Free Fiction Friday: “Loose Teeth”


Loose Teeth

Written by P.R. O’Leary, 2005.

Photography by Valeria Ballerini of Through A Cracked Lens

Yeah, I know. My parents are paying you good money, Doc. I shouldn’t waste my time here. They told me all that already. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what happened. I owe my parents that much. It will probably take the whole hour. Fine. But could I have a glass of water, please? When I talk a lot the scabs start drying up. No, you don’t understand! Forget it Doc. I’m sorry. Thanks for the water, let me just start the story, okay?

Well, My name is Bill Dryer and I was born twelve years and two months ago. But you already know that. I guess the real story starts before school ended for the summer. During my daily walks home. I always walked home from school by myself. All my friends lived in the opposite direction. I didn’t care, though. It wasn’t a boring walk. I had something to look forward to on the way.

A comic book store. I loved comics. They were cheap enough for me to buy with my allowance and quick enough for me to read. Not like books. I hated books. I couldn’t keep my mind on the words for more than ten pages. They were boring, so I turned to comics for my literary intake.

Anyway, I need to back up a bit. School was going to end a week later. Final exams were over so the teachers let us do whatever we wanted, within reason of course. It was better for everybody that way. Me, I had brought my last three comics that I hadn’t read yet, and finished reading them in between goofing off with my friends.

My parents already told you what type of comics, right? Yeah, Weird Worlds of Horror, Shock Stories, Tales from Beyond the Grave. I hated all the super hero stuff, so I went for the horror and sci-fi. They were much better. Freaky things happened in them. Zombies, vampires, aliens, murderers.

Wow, Listen to me! I’m talking to a head doctor about this stuff. But it’s true. I know, just don’t make it out to be anything disturbing. They just had better stories and were full of creepy and weird things.

Anyway, I needed to get another comic for the next day of school. My allowance wasn’t due until Saturday, a full four days away. I only had a dollar fifty, which was exactly enough for one comic. So after school I went to buy one. The store was empty when I got there. Except for Mike, who was sitting down behind the counter reading some huge paperback book. It looked about a thousand pages. I don’t understand how he could sit through something that long.

Anyway, all the new comics were on shelves that ran the back wall, and the old ones were filed in boxes on the side. I had been through all those dozens of times, I knew that there was nothing to buy in there, unless Mike got any new ones. So I asked him. He was a nice enough guy and all, so he told me the names of the five he got since the last time I was there. He always kept track of those kinds of things for me, being I was a regular.

Well, I wanted to choose between three different comics, but was having a tough time. I finally decided to get Tales from Beyond the Grave, so I put the other two comics back where I found them. At the back of the shelf, hidden behind some other comics was one I hadn’t seen yet. So I picked it up and looked at it. It was thicker than usual, and it was called Realms of Terror. The first issue. I leafed through it. It looked great. The art was incredible, and the stories looked really weird. I saw a picture of a guy that had just ripped out his own eyes, and one of a little kid with an axe attacking this lady. I had to have it.

I was all ready to go up to Mike and buy it when I noticed the price. Two-Fifty. The thing was bigger than a normal comic, so they had to double the price. It was unfair. Still, I had to have it. So I went up to Mike to get him to keep it reserved for me till Saturday, when I would have my allowance. He wouldn’t. He was such a stickler for his rules. Three-day reserve. Max. No exceptions.

So I just stormed out of there, real fast. I ran all the way home, aiming to talk another dollar out of my father. I told him my dilemma, but keep in mind, of course, that I didn’t tell him why I wanted that comic so bad. Although he let me read them, he didn’t really approve of stuff like that.

Well, just like I suspected, he asked me why I wanted the comic and that was not something that I was gonna tell him about. Instead, I said forget it and went upstairs to see my mother. I thought maybe I would have better luck with her. I was wrong. I asked her the same thing and she gave me a ripping about how I didn’t clean my room and that if I didn’t shape up I would never get an allowance again.

Screw it, I thought. I could get the money myself. I got a snack, an apple and some cookies, and went in my room. I wanted to look through my comic collection to see if I had any that I could trade in.

