HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Brutal Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website.
Keep an eye on our social media for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release of The Brutal Issue…
Someone must have stolen the mirror in this flophouse bathroom, and that’s a relief. Tough as he is, he doesn’t really want to see the damage. He presses the back of one hand against his swelling cheek, swallows some blood, winces when the tooth seesaws from side to side in its socket. Right–o, Dickhead, he tells himself. No point in being dainty, you just have to do it. Now get in there and get it over with.
The soap dish above the sink is empty, other than a brown smear and a drowned Daddy-Long-Legs, but germs are the least of his worries. He rubs his hands under the tap, ducks his head to the sputtering water, swirls, gargles, spits. That’ll have to do. Those big guys with their big fists will be back to finish the job soon enough, and there’s no way he’ll be ready to face them unless he gets rid of this tooth. It’s jangling around on a couple of raw nerves, gross and specific, messing with his focus. He doesn’t love the idea of yanking it out – missing teeth are kind of honky–tonk, but there’s nothing for it. If he survives the beatdown lying in wait on the other side of the door, he’ll see about getting his face fixed.
He pushes his fingers into his mouth, reaches all the way to the back, past thick, squashed–penny–on–asphalt–tasting saliva, until he feels the metallic jolt of his fingertip against the exposed socket. How strange, he thinks, that teeth are bone – bone is structural, right? How strange, then, that they are completely accessible – that they are meant, in fact, to jut outward from the flesh, that they require maintenance in the form of coated strings and nylon bristles and expensive pressure–washing by people who’ve studied for years how to pressure–wash small bones with expensive tools.
He’s drooling over his fist, and his good teeth up front feel like juggernauts, like concrete pillars, scraping the skin from his knuckles. It’s a molar. It’s all the way back in tonsil country, and it’s impossibly huge. He grips it between his forefinger and the flat pad of his thumb and tugs. He feels threads stretching, snapping, and gags. Fresh blood pools beneath his tongue; his thumb skids. He’s shivering – just like your old lady’s Chihuahua, he thinks. What a turd dog. Then again, if she can love that ugly turd, you’ll be alright. Okay, careful now. Don’t squeeze too hard, don’t let that thing rocket backward from your fingers, there it is.
It’s done. It’s out. He lifts it up to the light bulb.
This tooth is insane. It’s a monster, pitted and yellow with bits of gristle hanging from the root. He laughs, and a clump of blood splatters over his fist. What were you doing living back there, you nasty thing? he thinks. You nasty, gnarly bastard. You Nosferatooth.
There’s pounding at the door. Time to face the fist–music, he supposes. Time to pay the pain piper. Now that the tooth is out, he feels pretty good, considering. He’s calm, perhaps even a bit gleeful imagining the palmful of gummy spit–blood he’ll wipe in the first guy’s eyes. When all else fails, he thinks, gross them out. Commit to being disgusting. Have the last word. Yeah, he’s ready. But first:
“Farewell, buddy,” he says, and drops the molar into the soap dish, where it rolls to a stop next to the Daddy-Long-Legs.
ELLAREA YEAGLEY is an Atlanta, Georgia-based writer and illustrator. She is co-founder of The Bleux Stockings Society, a monthly live literature event showcasing the work of cis women, trans women, and non-binary people.