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Beck Finley


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.

"Charlotte," Lucy whispered over the dividing cubicle wall. "I need to leave."

"What?" Charlotte, 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 Charlotte.

"My teeth are loose," Lucy said.

"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 again. "See?"

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 shut.

"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."

"Really?" Charlotte 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 week."

"You're right," Charlotte said. "What do I care? It's not like it's my money."

"Thanks," Lucy 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 dog.

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