Pulling Teeth by Corey A. Edwards

Carl tweezed the flaccid pink of his penis between two fingers as if it were an expensive cigar. An amused look lit up his face as he watched the urine pound out of him into the toilet. He had called in ‘sick’ this morning and was making the most of his day.

Mr. Oodles, a dachshund so named for the amount of poop it produced, stood faithfully nearby, head cocked in curiosity at the sound of his master’s urination.

In the next room the phone rang with a sudden, cacophonous jangle.

Carl jerked, the delicate clamp of his fingers pinching to twist. Urine splashed across the bowl, over the toilet tank, and into the trashcan.

Cursing and hobbled, Carl danced around a yipping Mr. Oodles to the telephone, which trilled another shrill blast as he reached it.


“Hello, may I speak to Mr. Carl Parks?” asked a woman’s voice, loud and tinny through the receiver.

“Speaking.” Carl, his pants around his ankles, watched helplessly as one golden droplet after another fell to the carpet.

“Mr. Parks, this is Dr. Garbinger’s office. I was calling to confirm your appointment today for one-thirty?”

“Whaat?” Dr. Garbler? One-thirty?

“Your dental appointment with Dr. Garbinger at one-thirty this afternoon, sir. Had you forgotten?”

Oh! The dentist . . .

“There must be some mistake. I’ve no appointment.” Carl grimaced and shook his member, causing the final drizzles of urine to fly about. Mr. Oodles yipped and ran, the ugly rain having pelted him on the muzzle and hindquarters.

Silence interspersed with the sound of muffled fumblings found its way through the receiver to Carl’s ear.

“No, sir. You do have an appointment today at one-thirty.”

Carl held the phone away from his head and stared at it as if it had just licked him.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Mis-ter Parks, I am simply calling to tell you about your appointment. I do not appreciate being cursed at!”

“Well I’m sorry but I can assure you that I didn’t make any appointment with Dr. Garbager for this week at one-thirty. I didn’t make an appointment at all. Really.”

“That’s neither here nor there, Mr. Parks. If my appointment book says you have an appointment then y-”

-click- Carl hung up the phone.

He hated dentists, considering them dangerous and evil, and his latest brush with one, Dr. Garbinger, had done nothing to ease this conception.

His girlfriend had set up this latest appointment. Carl had made the mistake of complaining about a little twinge of pain in his teeth and she’d gone and made the appointment without telling him. She was always so worried about his health.

When he found out what she’d done, he acted quite angry with her but truth be told, he was actually more frightened than mad. He knew he should go but the thought of all those drills and needles . . . Yet he went -it was, after all, just a check up and a cleaning, so why not?

But dentists never let it go at just that. Carl thought, the memory of the visit playing through his mind.

The magazines in the waiting room were dull: dog-eared copies of Good Housekeeping and Highlights. Outside there was some street work going on. Carl watched a man pulverizing concrete with a jackhammer, and a sense of foreboding began building in him. He contemplated slipping out to his car and escaping and was on the verge of doing so when the hygienist called his name.

After being shown into the office and given a seat in ‘the chair’, Debbie, the dental hygienist, worked uncomfortable packets of film into his mouth and x-rayed his jaw, repositioning a massive metal arm about his head for each shot. Carl noted that she retreated from the room during the x-ray, leaving him to receive a full dose of ‘harmless’ radiation.

Next she took pictures of his mouth with a tiny, expensive camera that were then displayed on a small monitor in the corner.

The photos showed his tortured enamel stained to an almost uniform yellow with occasional patches of dark, nasty brown. As they viewed the pictures together, the hygienist reiterated everything Carl had ever heard and ignored about dental care.

Debbie then tilted the chair straight back, allowing the afternoon sun to jab its slivers into his eyes, and treated Carl’s teeth to a thorough cleaning using a variety of picks and scrapers. She finished up with a thin stream of high-pressure, ice-cold water.

The pain was unique.

Afterwards, Debbie took her leave to be replaced by Dr. Garbinger and a pretty, young assistant in a short skirt, toting a clipboard.

Dr. Garbinger seemed nice enough but Carl found the mole burrowing out the side of his nose rather distracting. It looked like a brown bug lodged in the man’s face.

Why hadn’t he had it removed? Carl wondered. Surely he had a few friends in plastic surgery. Every time Carl tried to look the man in the eye he found his eyes wandering instead to the mole –and he was certain Garbinger knew it.

