Story Break – You Live in Exciting Times, by Julianne Black

There was a tooth on the table. I had been sitting there a good five minutes before I even noticed. Not on a napkin. Not in a pouch for the tooth fairy. Just a human tooth sitting loose on the wannabe-marble bistro table between the box of sugar packets and the last patron’s empty mug. Even creepier, the abandoned mug had a nice, fat, red lipstick blob-stain. Either some chick popped out her own tooth and left it behind as a macabre tip to the crazy-slow wait staff, or the guy she was with was a real looker with impeccable manners. Not. So that’s the way this night is going to go then? Bring it on. I’m having an affair with insanity, and you wouldn’t believe how codependent he can really be. This is nothing.

My horoscope warned me about the tooth already. Not the tooth exactly, but close. If my horoscope actually said straight up, “You will sit down to coffee with a random human tooth,” I would have been shocked and stayed in. Instead, it had to beat around the bush with “you live in exciting times”. Talk about vague. More like a fortune cookie than a horoscope. Terribly unhelpful, yet I read mine obsessively every morning via iPhone app. I guess it is even more lame-tastic that I have multiple horoscope apps, just in case one is missing some not huge day-altering drama that could completely not affect my life. Nope, the horoscope (any of them) neglected to mention the tooth – or what would happen immediately after in the parking lot.

But here I sat, menu in hand, staring at the tooth on my table, completely void of astral advice. What exactly is the public etiquette for random, accidental incisor discovery damage control? If I was with a friend, we would simply implement Tandem Attack Plan Alpha – exclaim, laugh, make faces and come up with forward momentum that usually involves posting a picture of the event on Facebook so we don’t seem as dull to the world as we mostly feel. But alone? Does one get up and leave? Pitch a fit about unsanitary conditions? Make some lame joke to whomever comes over to get that cup that there is apparently too much “choco” in the large choco-latte or that the bill should come with floss?

Which brings us to my next dilemma: I only have until someone comes by to clean the table to make up my mind. I certainly don’t want them to think I was the nasty tooth-leaver! Or what if the public etiquette in this situation is to ignore the tooth completely? Maybe every time someone came by to clean up the last diner’s mug they just continued to leave it there? This tooth could have been there for days?! What if Red Lipstick Lady before me was just as horrified as I am but she played the pretend-it-doesn’t-exist card and escaped unscathed?

Wait a minute! What if this whole thing is just one of those hidden camera shows? Maybe that covered pedestal plate on the counter, with the two-day-old bagels, is really a disguised camera? (They really were two days old; the sign has yesterday’s date.) Or that fake plant-thing by the door? What if that guy in the corner is just pretending to read that book and really he pops up any time with a microphone? On closer inspection, that guy is way too ugly for TV. Great, he just caught me looking and smiled. So much less than awesome.

Eventually someone will come over for that mug, and hopefully I’ll know by the look on their face if I should: A. ignore, B. be horrified, C. smile for the camera. The bad news is that, if I get the multiple choice question wrong, I’m likely to be pegged as the dental mental and will probably never be able to show my face in here again. Not that I would now, with Book Guy pretending not to look over here just as obsessively as I am pretending not to notice.

No wait staff yet. If I leave now, they might not label me as the tooth freak and ban me from future visits. Or do I simply wrap the tooth up in a napkin so they can take it away like any other piece of trash? But if they already knew about the tooth, they will also know I touched it to hide it. Being a toucher of other people’s discarded teeth wasn’t on my list of things to do tonight. Or ever. Still seems like the best option so far, though. Had I known that I would be hiding evidence by doing so, I wouldn’t have even considered it.

This is crazy. I am going to grab a napkin, pick up the damn tooth, throw it away, march over to the counter, order a coffee to go, and get the hell out of here. Here I go…. Any minute now…. If I hadn’t hesitated, I don’t think I would have noticed that Book Guy’s face seemed to be glowing as if he was sitting too close to the TV in the dark. But clearly the novel in front of him was of cardboard and paper, no batteries required. Where is that light coming from? He caught me looking again, but instead of the previous tight lipped “I swear I am not a perv” smile, I got something else. Something…. gummy. The man had no teeth. Quite the theme going on here, a real Molar Moment. It was about this time that I noticed there was no wait staff.

Lights on, coffee-beans-and-baked-goods smell, indie music… but no one here other than Book Guy and little ole’ me. The realization must have shown across my face because Book Guy – Impossibly Tall Book Guy – was on his feet and headed in my direction with headlamps burning brighter. As if he lived on glow sticks alone, his face illuminated the roots of his hair and the inside fold of his collar. My kingdom for a hidden camera show theme song. Another thought hit me, colder than a snow cone at the ice rink – that wasn’t lipstick on the mug.

Hoping my Payless boots were Olympic licensed, I made a break for the door – and to do so meant turning my back on Book Guy. I raced my shadow to the exit. I could see his reflection in the glass in front of me – how did I ever miss that Book Guy was that freaky looking? Pale, glowing skin, so tall he was ducking under the specials board… he wasn’t but a stride behind me now. Apparently my terror needed comic relief because the damn door was a “pull” instead of a “push”, requiring me to not only stop, but to turn enough to get a much closer look of Book Guy. My luck at its finest. With every horror movie I wasn’t supposed to watch as a kid flashing through my head, I saw the tendril leave his mouth. I don’t really have to describe the tendril, right?! I mean a tendril reached out of his mouth towards me. Just picture the worst thing ever so we can move on.

I made it to the door. I grabbed the handle. I pulled with all my strength. And then I heard the strangest sound from the sidewalk outside. If a mocking bird did a pop cover of a chainsaw, that would be close. But, of course, keep in mind that “close” is subjective. This sound-cry-growl-grind-thing made my ears hurt. Thankfully, it also seemed to give Book Guy a fierce audio wedgie because he fell to the ground slumped over and shaking. Light everywhere…. sirens…. then quiet.

Mid-sentence, I looked up to find I was talking to someone. An officer, it seemed, in the back of an ambulance. He was trying not to laugh. I worked to hide the what-the-hell-was-I-just-talking-about terror and hoped he would offer a clue if I stayed quiet long enough.

Ambulance Lady whipped out a flash light and blinded me. I guess if you get pissed, they know you are no longer in shock because she smiled and flicked it off again. Officer Man gave me a minute to collect myself and then simply said, “You can go home when you are ready.”

I looked out the ambulance door into the smoky parking lot. My car was still there even though the entire face of the coffee shop was not. From the sidewalk to the middle of the dining area was a charred, twisted mess. I mumbled some kind of thank-you and stepped down onto the crackled asphalt.

Later that evening I caught a news story about an explosion at a coffee shop downtown. Many dead, many missing. No mention of a glowing man, a tooth, or a crazy demon fog horn. Huh. I fished through my purse for my lipstick and wondered where I would go tomorrow night.

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. prisdiblasi says:

    This was awesome. So well written. Captures the imagination as soon as you start the article. One of the best yet.

    Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2013 17:55:49 +0000 To: prisdiblasi@hotmail.com

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