The Shine Journal

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Contents Under Pressure by Mary Buchanan


Officer McCartney was not a patient man. Nervous energy was always pulsing through his body, running through the deep grooves around his eyes and pooling in his heavy fists, which involuntarily clenched and unclenched in moments when he was forced to be still. This was one of those moments. Teetering on the edge of his flimsy chair in the dentist's waiting room, McCartney shuffled through the magazines, fuming at the poor selection. First he had to wait for the hopelessly delayed dentist, and now he was expected to entertain himself with a fluffy magazine overladen with exclamation marks? If he were in uniform, no one would dare treat him like this. Flipping aimlessly through an article extolling the virtues of de-stressing, McCartney vowed never to return to the dentist again. He could survive with a chipped tooth.

The nasal voice of the receptionist intruded on his thoughts. "Dr. Martin will see you now. Last door on the right."

McCartney made his way down the narrow hallway, passing exam rooms on his left and right. In each, some poor soul was lying back on the dentist chair and staring at the ceiling.

"Belly-up, like fish." McCartney couldn't suppress the thought. Reaching the last door on the right, he entered the silent room and clambered awkwardly into the chair. It rocked slightly as he tried to settle in, and his stomach swooped unpleasantly.

"They look a bit precarious, don't they? We're getting new ones soon." The dentist's voice startled McCartney.

"Dr. Martin." The new man's smile was wide but did not quite reach his eyes. "I've already read your file. Open, please."

McCartney obeyed.

"Chipped tooth, eh? That's simple enough."

"In my line of work, you take a few knocks every now and then." McCartney said, seizing the opportunity to talk before any dentistry tools impeded his speech.

"That so? What do you do? Open up again, please."

McCartney felt a stab of irritation. How was he supposed to elaborate on his occupation with his mouth propped open? Dr. Martin, now peering intently into McCartney's gaping mouth, had apparently already forgotten about his question. He made a disapproving clucking noise.

"You should have gotten a few teeth pulled years ago. Your top molars are all crowded together. Okay, rinse."

McCartney dutifully swished some lukewarm water around in his mouth and spit into the little sink next to his chair.

"I just need my tooth capped." He said, remaining upright in the chair. "Don't worry about the molars."

"But they don't have enough room. Your last molar doesn't really fit. Ever have problems chewing?"

"No." McCartney lied.

"I can schedule you for an extraction."

"I don't need one."

"You'd thank me afterward."

"I doubt that."

"It doesn't even hurt that much, we'd numb the area."

Before McCartney could protest further, Dr. Martin stuck a new instrument inside his mouth. Thus silenced, McCartney allowed himself to consider the dentist's words. Pulling a tooth -- scary, possibly painful, very final.

But when it was over -- relief.

For a moment, the only sound was the quiet scrape of metal against enamel. Then McCartney thrust the idea away. He could live with a molar that didn't quite fit.

"Just cap my tooth." He said as soon as he could speak again. A temporary fix was better than nothing.


BIO! I am a college student who always thinks of stories right before falling asleep, and then must scramble for a pen and a Post-It to avoid losing the idea. Someday I'd like to develop a writing style that actually lets me get enough sleep to be alert in morning classes!

Motivation: A hatred of the dentist and a love for suggestions buried below the surface.

Click the pics to meet the members!


Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

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