After going over what notes the hygienist had left, Dr. Garbinger tilted Carl back once again and began probing, calling off numbers. The dental assistant ticked along the clipboard with her pencil. Carl enjoyed the excellent angle he had on her teenaged thighs, switching back and forth between them and the good Dr.’s mole that, with the distance between them so greatly decreased, had swollen in his vision, a great mass of perverted flesh.

When finished, Dr. Garbinger excused his assistant and began explaining the prognosis.

Carl nodded in all the correct places, his mind on the mole. He amused himself by wondering if it had grown out of the dentist or if the dentist had instead formed around it. Maybe it was an alien using the dentist’s body as a way to torture humans?

Suddenly the Dr.’s words penetrated through Carl’s bizarre daydreams.

“What?!?” Carl cried.

Three teeth needed to be filled. All four wisdoms would have to be pulled. An extensive cleaning beneath the gum-line was needed to put the deterioration of the underlying bone in check. Medieval torture, in other words.

Carl played it cool while the doctor talked but begged off when the receptionist pushed for another appointment, pleading financial instability. He then half ran from the office, a cold sweat breaking out over his body.

Now that feeling was back. Had they misunderstood him when he’d refused the next appointment? It felt as if that one check-up, that one step over the line from a name in the phone book to having wetted their hands with his saliva had indebted him to them, connected them, in some odd way.

Outside his window some children were throwing leaves into each other’s hair. Carl turned from the phone, watching, absent minded. The children paused in their play and went into hysterics, laughing and pointing at his window. It took him a few seconds to realize that his pants were still around his ankles.

An hour later the phone rang again. This time it was Dr. Garbinger himself.

“Carl Parks, please.”

“This is Carl.”

“Yes, Mr. Parks. There seems to be some misunderstanding regarding your appointment this afternoon.”

“No misunderstanding on this end, doc. I don’t have any appointment this afternoon.”

“Well, Mr. Parks, that’s no problem. We can always reschedule for a later date, though we don’t want to put it off for too long now, do we? How’s next Wednesday?”

Carl chuckled in disbelief.

“Actually, this whole year is kinda packed for me. Listen, I’m not interested in . . .”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Parks. Apparently you don’t realize how serious this is. Your teeth are very important to your health. That concerns us. We care, Mr. Parks, and we’re here to help.”

“You don’t get it. I don’t need your help.” Carl replied and hung up.

The phone rang again.

Carl stood and stared at it in disbelief, letting it ring. Finally, almost unconsciously, he picked up.

“Mr. Parks, I’m sorry if this is an inconvenience to you, but a dental appointment is not something to be made light of. I have your chart here in front of me, and I can see that you’re in serious need of medical attention. Now, if you’d like to reschedule your appointment, we can do that. Otherwise, if you lack the means to get here this afternoon, I can arrange to have someone come and pick you up.”

“What? Go to hell!”

“Alright,” the voice was calm, businesslike. “This afternoon it is, Mr. Parks. One-thirty. I shall expect to see you then.”

“Wait a minute. Wait a minute!” Carl shouted looking into the receiver. “I don’t want your services. I didn’t make the first appointment, my girlfriend did, and I sure as hell didn’t make the second appointment, so I aint comin’! You understand me?”

“No, Mr. Parks, I’m afraid I don’t. You see we made the second appointment for you.”

At that, Carl almost dropped the phone.

“You may not want our services, but you need them. Your teeth need them and, if they could talk, they’d tell you they wanted them. Your teeth deserve only the best, Mr. Parks. Think of all they do for you.”

“Yes!” Carl gnashed back. “My teeth. Mine. I’ll worry about them! You worry about law suits for harassment!”

Carl slammed the phone down, mashing his fingers.

It was one-oh-five when the doorbell rang.

Carl, still in a foul mood from the morning’s unpleasantness, stomped down the stairs, used his foot to shove a yapping Mr. Oodles out of the way, and yanked the door open.

“Mr. Carl Parks?” A man in a white lab coat and pleasant smile stood on the other side of the screen door.

Carl slammed the door shut, cursing.

What the fuck is going on, here?

The doorbell rang again and Carl shot the bolt home.

Distant and muffled came the voice:

“Mr. Parks? Mr. Parks, let’s not make this any harder than we have to. Mr. Parks?”

Carl backed away from the door in disbelief. Who was this dentist? Head of the FBI?

He heard the screen door being opened and watched his door handle rotate back and forth in rhythm to the knocking.