I was sitting on my bed, looking through the comics and eating. All of a sudden, as I took a bite out of the apple, there was a kind of pain in my gum. Towards the back. My tooth had fallen out and I didn’t even know that it was loose! It was one of my baby teeth, the last one I thought, and it had gotten stuck in the apple when I bit it.

I picked it out and looked at it. A little rotten, but I’m a kid, so that was normal. It was also a little bloody on the bottom. I could taste a bit in my mouth. What? Yeah. I did. Kind of sweet.

So looking at that baby tooth, it dawned on me. What does a kid usually do with a tooth when a tooth falls out? That’s right Doc, he puts it under his pillow when he goes to sleep. And what does the tooth fairy exchange it with? Right again, Doc, now you see where I was going with this. A dollar bill. That dollar would give me enough to buy Realms of Terror. What luck I had!

Quickly, I ran down the hallway to show Mom. She smiled at me and made a comment about me needing to be more mature now that I had no more baby teeth.

Anyway, after I was assured that the Tooth Fairy – I knew it was Mom of course – would give me the dollar that I usually got, I ran to the phone and called Mike. He reserved it for me, no problem. Now that he knew I had enough money he would hold it for three days. I told him I would stop by on the way to school and pick it up.

That night I lay in bed thinking about what I had seen in Realms of Terror. I made up stories in my head about the pictures. You want me to tell you what they were? I don’t know, Doc. There were all sorts. I remember thinking that the little kid was attacking the lady with an ax because it was his mother who had just gotten bit by a zombie and he wanted to kill her before she turned on him. And the guy who pulled out his own eyes did so, well, because he wanted to see what it was like. Get it? Yeah, Doc, you better write that one down. It must mean something.

So while I was laying there and making up these stories, the hole where my tooth had been was beginning to fascinate me. No, it wasn’t anything like that, Doc. I was just probing it with my tongue, pushing the sore flesh around, forcing more blood out of it. Yep, that same taste. I did that for a while until I got tired and fell asleep.

The next morning, sure enough, a big fat one-dollar bill was under my pillow. I finished up everything I had to do and got to the comic shop as quick as I could. Mike had the comic ready for me. I gave him the money and ran the rest of the way to school. I had the whole day to read the comic. It was as good as I had hoped it would be. Even better. Well, that kept me occupied for a few days. It was so good I could keep reading it. Again and again. But pretty soon I needed something else to read. School had ended, and I had a lot more time on my hands.

So I found myself at Mike’s Comics. And this time, I didn’t have a hard time finding something to buy. The new issue of Realms of Terror had come out. But of course, I didn’t have enough money. I had two dollars, but the comic was still two-fifty. Mike wouldn’t hold it the six days till I got my allowance, and I was sure someone else was going to snatch that comic up any minute.

So I went home dejected, sat on my bed, and sulked. The hole in my mouth had healed, so I didn’t even have that to distract me. But I did get an idea. If I could lose another tooth, then I could get another dollar, and then I could buy the comic! A no-brainer! My mouth was like my own personal piggy bank. I probed around with my tongue and went to the bathroom to check the mirror. I was looking around for any more baby teeth.

No, I couldn’t find any. But the one next to the last one I lost was a little loose. Maybe it was from poking that hole with my tongue for forever. So I pushed it back and forth with my finger. It kept moving. No, no pain. Just a stinging sensation. It started in my mouth and spread. You know when you get goose bumps? Not the bad kind, but the good kind. That’s what it was like. I kept doing that for a bit. Then, when it was good and loose I grabbed onto it real tight and yanked it out.

Yeah, there was a lot of blood, so I just kind of sucked it up and drank it. Yeah, Vampiric! That’s a good word for it, Doc. Self-vampirism!

Anyway, I was just laying in bed, with the sticky tooth in one hand, drinking the blood up. A few hours later – I guess I fell asleep or something – and the bleeding had stopped. Yeah, I felt fine. I wasn’t weak or nothing. And it wasn’t too late, so my parents were still up. I told them I fell and banged my mouth on the dresser. They believed me. So after some acting and pleading, I finally got them to agree that the tooth fairy would have to come. But just because I was in so much pain and my Mom felt sorry for me. She actually wanted to take me to the doctor to make sure I hadn’t damaged anything else but my Dad said I would be all right. Boys would be boys.

