It was just like in Lucy's
recurring dream. The one where she's at work, typing on her computer,
and her tongue finds its way to her lower teeth. When she slowly pushes
on the teeth, they move. More a nightmare than a dream really.
It seemed very unreal.
Lucy ran to the bathroom and watched in the mirror as she wiggled her
bottom teeth from canine to canine. She clenched her jaw. She'd have
to get dentures. She was just a temp and wasn't eligible for health
insurance or the dental plan. If she left for the day, she wouldn't
get paid. Lucy remembered that when you lose a tooth you're supposed
to put it in milk.
whispered over the dividing cubicle wall. "I need to leave."
the temp in charge of the other temps, had on her headphones, listening
to the Murder CD of the Johnny Cash anthology. Charlotte had no interest
in God or Love. She kept track of the timecards. It was important to
be Charlotte's friend. Lucy was still unsure of where she stood with
"My teeth are loose,"
"They're not loose,"
Charlotte said. "You're just moving your jaw up and down."
"I'm not." Lucy
said. "Watch." She wiggled the teeth with her index finger
By now, the heads of other
temps were popping up over cubicle walls. Ron, another temp, came over
to Charlotte's cube.
"What's up, ladies,"
Ron had the annoying habit of always referring to women as ladies.
"Lucy's teeth are,
well, loose," Charlotte said, embarrassed at the unavoidable play
on words. Charlotte pointed at Lucy's mouth.
Lucy clamped her mouth
"That's like a nightmare
I've had," Ron said. He turned to Charlotte. "I've heard it
means you're going to get married soon."
shook her head. "I've heard it means something good will happen,
like finding money." She turned to Lucy. "Maybe you'll get
hired on permanent here, Lucy."
Lucy took her finger out
of her mouth. It was depressing discussing her nightmare loose teeth
with Ron and Charlotte. Lucy wanted to run out of the office to find
a dentist, but she hadn't been to one since college when her parents
still paid her medical bills, four years ago. She didn't even know the
name of a good dentist or whom to ask. She looked from Ron, leaning
against the cubicle wall, to Charlotte in her vintage blue dress and
three-inch platform Mary Janes.
This wasn't even Lucy's
worst nightmare. The very worst started with Lucy having to make contact
with someone from her past, usually the boyfriend she had in college,
her first love, or he'd be lost to her forever. So Lucy would dial the
phone, rotary, push-button, or payphone. Inevitably, the dial would
stick, or the phone wouldn't take the begged, borrowed, or stolen change.
Occasionally, she could dial, but when the person on the other end picked
up, the connection would break. You didn't have to be a dummy to know
what this nightmare meant. So many times the people she loved were lost
to her forever, and not because of telephones.
"If I leave to go to
a dentist will you count it on my timecard?" Lucy asked. This was
the first time she'd ever asked anything of Charlotte. Of anybody, to
tell the truth.
"I'm supposed to,"
Charlotte said. She shrugged her shoulders.
"What do you care,
Charlotte?" Ron asked. He crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"You didn't count me out when I had that doctor's appointment last
Charlotte said. "What do I care? It's not like it's my money."
said. She walked back to her cubicle and found a dentist using the online
yellow pages. The first time she tried calling the office, however,
she forgot to dial a 9 and got Ian in Accounts Payable. He was nice
enough when she told him she dialed the wrong number, so they chatted
for a bit, and even made a lunch date for Thursday next week. Finally,
Lucy got an appointment to see the dentist. She picked up her bag, put
on her coat and walked the three blocks to the office.
Beck Finley, writer and
editor, lives on the Missouri side of Kansas City with her husband and