The clouds were moving. If Harvey closed one eye, he could see them as they drifted above him. He didn’t know when dental offices began putting relaxing pictures in their light fixtures, but he was damned grateful for it. It could have been the numbing stuff they jammed into his gums or that he had been in this chair for an hour and was starting to hallucinate, but those clouds were definitely moving.
He tried closing the other eye and focused on a palm leaf in the far corner of the frame. It was supposed to simulate lying on a beach, looking up into a summer sky. Anything to calm the suckers. This dental office was a bargain basement deal, run down but good enough for his purposes.
Harvey Walter sucked in a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves. The well-endowed dental assistant made him bite down on some nasty, sticky stuff to get an impression for a crown. He’d been sitting here for over five minutes with his mouth clamped shut in the goo. She had just filed his bad tooth down with a high-pitched saw, the vibration still echoed through his brain.
The worst part had been the smoke. It wafted up out of his mouth like a brush fire as flakes of tooth fell down his throat, causing him to gag. Now as he waited for the skirt to come back, he cursed the miserable bastard he called a sperm donor for saddling him with these awful gums and teeth. He never knew much about his father other than he had bad dental hygiene. The man had a full set of dentures by the time he was thirty, or so Harvey had heard.
What a legacy it was. Two crowns, four cavities and a root canal for his troubles just this year. He was certain next year there would be a new set of hellish problems, regardless of how many times he brushed and flossed. Then they would charge him a small fortune to poke around his mouth with their high-powered torture devices.
Harvey Walter was cursed, there was no way around it.
The perky assistant came back in and extricated his diseased choppers from the tooth cement. It made a sickly, sucking sound as she worked it out, back and forth, again and again until it came free. Her breath smelled like oranges and Harvey wondered again what he could do to get a more private session with her.
He highly doubted she would go willingly. He was on the north side of fifty with bad teeth and an evolving financial situation. “No” had never stopped Harvey before, maybe he could hang around the parking lot for a while when he was through. His loins tingled in anticipation as she squirted a healthy dose of water into his mouth and told him to spit. She said the main guy would be coming in to see him in a minute. In the meantime, he should try to relax, like that was even possible.
Harvey concentrated on the cloud again, watching as it changed from the shape of a dog into an angry woman. He thought he was losing his mind as he watched the cloud woman’s face open into a blood-curdling rictus of a scream. He could see her eyes bulging out in terror, a moment of exquisite human pain before the cloud changed back again. Harvey was almost sad to see her go. Pain was a specialty for him, he was a real artist.
The picture was electronic or something. A way to distract him from the fact that he was stuck in this horrible place. He watched as a small burst of wind caused the cloud to drift from the picture then closed his eyes and imagined being on that beach.
Man, wouldn’t that be something? Maybe after he fenced the stuff from his latest job, he could take a vacation, go somewhere tropical. After he spent a little quality time with the dental assistant, that is. He thought he still had some rope in the trunk if she couldn’t be persuaded by his charms. He almost hoped she would fight, it was always more exciting that way.
Harvey was floating on an errant cloud. He felt dizzy, positively giddy as the wind blew through what was left of his hair. Music, loud and rumbling came at him from somewhere far away. A bass guitar, the driving beat of drums. Saxophones? It was a rock anthem, he could almost place it. It was getting louder, coming at him from all directions. The cloud dissipated mid-air, sending him plunging to earth at a breakneck speed.
Harvey jolted himself awake. He was still hanging backward in the dental chair, almost completely upside-down. A line of drool escaped his gaping mouth and hit the floor. He had a brief recognition that a lot of time had passed since the skirt had left him, he could see the dusk of late afternoon seeping through the lone dirty window in the corner. Loud rock music was piping in through the ancient speakers in the ceiling. Classic 70’s rock, the kind of drivel his old man would jam out to in between benders, back in the days when he was still around.
“We’re caught in a trap, I can’t walk out….because I love you too much, bab-ee!”
