Dieter and Gunther
Whatever Was Coming Next

Perfect Teeth

A half-pound of dried venison? You’re shitting me. That doesn’t begin to cover it. Full pound. Yes. Depends on how much you want to hear the story. If you want to hear the story, if your life just doesn’t make sense until you hear this story—and I will tell you upfront, this story won’t reveal any miracles, won’t open your eyes to the transcendent what-all behind the green of the leaves, the sound of the rain, the stink of the shit, all that will remain true and undeniable. This story will just distract you for a few minutes, and I happen to think that’s worth a full pound of dried venison.

I lived on Beacon Isle. Small village, mostly the broken-down remains of what were like mansions once. Like two bed two bath. You know what I mean? Glory. Now we all—mom, me, my sister Shrimp—cause she was smaller than everyone else— and the three dogs, all in one bed in one room. So next there was this one house and then there was this other house, where Fuckface lived. Because if you were going to the market, you had to circle this whole toxy spot, or you cut through Fuckface’s back yard. And Fuckface fucking screamed when someone cut through his back yard. I don’t know why. It was weeds and rocks and a couple of trees that were growing into each other like they were about to screw. Fuckface thought he owned these weeds and these rocks and these horny trees, so fuck him, and everyone cut through his back yard. So he screamed a lot.

The tide was out, so I was looking for dead clams in the muck—if you chuck them at something just right, they explode with a truly revolting splatter. Really satisfying. I think I heard the boat before I saw it; the drizzle made everything more than a few yards away a blur. The splash of the oars, and this guy in some kind of coveralls came out of the gray in a what, a dinghy. With this lump in the back. He jumped out and tied his boat to a tree root. I tried to explain that this whole area, up to the rusted fence, was going to be underwater in a few hours, but I’m just a kid so fuck me.

“Where’s the fire station?” he interrupted.

I told him. He went to the back of the boat, tugged at the lump, threw it over his shoulder and started tromping through the muck, towards the gap in the rusted fence.

But three steps past the gap into the grass and he stumbles, dropping the lump. The lump yells, or would have yelled only you could tell something was stuck in its mouth under the hood over its head. The guy in coveralls looks back at me, and boy, he looked like shit.

“I gotta sleep,” he said. I nodded because, yeah you do. “I’ll give you a nickel if you watch him,” he said.

I nodded because, yeah sure. I held out my hand.

“Watch him first,” he snapped, kind of fuck you in his voice, and then he flopped on the ground, asleep before he hit.

So I pulled off the hood. I mean, if I’m gonna watch the lump, I want to know who I’m watching. Some bald guy with a gray beard and one eye swoll up and bloody. There’s a tag attached to some twine around his neck that says ‘Senater Jakson/ Idaho’ which I guess means something and I pull the rag out of his mouth. For a moment the lump just spits, trying to get bits of whatever was on the rag out of his mouth, then he looks at me with the un-swoll eye and says, “Thank you.” I don’t say nothing back. No point being nice if he’s what he probably is.

“Listen,” he said, so right away I knew what’s coming. “I didn’t do anything.” “You did something,” I said.

“Yes, I was a politician,” he said, launching into some defense speech he’s probably been working on in his head for days. “I mean that was my job, that’s all.” Some dorks think they can talk their way out of trouble. I guess it depends on the trouble. “I wanted to help people blah blah blah” (I’m adding in the blah blah blah part) “I told everyone what I was going to do, and then they elected me—so they’re the ones who made it happen blah blah blah that’s how democracy worked blah blah how is that my fault?”

“Maybe if you hadn’t talked up dumb ideas, people wouldn’t have wanted you to do them.”

The lump laughs, and it’s a weird laugh, not just like he’s scared—though he was scared, you could smell that on him—more like when a nut falls out of a tree at my feet and I laugh and I don’t know why. “It was in the air! Everyone had the same ideas! We’re just the ones who benefited from them, if the other side had enacted the same laws, they’d have benefited, from the same ideas!”

I don’t know what that means and I lose interest. I kept watching his mouth. He had these perfect teeth, like you don’t see any more. Made me want to chuck a clam at him, see if I could knock one of those teeth out.

“Listen,” he said, “I got three pennies and a quarter in my pocket. Cut me free and they’re yours.”

I held out my hand. “Cut the twine first,” and he had the same kind of fuck you in his voice. Like, I have to trust them, but they won’t trust me.

I got a little knife so I cut the twine, around his feet first, then his hands, and it’s not easy and the knife isn’t sharp and the lump won’t hold still, so it takes a while. He keeps looking at the guy, who is snoring—we’ll hear if he wakes up—but he keeps looking at the guy. Snap! Last ones, and the lump stands up and rubs his wrists. I figure my moment has come and I hold out my hand. Three pennies and a quarter.

Then he kicks me in the face.

I fall down. He runs over to the sleeping guy and he grabs a big rock. He lifts it over his head and he’s gonna smash open the guy’s face. So I scream.

I don’t even know if the guy fully woke up, but he swept the lump’s legs out from under him—the lump drops the rock on his own face—then he’s got his hands around the lump’s throat and it did not take much before bulging eyes and tongue stuck out and that sort of gurgle.

I think that’s when the guy fully woke up, because now he’s slapping the lump’s face and shouting at him and then he’s shouting at the sky and looks at me like he’s going to shout at me but I’ve got blood all down my nose and mouth—good fucking kick—so he figures the guy just got loose and I’m just a dumb kid.

“No bounty if they’re dead?” I asked.

“Less,” he snarled. “A lot less. We’re running out of them.”

“I don’t get that nickel?”

“You don’t fucking get the fucking nickel,” he said.

“What if I knew someone else?”

I had his interest. And here I made some shit up and I don’t remember what it was but he wanted to believe me anyway and I could have made up less. I figured him for a punch-first-think-second sort of guy, and I was right.

The guy kicks the door in, grabs Fuckface and sits on him—Fuckface screams the whole time—then he flips through a bunch of cards strung together on a loop of twine. Just the sitting on him was satisfying enough for me, but then it turns out Fuckface is honest-to-fuck some oil corporate vice president and an even bigger catch than the lump. The guy hauls Fuckface to the fire station. Before they could even put Fuckface on trial, he broke down and admitted it, cried, begged, all that. Duty to shareholders, all that.

After crushing his feet and fingers, they put him up against the wall. I got to take the first shot with my clams. Missed his teeth but split his forehead open, then everyone else piled on.


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