60+ - KEITH RAWSON
My dental hygiene is questionable.
I’m pretty regular on brushing and flossing, but I’m not all that keen on making it to the dentist. Not like I can afford to go and see the bastard’s when I need something done. So, most of the time, I just suck up the pain, pound ten or twelve IBUs and five or six beers to chase it and I’m good.
But, tonight, it’s one o’clock in the morning. I’ve swallowed a thirty count of Advil in three hours and I’m pacing the floors of my apartment, rubbing my jaw, my stomach feeling like I’m going to shit blood, and thinking how pleasant the whine of a dentist’s drill would feel sinking into the decayed mass of jagged bone poisoning my mouth.
I think about needle nose pliers and jumping into my car and hunting down an all-night hardware store and springing for a pair and yanking the throbbing mass out myself under the pale dead hum of street lamps.
I know it’s a crock, me going apeshit from my suffering and doing the extraction myself. With my luck, I’d end up in the hospital from blood loss and chances are I’d crack a whole bunch of healthy teeth in the process. But you know how it is with tooth pain. All you can think of is how to get rid of it.
What I do in instead of going on a death run in my Datsun is I call the emergency line of a tooth yanker I’ve used a couple of times before when shit like this has come up, leave a message telling him I need to see him in the morning and I step out onto my patio for my fifteenth Camel since I woke up with my mouth on fire.
I love my apartment complex.
It’s a small place called Cedar Point. Twelve units total and most of them are occupied by retired couples who’ve spent lifetimes maintaining three thousand square-foot homes, mowing football field-sized lawns, raising gaggles of kids, and now want a life of leisure where if anything goes wrong they just call the super and wait for some one to show up to replace their run down air conditioning units and their busted pipes.
The oldsters love me.
I’m the friendly disabled construction worker, one who helps the old ladies and their flaccid husbands out with their groceries and moving heavier pieces of furniture.
They call me Young Jason and not tweaked out, drunken piece of shit like the ex-wife and half dozen old neighbors called me before I moved to Cedar Point.
What’s best about living around the over-sixty-plus set is that most of them are in the sack by 9 PM, and I can come out on my patio with my smokes and my beer and just sit and listen to the night and the traffic rolling along the US 60 a couple of blocks away.
Tonight’s been pretty much the same; no noise, no distractions, just me standing out in the night air, breathing smoke and tonguing the black thing in the back of my mouth. When I come out for my fifteenth smoke, my peace and quiet is being cracked wide open by the Sullivans, who are yelling at each other at the top of their lungs out in the courtyard.
Or I should say the old lady is.
“I told you! I told you!”
Of all the geriatrics in the complex, the Sullivans have been here the longest.
They’re a quiet and overly-friendly couple.
They’re always the first ones to drop in on new renters with a batch of fresh baked cookies or to offer assistance in getting settled. They’ve both got be hovering around the ninety or older range, and I freely admit that they both drive me bugshit.
I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because the woman, Paula, acts sweeter than a piece of Mexican hard candy, or that her husband, Duncan, never says a goddamn word and just stands behind her smiling his big dumb smile with his ill-fitting, unnaturally white dentures. They spooked the hell out of me when they popped in on me back when I first moved in; both of them just barging in the front door without so much as a knock. Since then, I’ve avoided them and their over-flowing plate of cookies like a cracked-out homeless veteran.
They ain’t being too quiet and friendly tonight.
“I told you about not bringing them boys into my house!”
I slouch into the shadows of my patio, keeping the burning orange cherry of my smoke hanging low and out of sight as I watch them circle each other on the small patch of grass at the center of the complex.
“I didn’t bring ’em. They’re just pictures.” It’s the first time I’ve ever heard the old man speak; it’s a low grumble and sounds like he’s spent a lifetime gargling glass shards and wild turkey 101.
“It’s the same thing, ya old pervert!”
“Keep your voice down, Paula! Yer gonna wake up the entire building!”
“I will not! I will not be quiet!” The old lady is off her ass loaded; each word is accompanied with a slurred wad of spit. “My husband is a PEVERT! My husband is a FAGGOT BOY FUCKER!”
“I told you to SHUT UP!”
The punch comes out of left field and the old man throws it like it’s suppose to be: from the shoulder, his entire body behind it, pivoting on his right foot, and punching through his target, who just happens to be his wife.
The sound of knuckles against flesh and bone makes me shutter a bit; it also makes me think how good a punch like that would feel; how the knuckles would cut hard into my jaw line, the inside of my cheek shredding, teeth going loose and liquid. I think about my body hitting the ground hard, my breath ragged, spitting shards of teeth and a hot swill of saliva and blood. I think about how absolutely fucking fantastic it would feel.
The punch spins the old lady on her heels, her eyes big glassy orbs. The old man has his back to me, but I imagine the look on his face; his eyes bugged out, mouth slack jawed wonder, maybe a little drool trailing from the corners. The old lady doesn’t hit the dirt, she balances herself, liver spotted hands braced against her knees. The old man is shuffle-stepping over to her; he’s whispering, he wants to put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She punches just like the old man, although not with the same force because she’s bent forward.
Not that it matters.
Her punch is aimed straight at his nads.
She follows up strong, doubling up her fists, swinging up, connecting with the chin. The old man’s uppers go flying, skidding into the dirt. The flying dentures remind me of a pink hockey puck.
The old man does drop, flat on his back. His wife mounts him like one of those cage fighting guys; she has fast hands and lands six face shots in about three seconds.
She stops punching, the tip of her tongue poking out between her lips and rips the old man’s pajama shirt open and headbutts his nose in one smooth motion.
She drops her head a second time, but pulls back at the last second, and kisses his chest.
Her mouth moves over him, tonguing his nipples; wet, squelching. He responds by pushing up her nightgown, yanking away her adult diaper.
I decide to break my cardinal rule of not smoking indoors and edge open the sliding glass door, slipping inside without a sound.
BIO: Keith Rawson is a little known pulp writer who lives in the alkaline desert wastelands of southern Arizona with his wife and very energetic three-year-old daughter. His stories have appeared in such publications as Plots with Guns, Pulp Pusher, CrimeWav.com, Bad Things, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp and many others. You can find him most nights dicking around on either Twitter or Facebook, or stroking his already over-inflated ego at his blog Bloody Knuckles, Callused Fingertips.