Pearly Whites

I have found that secrets are best kept when your gown is bundled at the bottom of the bed. They don’t need to know who you work for, where you’re really from — or that your teeth aren’t real.
 
My replacements are perfect, lined up in my mouth like a picket fence. They can crunch through watercress and smile politely. They give my tongue something to work with when I spout lies; nobody takes home a mumbler.
 
The real ones have been gone for ten years now, since that afternoon wandering the railroad tracks, hand in hand, too in love to feel the vibrations of the train.
 
There was the sudden surprise of metal smashing into the side of my face, steel barrelling through my jaw — I remember watching my canines, incisors, bicuspids take flight in front of me, like a flock of birds surprised in a field.
 
His parts flew farther.
 
They put me back together again, like clerks wrestling a mannequin in a holiday window display. An arm bent that way, the neck bent the other, a little epoxy to hide the cracks. Then, paint on the smile.
 
There’s a radio transmitter in my back right molar, a cyanide tablet in the left. Somedays I feel as though I could twist my front canine and a corkscrew would pop out: Merlot for all.
 
I’ve only lost a pair once, in an at-sea scuffle aboard a German oceanliner. If I have my longitudes correct, they’re lying somewhere not far from the Titanic, another skeleton for the fish to wonder at.
 
Now, I rarely remove them — only when I know I’m the last thing my mark will ever see.
 
I set them on the pillow so they’re the first thing to spot when he wakes up.
 
He’ll look at me confused, horrified, trying to piece together what’s happening, trying to understand what I’m saying, my gums slapping together.
 
What I’m saying is, with my Luger in hand: “I won’t bite.”
 

 

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Front page image by Anita Carril.

 

GHOST WRITER is a project by Tracy Danger Mumford. New sections are released every other Sunday. If you’d like to receive email alerts—and that’s all you’ll get, a short email—saying the new one’s up, sign up here:


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