NYC Midnight Flash Fiction 2014. Round 1, Group 4.

Given prompts:
Genre: Rom-Com. Blech, my least favorite genre.
Location: Under a Bridge. Has to be predominantly featured.
Object: Must have a passing mention but must play a part.

A Dental Connection.
By Wayne Hills

Synopsis:
An eccentric dentist and his lovelorn assistant fall in love while performing oral surgery on an unusual patient.
Or: A horse walks into a dentist’s office. The receptionist says, “Why the long face?”

They worked through the night, and well into dawn of the next day. Preparing the pontics for the proper alignment and placement of the span meant to close the edentulous gap. In order for the bridge to be perfect, the doctor was their only hope.
Dr. Mark Zahnarzt was the leading dentist in the region. An introverted genius, when not treating patients he kept to himself experimenting with the dentition of mammals of all kinds. He was devoted to the care of gums and teeth. The fact that they were attached to living humans was merely a necessary annoyance.
His assistant, Ethel Jungfer, hadn’t gone on a date during the decade she worked for him. She only had eyes for the eccentric doctor, who in turn only had eyes for the mouths set before him.
Until the fateful day their office received an unexpected patient.
The door burst open at four O’clock, the time Ethel usually closed for the day; and Dr. Zahnarzt began experimenting with his anatomical models.
“I’m sorry to barge in ma’am. My name’s Wes Kuhhirt, you’ve got to help me.” The man stopped just inside the doorway, he held a weatherworn Stetson in his clenched fists.
Ethel said, “I’m sorry sir, but the office is closed.”
“But it’s an emergency, you’re our only hope.”
Hearing the commotion, the doctor opened the door to his private office. “Our hope, what do you mean? I see only you in my reception area.”
Ethel turned, “I tried to stop him doctor. I know you don’t like to be disturbed when you’re tinkering.”
“It’s all right Miss Jungfer; he needs dental assistance, that’s why we’re here.”
In truth, Dr. Zahnarzt didn’t care about the man with the faded jeans and tattered flannel shirt; it was the urgency in his voice that excited him. A dental emergency, something other than filling cavities and applying tooth whitener just walked in. He had to find out what it was.
“Thank you sir, I’m mighty grateful.” Accompanied by a jingle of spurs, Wes spun on his boot-heels, and walked out the door. They barely had enough time to look at each other in disbelief when they heard the clopping.
“Thanks again doc.” Kuhhirt said as he returned leading a miniature horse behind him.
Ethel shrieked as she ran and hid behind her employer. “You can’t bring that filthy animal in here!”
“Please, this is urgent. Sebastian here’s got a sweet tooth for candy apples and it got the best of him. His teeth are practically rotted out and we’ve got a show for some sick kids tomorrow. They’ll be mighty upset if we don’t make it. His smile is one of his signature tricks. Look.”
Wes patted the horse and said, “Smile for the good folks boy.” In response to the command, Sebastian shook his head and lifted his front lip. Ethel shuddered at the sight of the decayed incisors. What was left of the center pair were black and badly chipped.
Something sparked in Dr. Zahnarzt that he hadn’t felt in years; the thrill of a new challenge.
“Of course we’ll help. Ethel, prepare my instruments for surgery.”
Ethel’s heart skipped a beat when she heard him say her name. She couldn’t recall him ever using her first name before. The expression on his face, the excitement in his voice, he was different somehow. He was happy. Eager to be able to work with her secret love, she quickly dismissed her fear.
Wes helped the doctor set up the dental chair to hold Sebastian and returned to the waiting room. They had removed the chair’s arms and opened it flat. With Sebastian secured to the cushions, they raised it to its highest point allowing access underneath to perform the surgery. After rigging the nitrous oxide mask over the horse’s muzzle, they were able to survey their task.
Dr. Zahnarzt said, “The outer incisors appear solid enough; we’ll remove the damaged center two. I’ll need you to work with me underneath him to build the bridge to span the gap.”
Although Ethel was excited to be in close proximity to him, she had reservations about the procedure. “It won’t work doctor. The amount of material we’ll need to use will be too heavy.”
“We’ll have to be economical Ethel.” He used her name again. She felt flush.
Together they worked under the jaws of the sleeping animal, meticulously constructing the new teeth. They checked each piece as they fit them into the horse’s mouth.
Dr. Zahnarzt carefully shaved bits of porcelain from the prosthetics. He’d never made anything this big before, but thanks to years spent in his private lab, he had a plentiful supply of the resources needed to make the bridge.
Ethel carefully set each giant tooth onto a small scale used to weigh gold for human fillings and caps.
As the hours passed, and the work continued, their hands would periodically touch as each piece was weighed, modified, and checked again.
It might have been the late hour, maybe it was the lack of sleep, more likely it was the leaking nitrous oxide canister slowly filling the room with laughing gas, whatever the cause, the tooth fairy borrowed a pair of cupid’s arrows, and shot them squarely into the couple’s hearts.
At one point, Sebastian briefly awoke and whinnied, this surprised Ethel causing her to jump into the doctor’s arms. They laughed at the absurdity of it, their eyes met, he leaned down and kissed her. Their relationship would never again be simply doctor and assistant.
The procedure successfully completed, they were holding hands as Wes led a groggy Sebastian out of the office. “I’m eternally grateful. Those kids are gonna get a hoot of a show thanks to you two.”
“No, thank you Wes.” Ethel said as she looked at the doctor. “I think we’ll be putting on a little show of our own. Don’t you doctor?”
“Please, call me Mark.” He said as he closed the office door.
——

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Tears of The Class Clown– Flash fiction in progress.