“Mr. Parks? Mr. Parks?”

Carl walked over to the couch and sat down, crossing his arms.

The knocking stopped and Carl heard the sound of the screen door falling back into place. Mr. Oodles continued to stare at the door, snuffling around the jam with his little black nose.

Carl eased deep into the couch and exhaled noisily.

Unbelievable! he chuckled, butterflies in his stomach. It’s like some weird nightmare.

As if on cue, Mr. Oodles stiffened then began yapping anew. The screen door gave its familiar skronk as it was pulled open, then there was some scuffling, and a muffled voice:

“Stand clear of the door, Mr. Parks.”

Carl sat up and leaned forward on the couch, biting his upper lip in confounded expectation.

Stand clear of the door?

Carl’s right hand went down to the floor as he tried to coax the dachshund away from the door but Mr. Oodles was too caught up in his role as protector to notice.

The front door blew inward with a deafening bark. Carl recoiled from the explosion, rolling back along the couch, arms and legs pulled tight against his body. A hail of splinters pelted his living room as large pieces of the door were blown backwards through the banister, some of them becoming lodged in the opposite wall.

The concussion still ringing in his head, Carl peeked out from between his fingers at the smoke and ruin of his now gaping front entranceway.


“Mr. Parks?”

Carl jumped up from the couch at the sound of the voice and was startled to see the cautious shadows of three people entering through the shivered haze of his doorway.

Dashing towards the garage, Carl yanked his key ring and its hook off the wall as he passed, removing a sizable chunk of drywall.

Behind him he could hear their footfalls and calls to halt.

Carl burst into the garage and pulled the large garbage can next to the door over behind him in hopes of slowing his pursuer’s progress.

They came through the door just as he got into the car. The first one out didn’t see the trash can and went sprawling. Beer cans, coffee grounds, cereal boxes and used Kleenex barfed out all over the floor. The next fellow slipped on a grapefruit peel while trying to dodge his prone companion and also went down.

Carl pushed the garage door opener as the last intruder shot the gap and threw himself onto the hood of the car.

The guy was huge, looking more like a linebacker than a dentist. His face was worked into a confident grin as he peered through the windshield. Silver, long-handled dental tools dripped from the breast pocket of his white coat, creating merry chatter on the hood of the car.

Panicking, Carl slammed his car into reverse and gunned the motor. The hood slid out from under his shocked assailant so fast that the fellow was still grinning when he hit the floor.

Carl smashed backwards through the lower half of the slowly rising garage door and turned out into the lawn, tearing a chunk out of the garage wall as he passed.

Stabbing it into first, Carl spun out, tossing hairy, green chunks of sod all over his front porch. Accelerating, he watched in his rearview as the three emerged at a run from the garage and made for a shiny, white van. Carl punched the clutch and threw his car into a higher gear.

They didn’t catch up with him until he was halfway to town.

He had just begun to relax when he saw the van again, moving out from behind a diesel and speeding up, his assailant’s faces pressed eagerly against the windshield.

Carl stomped on the gas but the van, far newer than his poor car, had no trouble pulling up alongside of him.

One of the men, the big fellow who had leapt on the hood, rolled down a window and motioned for him to do the same. Carl hesitated and then complied. The wind ripped through the car, clawing at his hair.

The man shouted something that was lost in the wind.


“I said: Pull over!”

“Are you crazy?”

“It’s for your own good, Mr. Parks!”

“You are crazy!” Carl cried and began to crank his window back up.

“Think of your teeth!” the man pleaded, but Carl would have none of it. He stared straight ahead and tried to coax more speed out of the engine.

The van began to edge towards him, trying to run him onto the shoulder. The other traffic gave them a wide berth.

Carl, remembering all the TV shows he had seen, swerved into the van. The forward motion coupled with the force of the collision nearly sucked his car under the rear wheels of the van. Carl swerved back into his own lane and looked over to see what effect his reckless attack had had on them. The unfazed, determined looks on their faces almost stopped his heart.

His mind blanked. What the hell was going on? Carl’s fingers tightened on the steering wheel as his mind raced.

Dentists. Dentists killed my dog because they want to fix my teeth. I am in a car chase with dentists. It sounded more like the kind of wacky story some bored retail clerk might write in his spare time than real life.

Carl shook his head and looked back over at the van. He was alarmed to see that it had moved less than three feet away from him.

Too late, he realized what they were doing.