So the next day I got my dollar and went straight to Mike’s. The second issue was just as good as the first one. Even better! The best story was about this creepy kid. When the mother gets pregnant again, the kid gets jealous and kills her and then pulls the baby out of her stomach and eats it! Sick, I know. But I don’t get off on stuff like that. I just find it interesting. And you thought I was weird enough, right?

So anyway, I’m reading the comic, and I’m poking at the spot where my tooth used to be. The hole is bigger and more tender than the last one. It’s bleeding more, too. I’m in heaven, just reading this comic and doing that. When the comic is over, I read it again. Then again. Great stuff, Doc. It was great. But I needed something else.

Well, something in me realized that I was getting more pleasure out of the hole in my mouth then the comic. That’s when I got the idea to do it. I don’t know exactly why. I mean, I was already happy. I didn’t need to do it.

What? I don’t know what exactly. A drive. A lightheadedness. A hunger. Not for food. Just for, well, you know. It’s hard to describe. Anyway, I go into the closet and open up my Dad’s toolbox. I go through the tools. A hammer, a wrench. A screwdriver. Flathead or phillips? I joke to myself. Then I see the pliers. I grab those and go into the bathroom.


Yeah, I only remember parts after that. Not the whole event. I remember looking at myself in the mirror. A crazy little kid holding his big front tooth in a pair of pliers. I remember thinking that the tooth was in there rock-solid. It wasn’t falling out by itself. Then, I remember my eyes getting wide and bam! I yanked and twisted as hard as I could with both hands. The rest is a big rush. I remember seeing red and being exhilarated and faint the whole time. I remember the sound the teeth made as they fell into the sink, one after the other. Clickety Clink. I remember the splats of blood on the tiles. Big gobs like ketchup.

Oh, sorry Doc. I know it must make other people uneasy. But for me, it was perfection. A thousand times over. Just like a story in a comic.

What? You want to know if it was worth it? Well, what can I say? Here I am, sitting on a psychiatrist couch. I cost my parents thousands of dollars in dentist bills, my mouth now looks like mashed up licorice, and I sound like the elephant man.

Well, since you are asking, Doc. Yeah. I can honestly say it was definitely worth it.

Free Fiction Friday: “Broken”



Written by P.R. O’Leary, 2005.

Photography by Nicole Holovinsky of Drawing with Lights.

Antique stores, garage sales, flea markets. Anywhere you find collectables trading hands you will find me. I’m the guy searching through the bargain bins, studying the damaged toys and the dusty cracked lamps and the chipped pottery. These I buy. These I add to my collection.

From a young age we are taught that things have worth only if they are perfect. But perfection only means something is exactly the same as the mold that it came from. The truth is that a chip on a Chinese brush pot makes it unique. A plastic Darth Vader toy missing his arms is one of a kind. They have broken the mold, graduated beyond their show room condition.

My collection takes up my whole house now. Rooms full of dolls without limbs. Books burned or missing half their pages. Necklaces and bracelets with holes where precious stones used to be. Damaged goods. Cookie-cutter antiques made one of a kind.

Sometimes I sit and stare at a Russian Niello Snuff Box with the lid cracked in half, or a steel Rolex watch missing one strap and wonder how it happened. The event that elevated it from one in a thousand to one in a million. I call this moment its birth.

The 1908 Steiff Teddy bear was born the moment he lost his leg and half the stuffing leaked out. He now sits there, sewn up and thin on one side like a stroke victim. Now he’s one of a kind.

The white and blue 1750 Worchester porcelain mustard spoon was born the moment it lost its handle. Now it’s just a small empty bowl with a shard sticking out. Now it’s one of a kind.

The Lefton Ceramic Easter Egg Trinket was born the moment it cracked in half. It sits there in two pieces like someone tried to make an omelet out of it. Now, this broken porcelain egg, it’s one of a kind.

Of course, these births have to be natural occurrences. I don’t go out and buy vintage Beatles records and melt them in my oven. That takes the life out of them. It’s like ripping a premature baby from the womb, too young to survive in the real world. I wait until they make themselves. These things, these damaged goods. These to me are unique and wonderful.

