The Dentist by Stavros Kavoulakis

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Felyr sat on a wooden bench directly across from the dentist’s chair. Unbeknownst to him, the bench was placed there purposefully, if not strategically, so that incoming patients could get a preview of the pain that would be forthcoming. By sitting on the wooden bench, Felyr indicated to the dentist in practice that he was waiting for the special of the day. But Felyr was there for another reason of course.

The special of the day, which was the same every day, consisted of a shot of house whiskey and a simple tooth extraction for $3. After only a few weeks of private practice, John Henry Holliday noticed that the majority of his cases ended with an extraction so better to just suggest it up front and offer a drink to secure the proposition. After all, a complete removal of an infected or impacted tooth generally sufficed and Holliday’s clientele tended to be short on money and lifespan anyway. The fledgling dentist did not expect such an overwhelming response to his small sign advertising the $3 special. He hung the sign on the front door, right below a larger one that read “JH Holliday DDS”. Within hours of the posting, cowpokes, roughnecks, poor folk, cardsharps, and even outlaws started lining Holliday’s wooden bench asking for the daily special.

Today was an unusually slow day in the dental office Holliday thought to himself. Aside from a patient screaming bloody hell in the chair - an elderly man that helped stable horses at the livery down the street - and a newcomer who sat nervously on the wooden bench, there were no other inquiries about tooth removal that entire day. This pleased Holliday as the last few weeks had left him exhausted and he was starting to form callouses on his palms from pulling out an assortment of rotten teeth. But Holliday was still in good spirits and the result of his marathon efforts bulged from the side of his pants in the form of crisp, and sometimes bloodied, dollar bills. After the newcomer on the bench received the special, the hard work would come to a temporary halt. Holliday planned on locking his office and walking to one of the many saloons in town for a drink and a rigged game of faro.

Felyr watched with heavy heart as the young dentist worked on the old man from the livery, inserting and removing various pieces of what appeared to be precious metal from the patient’s mouth. It was quite curious, in a disgusting sort of way, the manner in which people of this time tended to their gums and teeth. Felyr had learned about traditions like this during his mandatories as a child, through simulated videos as well as oral instruction. Still, his education could never prepare him for the savage experience of a genuine tooth extraction and he could not help but stare as “JH Holliday DDS” inserted a tool made from precious metal directly in to the old man’s mouth. Just as Felyr had learned, the old man screamed and bled then everything was over. But the young dentist’s behavior after the extraction was somewhat perplexing to Felyr as he afforded the elder an extra shot of whiskey, at no charge, on account of the stubbornness of his rotting tooth. Felyr quickly thought to himself that such a modification to a clear, binding agreement was unfathomable and dangerous, if not completely unnecessary, and would never take place back home. Home…

Holliday displayed a crooked grin as he approached Felyr. In just a few moments, he would be playing cards with politicians, business men, and cutthroats. The thought filled his body with simultaneous fear and excitement.

 “Well my good sir, you will be my last patient of the day,” Holliday said. “And as such, I will make sure your special is extra special. Unless there is an objection to shots of whiskey before and after this unfortunate extraction.”

Felyr loved the sound of Holliday’s voice and the manner in which he chose his words. The Classic Western American dialect was the seventh language Felyr had learned and it took him nearly two weeks. However, he still lacked confidence in his ability to articulate proper sentences and simply nodded his head before rising from the bench and walking over to the unwelcoming dental chair. He strained his mind to create a handful of acceptable words then uttered, “I’ll take my two after please,” as he sat.

Holliday was a bit surprised at the utterance as he figured the man was a foreigner who for whatever reason, likely the pursuit of wealth, found himself in the less distinguished part of Atlanta, Georgia. Holliday could not help but stare at the man’s light, golden brown coating. It was a shade of skin he had never seen before, as if all the races of the world combined over the ages and this beautiful color was the result. He wanted to ask about the man’s roots but refrained. After all, he planned on closing the office early so he could partake in cards and libations.
 “I like your style and would have made the same decision myself. Business first, then on to the devil’s devices,” Holliday replied.

Felyr again thought about how much he adored the sound of Holliday’s voice and the manner in which he chose his words. He took an immediate liking to the young dentist and killing him would prove more difficult than he first thought. Felyr laid back in the archaic chair and opened his mouth without being instructed to do so. Holliday was pleased with these actions as this stranger’s efficiency and good manners brought him one step closer to the saloon. Perhaps he was of European decent. Holliday held up a thin pair of forceps in one hand and a thicker toothkey in the other.

 “Hopefully I’ll only have to introduce you to my smaller gal,” joked Holliday in reference to the less menacing forceps. It was a comment he made frequently in an attempt to put his more reserved patients at ease.

Felyr tried his best to smile while keeping his mouth open. It seemed somewhat bizarre to Holliday but the smile was as good as consent and he began his oral inspection. Upon glancing inside of Felyr’s mouth, there were no obvious signs of decay or irritation. Further complicating matters, a quick tapping of the forceps on some of Felyr’s teeth, chosen and tapped at random, produced a harmonious sound. It was the sound of flawless dental hygiene that was never heard amongst Holliday’s typical clientele.
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Holliday stepped back from the dental chair and examined his patient more carefully. Felyr’s clothes were immaculate in their cleanliness with not a single wrinkle visible. The Chinese migrants working the laundry must be using a new method Holliday quickly surmised and made a mental note to pay them a visit the following day. They had been able to work miracles on his blood spattered suits in the past and must have also steamed and cleaned this stranger’s garments as they appeared beyond brand new. Felyr sensed the sudden spike in Holliday’s curiosity and became uneasy. The dentist was a clever young man and could not be deceived for much longer.