Harvey could almost picture his father, a bottle of Rheingold clutched in one sweaty hand. A transistor radio blared out in the garage where the old man did his serious drinking, beer bottles lined up end-to-end on his beat-up workbench like a row of dominoes. Harvey always wanted to knock them over, just to see how they would fall. Not that he would ever dream of doing such a thing. When it came to beatings, his old man was a bona fide expert. It was another thing they apparently had in common. Besides rotten teeth.
Blood was rushing to his head and he had to take a serious piss. He’d been so distracted by the memory of his father that he failed to notice his chest and arms were painfully tied down to the chair. He recognized the rope from his car, fashioned into good solid knots that held him down, completely immobile. He wrenched his head to the side trying to get his bearings. A single blue sequined shoe came into his line of vision, first one then another.
“Why can’t you see what you’re doing to me…when you don’t believe a word I’m sayin’…”
Harvey followed the shoes up, his neck screaming in agony as he took in what surely was a nightmare. The man towered over him, enormous in every way. A blood-stained, white jumpsuit held his rolls of fat together like a giant sausage casing. Four or five chins bent over Harvey, oversized purple sunglasses rimmed in gemstones covering the man’s face. Harvey was thankful for them as a fat, wriggling worm worked its way free from the man’s left eye frame, landing on Harvey’s chest with a sickening plop. The telltale smell of meat left out too long in the sun assaulted his nose as the man took a huge, squalid breath and blew hot, rancid air into Harvey’s face.
“Hey there, son! What’s shakin’ bacon?”
The dental assistant suddenly loomed over him, or at least Harvey thought it was her. Her face looked like someone took a bag of hammers to it. Her right eye dangled halfway down her cheek taunting Harvey as she giggled like a schoolgirl. She cleared her desiccated throat to speak, loudly and otherworldly, into the darkened room.
“Ladies and Gentleman! Prepare yourselves for The One, The Only! The tartar trouncin’, cavity exterminatin’, King of the Crowns….one bad-ass, sick mamma jamma…..it’s….The Dentist!”
A sickly yellow spotlight lit up the Dentist as he rose to his full height. The assistant squealed with delight, clapping and swooning in ecstasy. A chorus of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” rang out into the room, the Dentist holding his arms out to recognize his adoring fans. Harvey didn’t know if they expected him to clap. Not that it was possible since they had him trussed up tighter than a Thanksgiving turkey.
“Thank you! Thank you verra much!”
Harvey opened his mouth to speak, emitting nothing but a hoarse squawk for the effort. The Dentist turned his attention away from the spotlight and gave Harvey a gruesome smile. A single golden tooth in a mouth full of blackened rot beamed out at him and Harvey had the crazy thought that maybe the man should brush and floss more.
“No, son, don’t get up. C’mon darlin’, let’s fire it up!”
The dental assistant’s voice spoke low and softly into his ear, a voice filtered through a mouthful of dirt.
“Still want to get together, hon?”
The high-pitched drill went off again and this time, Harvey had a sinking feeling that smoke would be the very least of his worries. She held it high over his head, cackling with savage laughter before lowering it to his face. Harvey clamped his mouth shut as the Dentist dove in and pried his jaw open. The Dentist’s enormous diamond ring lodged directly in Harvey’s eye socket, the smell, and feel of the man’s greasy hands causing him to gag. The assistant jammed the drill into his exposed tooth nerve as the music blared on above him.
“We can’t go on together, with suspicious minds! And we can’t build our dreams on suspicious minds!”
Every part of Harvey jolted in electric, excruciating pain. He flopped around like a hooked fish, the rope holding him fast to the chair as she continued to dig in with the drill. He could feel the blood filling his mouth as she moved on to the rest of his teeth.
The last thing he saw before passing out was the light fixture. It was flowing crimson with blood. The clouds formed into broken, demon-like creatures, their open mouths extended into silent screams. Harvey recognized it for what it surely was–the very portal into hell.