The butt of a small oxygen tank smashed against his driver’s side window. Cubes of glass sprayed Carl as the window sagged in against his shoulder. He swerved away and found himself slamming into –and very nearly over- a guardrail. The force of the collision sent his car skidding back into the lane.

They were back on him immediately. The bulky dentist leaned out of the van’s side door, his white coat and blue striped tie flapping in the wind. His lips were pulled back from his strong, even teeth which clenched a hooked probe. For a split second Carl found himself thinking that the fellow looked more majestic than menacing. He then watched in shock as the man launched himself at his car.

I should hit the brakes.

The thought came too late. The dentist landed on top of his car with a dull thump. Moments later, an arm snaked down through Carl’s gaping window. Carl beat at it until it retreated. When it returned it held the hooked probe and slashed at Carl’s hands on the steering wheel.

As they approached town, the traffic became heavier, forcing both Carl and the van to slow down. Soon they were cut off from each other and Carl was left alone with his assailant.

The man on the roof of his car tried attacking with the probe or snaking a hand in to unlock the door but Carl was too quick, smashing the fingers between his shoulder and the doorframe or swerving and forcing the fellow to halt his attacks in order to retain his grip.

Suddenly the car ahead of them slammed on its brakes and Carl was forced to do the same. The dentist slid forward, finding himself on the hood once more. He grabbed at the lip of the hood to keep from sliding all the way to certain death, his white lab coat flapping backwards over his head.

Carl continued with the traffic, acting as if there was nothing unusual about having someone in the medical profession clinging to the front of your car.

“Jesus, man! Stop the car!” the dentist cried, his lips quivering and purpled.

Carl smiled and pumped the brakes again.

“Mah!” cried the dentist, tightening his now desperate grip, “No! Please! I just want to help you!”

Carl laughed and mashed erratically on his brakes. This time the fellow’s grip failed him and he slid down the hood of the car squealing, his dental probe, gripped in one fist, leaving a long, deep scratch on the hood. Carl stared mesmerized as the resulting thin curls of blue paint flew out of sight.

There was a noticeable bump in the ride as the dentist slid under the car but Carl didn’t slow down or look in his rearview. He knew the stakes had just been raised and wanted to reach some authority, a real authority, not a fucking dentist, before the shit hit the fan.

He could still see the white van, stuck in traffic some ten car lengths back, and knew they’d be right after him, so he began to scan for an out.

Where the hell’s a cop when you need one?

Remembering a pay phone in the small strip mall ahead, Carl made for the right lane. A large sedan began riding his bumper and Carl could see that its occupants were glaring at him.

Had seen him kill the dentist? Carl barked a nervous laugh then looked again. All the men in the car behind him were wearing white lab coats.

More dentists.

With the gas pedal floored, Carl whipped into the parking lot of the strip mall, losing control of his vehicle.

Brakes locked, he slid sideways into a handicapped spot, his left, rear quarter panel mashing into a truck’s bumper and spinning him counterclockwise, serendipitously aligning his car in the stall.

Dazed, Carl clawed his way out of the car and ran for the nearest shop –Morton’s Drug.

At his approach, the steel framed, glass doors slid back in their tracks. Squeaking through the opening, Carl’s shoulder careened off one of the doors and down he went.

Two small boys standing at a row of gumball machines stared at him in shock, mouths agape. At his feet he heard the doors slide back into their closed position with a hissing snick.

Carl got to his feet and jogged into the nearest aisle, looking for somewhere, anywhere, to hide. It occurred to him that there had to be a stock room, fire exit, or bathroom to the rear of the store. Quite probably the latter two were in the first.

When the aisle he was in terminated, Carl found himself at the end of a long lunch counter. Three or four customers sat dining as a heavyset waitress in an apron wiped crumbs onto the floor with a damp rag.

Carl walked over to the counter and tried to get the attention of the waitress. At his elbow sat a large, elderly woman in a blue, floral print dress eating salad. The straw hat on her head, festooned with plastic flowers, bobbed as she chewed, dressing dripping from her chin.

Carl waved until he caught the waitress’s eye.

“You have a bathroom?”

“Y’buy anything?”

“Listen, it’s an emergency!”

“We got us a store pol’cy ‘bout that: Y’ain’t buy anything, y’ain’t usin’ th’bathroom. S’fair, don’tcha think? We pay fer all the toilet paper an water n’ stuff s'why should . . .”

