Levels of Teeth
by Eric Suhem
Anastasia stared at the painting of the peach orchards in the dentist's waiting room. She had awoken that morning from a strange dream in which she was running after an enamel car, not quite able to catch it. Behind the frosted glass window, Anastasia viewed the receptionist, relatively inert, and the shadow of the dentist, hopping about behind her. He had just heard from his lawyer, and the news was apparently good, as he bobbed up and down, clamps holding a wayward bicuspid in the morning sunlight. Anastasia gazed at the shadow of the clamped tooth as her thoughts slowly returned to the dental hygienist employment application form attached to the clipboard, but then her mind drifted off to that day with her ex-boyfriend 11 years ago.
The dreamlike thoughts, a staircase, a mysterious set of dentures disappearing into the fog, a peach tree with arms instead of branches, grabbing, all melted into the personal. Her boyfriend not picking up his things as he descended the stairs, screaming epithets. She threw his puppets behind him as he faded from view, his grimy incisors tearing apart a peach. When he reached the lobby of the dank seaside apartment building, he bit into a peach pit, screaming and chipping his tooth. Anastasia ran down the stairs and saw him exiting the door, holding his mouth open, a ray of light glinting off of the chipped tooth. It all converged in her mind: the broken incisor, the discarded peach, a vision of her boyfriend and acquaintances in the form of puppets, merging from the subconscious, to the personal, to the political, then back to the subconscious. Something needed to be done on a political level, and she felt reinvigorated by the protest of fruit pesticide spraying, in which she was planning to participate. A day of protesting would do her good.
The painting of the peach orchards continued to demand Anastasia's attention in the dentist's waiting room. She was there not only to apply for the dental hygienist job, but also to try and negotiate a payment plan for her child's root canal surgery, which was not covered sufficiently by her health plan. However, it took just one more glance at the dentist clasping the bicuspid in the air to get Anastasia to throw the clipboard with the dental hygienist employment application onto the floor and stalk out the door. She slowly smiled when she remembered that a demonstration was planned for later that afternoon downtown, a gathering which would protest the lack of affordable health care. Hours later, she got on a bus headed toward the demonstration, but never arrived, instead disembarking, and standing mesmerized by a peach tree at the side of the road.
Eric Suhem lives in California, and will be going to the dentist soon. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Monkeybicycle, Cerebral Catalyst, Defenestration, and Clockwise Cat. Contact Eric.