Harvey came to slowly, the bright chair light hovering directly over him. The Dentist was poking around in his tortured mouth with a sharp instrument. The assistant stood off to the side, stringing Harvey’s battered teeth onto a long necklace. A trophy for the King of the Crowns since Harvey wouldn’t be needing them anymore. He could feel the throbbing stumps with his tongue, the jagged shards of brutalized teeth sticking up here and there as the Dentist fussed and scraped away at them.
At last, the Dentist appeared satisfied and the music mercifully stopped. He ran his hands through his oily, pompadoured hair and let out a dispirited sigh. Harvey was glad for brief reprieve. Maybe now that the teeth were gone, his ordeal would finally be at an end.
“I’m sorry, son. The rot goes even deeper than we first thought. I’m afraid we are going to have to get it all out.”
The assistant lovingly draped Harvey’s teeth over the Dentist’s bloated neck. He reached out to gently touch her cheek, the skin sloughing off into his hand. Harvey had only a moment to wonder what rot could be left in the barren wasteland that was his mouth before the Dentist turned his attention back to the job at hand. The music started again at full volume, sending Harvey into a fit of sudden, bright laughter.
“So if an old friend I know, drops by to say hello, would I still see suspicion in your eyes..”
In answer to his unspoken question, the Dentist turned around and fired up a blood-spattered old chainsaw, holding it up for his inspection. The spotlight came on again framing the man in all of his deranged glory. Harvey, screaming with laughter, lifted his head as far as it would go in one last act of defiance. The dental assistant swooned anew, oohing and aahing at the Dentist’s every move. A consummate professional, one bad-ass, sick mamma-jamma was the Dentist. Harvey found he actually admired him a little.
The Dentist lowered his chainsaw and went back to work.
Victoria Cole made sure to swab down the dingy old chair with a sanitizing wipe before deigning to sit in it. She hadn’t planned on coming here. An old crown had broken suddenly, forcing her to settle for this awful place in an emergency. It had happened at dinner, right after the last course, as she gleefully watched her ancient husband convulsing on the floor.
She had done her research, making sure the poison she used was undetectable. So far, no one seemed any wiser. Her husband was of an advanced age with pretty severe heart problems so there really was no need for suspicion. Victoria was about to come into a very large inheritance. She had serious plans to make, but only after she got this stupid tooth fixed.
“We’re caught in a trap, I can’t walk out. Because I love you too much, ba-bee!”
Perfect. Her tooth situation was upsetting enough without annoying old rock songs ringing in her ears. God, how she hated dentists. They really were a necessary evil.
The cheap looking dental assistant came in smacking a wad of sweet-smelling pink gum. She said the dentist would be right in, he was just finishing up with another patient. Victoria leaned all the way back in the chair and studied the strange beach picture frame stuck over the ceiling light. She wasn’t sure, but it looked like things in the picture were moving.
She closed her eyes in a light doze and smiled, the warm feeling of fresh widowhood spreading over her. They would put the crown on and then her new life would begin, she just had to get through it. She had somehow survived five years of married life with the old man, she could certainly do this.
After a while, she heard heavy footsteps behind her, her eyes instantly snapping open. She noticed the picture had changed. There was a large cloud forming, the face of a portly, shrieking man. A sudden streak of red slashed through the blue sky, bloody and ominous. The abrupt voice of the dental assistant directly behind her made her jump. Fully awake now, Victoria tried to get up and realized that she was tied down to the chair. Like a rat caught in a trap, she began to pull at the restraints in a sheer, animalistic panic.
“Ladies and gentleman, the Dentist has entered the building!”
Like nails on a chalkboard, the drill went off somewhere in the room, its high frequency piercing her sanity. Screaming hysterically, a seedy golden spotlight lit up the room and Victoria somehow knew she was about to face her judgment.
The blood-soaked faces in the light all smiled in anticipation, waiting for their newest member to join them. The thing that had once been Harvey Walter was among them, hungry and feral, as was his nature. A true showman, the Dentist preened and posed in the spotlight, basking in their joint terror and endless adulation.
“We can’t go on together, with suspicious minds!”
The King of Crowns swayed briefly to the music then picked up his instruments and went back to work.
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