 “You can close your mouth now, your face looks like it’s hurting,” Holliday said, wiping the forceps against a small piece of white cloth. “It’s undeniable, yours are the healthiest teeth and gums I have seen in my entire life.”

The comments caught Felyr by surprise. He kept forgetting that breathable healthcare was not a civil right, nor even available, in the classic American west. There were no wellness chemicals being infused in to the air by the Carrefour. Where Felyr was from, paramount health was simply a matter of standing outside and breathing.

 “I’m very much obliged to you for this compliment,” Felyr shakily responded. The comment sounded more formal than when he strung the sentence together in his mind. Holliday would not let his curiosity get the best of him. He wanted to inquire where this man learned the language though this desire was much weaker than the one that involved closing shop early, playing cards, and drinking with beautiful women.

 “Well sir, your teeth are the paragon of perfection so the inspection is my gift to you,” Holliday said with a chuckle. “You can still claim your shots of whiskey but it will have to be at the saloon of my choosing a few moments from now.”

Felyr was relieved that Holliday’s mind and body were more focused on other things but remained aware that his opportunity to strike without bringing too much attention to himself was growing smaller by the second.

 “I’m sorry, my last tooth feels pain,” Felyr said awkwardly. “You will oblige me again if you conduct a second inspection.”

 “Against my better judgement I will second guess my initial assessment,” Holliday said playfully. “I’m going to apply pressure on each tooth until we find our culprit, so open wide.”

Felyr could not have hoped for better fortunes. He was blessed to be in direct proximity of his target a mere 45 minutes after beaming down and could not squander this opportunity. Based on the most probable scenarios he studied the weeks before making his trip, this one was the least likely to occur. Yet it had occurred and he remembered the path of least resistance in this situation was death by infection. Felyr was prepared for this and pressed his tongue against his bottom molar at an angle that unlocked a hidden compartment within the tooth. He tilted his head back, guiding the saliva in his mouth to the hollowed out molar where a powder, sanguine in hue, was packed tight. As this newly formed substance started its minuscule boil, Felyr complied with Holliday’s instruction and opened his mouth wide.

 “Is that blood?” Holliday asked himself softly. “That cannot possibly be blood.”

Holliday knew better than to stick his exposed finger directly in a stranger’s mouth, but his curiosity often got the best of him. When he noticed the hidden compartment in Felyr’s back tooth it was already too late. Felyr used every muscle in his body to clench his jaw, taking Holliday’s index finger prisoner in the process. Without losing grip of the digit, he began grinding his teeth back and forth. Holliday felt immense pain before a gleeful sedation took hold of his veins. He became loose and disoriented. The poison was working.

The taste of Holliday’s blood was nauseating. Still, Felyr feared releasing hold of the finger prematurely and continued clinching and grinding. The young dentist would be in his state of euphoria for only a few more moments before the final cycle of the poison returned him to his senses. Felyr himself was immune to the poison, which was actually an ancient disease that was engineered in to a fine powder by a black-market behaviorist at the behest of the Carrefour. Felyr always had difficulty pronouncing the name of the disease and could not comprehend the science behind the powder when the behaviorist explained it to him. He only knew that this ancient sickness that he could not pronounce would ensure that Holliday’s offspring would never revolutionize the wellness industry for the disease would make certain that they would never be born. The bottom line of the Carrefour would remain intact and obscenely profitable for now and the aspiring young dentist would be fortunate to live another two months. Steeped in guilt, Felyr continued his desperate, cannibalistic act.

Holliday felt bilious as he regained his senses and swallowed his own vomit to keep it from exploding on to the wood floors of his office. He registered the pain from his finger before realizing what was going on. Even then, he struggled to come up with a quick answer.

“Let go of me,” Holliday screamed. “You’re Lucifer in the flesh!”

Felyr of course did not reply nor release his hold. Seemingly out of options, Holliday reached for a recently sanitized scalpel that was within arm’s reach. In one fluid movement, he grabbed the item and slashed upwards slicing Felyr’s throat from just under his chin to the beginning of his left ear lobe. Felyr made no sound as his eye’s rolled upwards in to his skull for a moment before rolling back down to form a death stare. His body, freshly deceased, toppled out of the dental chair and thumped lightly on to the ground below. Felyr did not bleed all over the wooden floors as Holliday anticipated. His blood appeared to be peculiarly dark and high in viscosity akin to refined petroleum.

“He drew first so it was self-defense Doc,” a drunken voice said out of nowhere. It was the old man who worked the livery. “I’ll testify.”

 “Holy shit, you are still here,” a frazzled Holliday replied. “Help me drag this misanthrope out of here and your next extraction is free.”

 “I’m too drunk for that Doc, but I’ll holler at the sheriff,” the old man countered before leaving Holliday alone to clean his wound.

Holliday could not stand to look at Felyr’s deceased body laying before him on the ground. In all his late night dealings at the whorehouses and saloons, this was the first time he had taken the life of another human being. It was by no means murder though it sure felt like it. The emotional toll of this act would not be felt in its entirety until later that night at the faro tables. For now, Holliday did well simply to muster enough strength to wash his hands and wait for the sheriff’s arrival. As he wiped his hands off and stared at himself in the mirror, he was consumed by an uncontrollable fit of coughing that forced him to his knees. It was the first episode of its kind and Holliday brushed it off as a psychosomatic reaction to the bizarre events of the day.

 Hopefully his luck would change at the saloons he thought to himself as the coughing started once again.    Buy a Copy, Support this Author


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