Tears of the Class Clown.

By Wayne Hills.

Emmett Wynn was the funniest kid in school. Shorter than the others, he’d learned to rely on his wit to get into cliques that would have otherwise ignored him. Always ready with a quip, pratfall or mimed gesture to make the class crack up.

He loved school, not for the lessons or comraderie of his fellow students; but for the safe refuge it provided from his home life. His alcoholic parents neglected him and abused him. His father beat the young boy, saying he was “only half a child, a runt who would never grow into a full man.” Whenever Emmett cried, the thrashings would become harsher. His mother’s advice, “grin and bear it,” became his motto for dealing with life. He learned to smile and take the pain, to hide within himself, even as he absorbed the blows.

All through his education, he was always either first in line by height, or one from the end by name. Until a foreign exchange student, Chizuko Ying transferred in during his senior year in High School.

Slightly shorter than Emmett, he had her all to himself when lined up by size. She was his private audience to entertain. Emmett’s outgoing personality, and well-practiced gags, quickly won over the new classmate. He amused her with jokes that his classmates had long grown tired of. She was a blank slate. Beijing may have had comedians, but they didn’t know American grade-school humor. Ancient knock-knock jokes were gold, although some were lost in translation, Chizuko never understood, “Orangen’t you glad I didn’t say banana.”

Emmett’s locker, just across the hall from their homeroom, was close enough to their place in line, that he could leave it open until it was time to file in for roll call. He’d keep his tricks there to amaze Chizuko, juggling bean-bags, balloons to tie into complex shapes, a never-ending ribbon of colored scarves that he would pull from various hiding places. She would laugh and cover her mouth in the feminine way that her culture demanded.

When sorted by surname however, there was one person that stood between them, Billy Yantzee. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed natural athlete; Billy was king of the school. And a bit of a jerk. He reminded Emmett of what his own father would have been like in school. Everything handed to him because of his popularity, no empathy for those not blessed with the natural gifts of size and strength. Billy was a foot taller than Emmett, whenever he tried to catch Chizuko’s eye, Billy would simply turn his body to block out his smaller classmate.

On the day the senior prom was announced, Emmett hatched a plan to ask her to go. He’d cover the inside of his locker with colorful polka-dot wrapping paper. In the top, well out of sight, he’d hide a surprise.

First period was homeroom; the students would line up and wait for the teacher to open the door. Emmett’s plan was to get there early and ask her before they went in.

When she arrived he’d say, “knock-knock.”

She would reply as she always did, “Who is there.”

Hey, maybe that’s why she doesn’t get the banana joke; Chinese don’t believe in contractions, he thought.

He’d deliver the set up line, “I’m going to the prom with…”

She’d repeat the line followed by the requisite, “… who?” She would be asking him out! He’d pop out the flowers, and her heart would be his. It was brilliant.

This gave him all day to bask in glory of his success. She’d be enamored of his wit. She’d bat her long black lashes as she hid her mouth giggling that perfect high-pitched sound that he loved to hear. It made his stomach feel kind of funny when she did it, he didn’t know why. He just knew he never wanted it to stop. He even had follow up knock-knock set-ups.

He’d say, “I’m riding in a limo with…,”

“I’m dancing every dance with…,”

“I’m getting naked with….” Of course, this one he only thought about at home in the shower. He’d never be so crude to ask her out loud.

That morning, as the other students slowly filled the spaces behind him, he heard her familiar laughter approaching from behind. His broad smile of delight melted when he saw Billy holding Chizuko’ s hand as they rounded the corner down the hall.

Billy, freakin’, Yantzee? How could she go for that jerk?

The couple stopped in line by Emmitt. She gave his rival a kiss on the cheek, Billy smacked her ass, which set off another wave of giggling. He shot Emmett a wink and walked toward his place at the opposite end of the line. Emmett smiled at her. Chizuko lowered her hand to reveal a smile, although her’s wasn’t hiding pain within, it was genuine happiness.

“Knock-knock, Emmitt.” She asked.

“Don’t say my name, just the knocks.” He corrected her gently so that she delivered the line properly. If you’re going to try to be funny, follow the goll-darn rules.

“Oh, sorry. Knock-knock.” She repeated.

Not really wanting to play along, his heart beginning to crack, afraid of what her set up might be. “Who is there?” Purposely un-contracting the, ‘who’s’, hoping there was still a chance to capture her heart with her own words. She didn’t catch the attempt.

“Chizuko going to the formal dance with William.” The accent that he had found so endearing now sounded like dubbed anime.

Her statement cut into Emmett. He fought to keep the smile on his face as the tears welled. He pushed them back, grinning harder to keep them at bay.­­­

“Here at school he’d finally felt the pain like he did at home. Only this was internal, her words, like the punches from his father, hurt him but he couldn’t let it show.

Keeping the lips pinned upwards into the smile he’d been training his entire childhood to hold, He crossed the hall and opened his locker. Chizuko saw the colorful paper and her expression changed to wonder when he pulled the magician’s bouquet from its hiding place.

“Knock-knock.” Emmett said.

“Who’s there?”

Emmett bit the corner of his upturned lip as the pressure built behind his eyes. “I’m happy for…”

When she asked, “…who?” He handed her the flowers and said:

“For you Chizuko. I’m happy for you.”

—End—