But Carl was no longer listening. He spun about and began to trot across the back of the store to look for the inevitable stockroom entrance.

“Hey! There he goes! Mr. Parks!”

Carl began running. At the last second he cut down an aisle then, halfway in, stopped to listen.

The footsteps running towards him ceased as well and it became altogether too quiet.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Carl’s breath, the noise of which he was attempting to suppress, came in ever more rapid gulps. Across the aisle from him sat row after row of toothpaste. Tubes and dispensers of every color and description; cavity fighting, tartar control, baking soda, mint gel, new and improved –Carl felt dizzy.

“Mr. Parks.”

The voice came from no discernable direction. Carl backed up into the shelving behind him; rows of toothbrushes, sealed in multicolored plastic packaging, dug into his back.

“Mr. Parks, shouldn’t we try to be reasonable with each other?” the voice was calculated to soothe. “All we want is to help you and you, in turn, only want to help yourself. Isn’t that right?”

The voice sounded impossibly close. Startled, Carl studied his surroundings. Looking up towards the rear of the store, he noticed a long, angled mirror that ran the length of the back wall. This useful and unobtrusive shoplifting deterrent revealed to Carl as much as it had his would be captors: at the front of the store two men were working towards his aisle, another pair made their way towards him along the back and, directly above and behind him, the owner of the voice had somehow climbed the shelving without Carl hearing and was preparing to cross over, perhaps to jump him from above.

At that instant, via the mirror, all eyes met. Everyone stopped moving and a strange peace, like the sound an ice cube makes just before the pressure of your jaw cracks it, reigned.

Then the metal shelving creaked beneath the weight of the man atop it and Carl sprang away. In a cascade of floss and brushes, the dentist hit the floor behind him.

In the mirror Carl watched as the men at either end of the store ran towards him but he felt confident he could make his goal –the pharmacy.

Arranged across the back corner of the store, the pharmacy is a world unto itself. Rows of pills, powders, and syrups, are organized on thin shelves. Before them, separating the world from the medicines they need, is a long counter where the pharmacists consult their computers and dole out their concoctions. The whole of the pharmacy sits on a platform that elevates it ten inches higher than the rest of the store, giving the pharmacists an eagle eye view of the surrounding aisles as well as an air of superiority needed to keep their customers in their place.

Carl wasn’t the least bit affected by this, however. What he saw was a potential sanctuary.

The eyes of the young girl at the pharmacy’s checkout register got bigger and bigger as Carl approached.

“Get out the way!” he cried and dove over the counter.

Coming out of an impromptu somersault, Carl unrolled along the floor like an old, stiff carpet, his heels snapping against the tiles. The girl looked down at him in shock as he scrambled to a squatting position and began scuttling crablike back among the shelves, pleading: “Help me!”

The pharmacist, a tall, thin man with stern glasses and a respectable friar’s ring of hair appeared.

“What the devil’s going on here?”

“You have to help me!”

The sound of many, hurried footsteps as the dentists reached the counter.

“Mr Parks!”

The pharmacist slapped his hand, palm down, on the countertop.

“See here,” he said in an authoritarian baritone, “I don’t know what’s going on here but I don’t like it.”

He first looked at Carl, cowering against the wall, then upon the eager, sweaty men who jostled in anxious anticipation at his counter.

“You’re not policemen. Who are you to be chasing people into my pharmacy?” His hand reached out for the phone. “Answer quick or I’ll have the authorities on you!”

One of the men produced a thin wallet from under his lab coat and, smoothing back his bangs, flipped it open.

The girl’s breath drew in sharply and Carl saw the pharmacist blanch.

“Oh. ADA. My apologies.”

Reaching under the counter, the pharmacist slid back the bolt and raised the counter top, giving the dentists access.

As they entered, one of them asked: “You have any cotton wadding? We’re gonna need it.”

Outside the store a small crowd formed. Carl’s car was still running in the handicapped spot as a policeman wrote out a ticket.

Though you could barely hear the screams through the glass, people continued to press up against it, hoping to catch sight of whatever was going on inside.

A small boy wandered up to the tall man in the white coat who guarded the entrance of the store and asked what was happening.

“Oh, nothing for you to worry about.” said the man, bending down and ruffling the boy’s hair. The boy smiled.

“That’s a nice smile you have there, son." The man looked around cautiously then, certain he wasn't being observed, pulled a lollipop out of his pocket, removing the wrapper with one quick motion.

"Here, kid. Suck on this.”

cae 2003