods. Thinking
back now, I may have been but ate it all anyway and made due, after the fact.. I
mean, I don’t know… Jesus, that sounded like something completely fabricated
and fitting for your article, don’t you think?” he asked, as the waiter came back
now with a pleasant demeanor, and full tray as if he had just realized that these
huge men were some people of some sort of importance.
Fitzgerald sensed this waiver in attitude and did not change his temperament
towards the staff, but did give me a chilling glare, almost perfectly timed, as all
things had been since we had sat down that afternoon.
“The one thing I will reveal to you about my family is that my parents were both
in the customer service industry and I learned, first hand, the importance of
putting priority in kindness and the immediate recognition and disposal of small-
minded bitterness and petty, mental gaming.”
I was now feeling the effects of the alcohol and asked to be excused to use the
restroom and have a cigarette.

3. Meat and small potatoes

I had arrived back at the table at the same time as our waiter and overheard
Fitzgerald state that he would like to repeat his order of what they both had
eaten, without the dessert, but that they would like for it to be prepared to-go. As
I gathered myself in my seat, I smiled.
“I heard the famous dinner story Mel Brooks told about Alfred Hitchcock” he
told me, as he smiled back, looking directly into my eyes.
I explained that I was familiar with the story of when Hitchcock ordered a full
meal of steak and potatoes, dessert and coffee, finished it all, then summoned to
have it all again, in the same order.
“What a fat fuck!” his friend chimed in.
Fitzgerald gave him a side smile that acknowledged his light humor, with a look
of resonating depth of respect they both had for the man and his art. I was late to
arrive at this conclusion, as they both began to make more light of the man and
quote some of their most memorable Hitchcock films and television programs,
almost simultaneously. I suggested to stay in the restaurant and relax for a few
more hours, and they both agreed, ordering another round of tequila that would
serve as exclamation points to our change of plan.
“I’m going to take it easy after this one” he shouted out.
“You should be helping me not get too fucked up, man” he said to the table with
a hand up covering his face, letting out a loud belch.
I knew that he had directed that last remark to his friend, but somehow felt it was
intended for both of us, as we had started to get past a few more layers. Just as I
had made that assumption, in my head, his friend looked at me with a sort of
playful, mocking grin.
“You don’t have to be afraid of saying whatever you want now” his friend let up.
“If you pass out he can just label you an alcoholic writer, and you will be
inaugurated in the elite club of… elites.”
“Like Tom Cruise returning to his home town on the 4th of July?” Fitzgerald
replied.
“Ha. Yeah, just like that” his friend finished, “with Faulkner narrating the whole
thing!”
I immediately suggested to myself that better narration could be serviced by
William S. Burroughs, but would never have said that out loud, even if given a
numerous amount of attempts.
“You know who you remind me of?” Fitzgerald said to me in almost a mocking
tone, shortly thereafter.
“Max Perlich!”
He let out a big laugh, as his childhood friend followed suit. I had to admit, later
on to friends, that crack had me smiling on the inside. Just then the waiter had
arrived again, filled our glasses, brought our second meals and explained that his
shift was over, asking us to close our tab and restart it with the beautiful east
Asian waitress, who happily introduced herself and walked away.
A lighting quick remark of approval was the last thing I heard from Fitzgerald, as
he continued to stare at the bottle-shaped waitress. Excusing myself once again,
but not before meeting eyes with the man of the hour.
“You smoke too many of those and the lungs may give out tomorrow, buddy” his
friend belted out to me.
“Smoke one for me” Fitzgerald replied to him and me and all that were within
ear shot of our lunch turned soiree.
Just as I got out to the patio and lit up, I get a phone call from my editor. I
continued to let the phone ring a few more times while I decided to neglect the
call and wait until a more reasonable state of being. I’ve noticed about myself,
most recently, that in conversations I have, when intoxicated, lean more towards
the chatty, and I was in no position of coming of as unprofessional. The prior
strikes against me had sobered me up enough to make the decision to ignore the
office and continue back to ‘my friends’. As I smoked the last few drags I began
to also ignore my freeing thoughts of telling Fitzgerald of the non-actions that
took place. I was slowly circulating to understanding this man, or so I thought,
and noticed myself immediately impulsing to seek his approval. I promised
myself to also keep the drinking to a minimum for the rest of our interview.
“We ordered you a shot” the friend said, almost on cue when I returned.
I began to decline, but then turned to Fitzgerald, who already had his glass in the
air pointed towards me, and took the shot. I followed that up by calling over the
waitress to fill our water glasses, which created a big grin that Fitzgerald and I
shared.
“Thank you” his friend said to her, almost in a volume that could be inferred as
counterproductive.
“Max” Fitzgerald began to shout, before a hearty laugh stopped him dead.
“Max, you are.. I am sorry, James… James you are not a bad guy after all” he
blurted out. I returned the compliment and we downed another round of shots
that were brought to us by surprise, courtesy of the establishment.
“We gotta do this more often” his friend spoke, almost out of turn.
Just as quickly, Fitzgerald gathered our attention and lifted his glass, meeting us
at the top of our raised arms and sound of the clash to make a toast.
“Bro, that was cheesy. You’re better than that. Cheersy” he said, confidently and
without a hint of malice.
“Cheersy” we both replied.
Just a few moments after our last shot, the restaurant began to start filling up
with patrons. Where it had been comfortably empty, now people began to gather
and observe us, listening intently and almost sync repeating the same broad facts
of Fitzgerald’s biography that I had raced to find. I immediately got the attention
of the staff and closed our tab. The waitress, sensing our retreat, advised us that
the pub a few doors down had just opened and would be comfortably desolate.
Fitzgerald thanked her for the suggestion and began to flirt with her all the way
to the door, leaving with her phone number on the lunch receipt, of which he
handed to his friend who began to program her into one of the mobile devices.
Just then, he noticed the stunned look of admiration on my face as he took me by
the shoulder.
“I probably won’t ever speak to her again. I am so lazy when it comes to that
stuff” he said, as he wink at me and marched on.

End.