My dog, Lou, I got three years ago. He was born when he had his leg removed. Tumors. He was abandoned, wandering the streets, and the tumors just kept growing. When the pound got him his leg was almost as big as the rest of his body. There was nothing they could do but amputate.

After that, I took him home from the pound. Lou, the three-legged dog. His imperfection makes him unique. One of a kind. Special.

I started my collection ten years ago. A year after I was born.

It happened in a factory. My job was to glue razor sharp knives to pieces of plywood to make cutting dies. The accident wasn’t painful. One minute I was working, the next I was in the hospital. I was told later a forklift had hit the plywood I was working on, shoving it into me and driving the knives and razors into my arms and legs. Unconsciousness, loss of blood, but I was going to be fine.

Until the infection. It started in my leg and threatened to rise up towards my groin and into the rest of my body. The doctors tried but in the end they had to amputate. Right above the knee.

Next came a lawsuit, then a monthly allowance and the ability to sit at home and feel sorry for myself. Oh, my friends tried to make me get out of the house but there really wasn’t any place you could take a cripple without him seeing people walking around on two legs.

That’s when I found the doll. Sitting in the back of my closet. A remnant of a life before the accident when I had nieces and nephews over to play. Before they were scared of the shadowy uncle missing a leg.

She was a little girl doll. And yes, she was also missing a leg. A little schoolgirl, with hair made of yarn and a plastic face with painted-on freckles. This perfect little girl, missing a leg.

Then it snowballed. I went out and got other dolls. Other dolls missing limbs and eyes. Then I branched out and got other things. Toys, pottery, porcelain. And now here I am. A unique man with a unique dog and a unique collection of unique items. No two alike. All imperfect, all just right.


My friends were scared. Troubled. They told me to sell all this junk and get a desk job. Meet new people. Get a fake limb and get my life going again. They gave me the card of an antique dealer they knew. Someone who would give me a good price for my collection.

Eventually, they stopped showing up. I wasn’t in mint condition anymore. I refused to conform to the two-legged walking society. They felt that it was time for us to part ways. They didn’t say that of course, but I knew.

The card for that antique dealer sat on an old English occasional side table. The table was missing one leg and was propped up against the wall. The card gathered dust.

Not having friends for a while, that changed me a bit. Is there something wrong with me? They call my collection junk. I call my collection unique. Each and every item is special. I tell myself this. Then I call the antique dealer.

Oh yes, he says. He would definitely want to check out my collection of Chinese nesting dolls. My Mother of Pearl flatware and my Persian carpets. I don’t tell him they are broken. That they are damaged. He is coming tonight. He sounds excited.

When he knocks on my door even his knock sounds excited. I wheel over and let him in. An older man, all suit and glasses. He vigorously shakes my hand and walks in before I ask him to. My collection is everywhere and he immediately zooms towards a shelf. His eyes and fingers move over the items, touching each one slightly and continuing on, muttering to himself all the while. In less time than it takes me to turn my wheelchair around he is onto another shelf. Then another. Then into the next room. He is halfway around it before I get there, and as I watch he finishes and turns towards me.

“Do you have anything that’s not broken?”

I tell him no. Everything here is broken. Everything is missing a piece or has a crack or a dent. Everything is unique.

“Unique?” he says. “Worthless more like it. Those are defects. Nothing in here is in perfect condition.”

He speaks quickly and angrily.

“For a thing to have value. It has to be mint. Nothing can be wrong with it. All its pieces must be there. No dents, no scratches, no cracks.”

He picks up a turn of the century Santa Claus Bisque doll, missing an arm. “This,” he says, “would be worth about one thousand dollars. Now, defective, it’s worthless.”

Exasperated, he puts it down, almost throws it down. I try to talk to him as he walks towards the door. I tell him how the damage makes them special. How something has happened to everything in my collection that makes them unique. How being perfect is not that important.

“Worthless.” He says again as he walks towards the door.

He opens it and walks out. I stop at the doorframe and look outside. I scream at him. There is nothing wrong with these things! They are not worthless! Tell me they are not worthless!

He walks on, turns the corner and is gone.

I am talking to myself.

They are not worthless. Right?