I was brushing my teeth this morning when a filling fell out. It clanked around the sink, coming to rest against the drain stop.
“I’m falling apart,” I whispered to the image in the mirror. Maybe time had had enough of me and was pushing things out. What’s next? Missing fingernails? A runaway rib? Maybe I’ll cough up my pancreas tomorrow.
“You’re being silly,” my wife said. We were at the Chinese place off O’Farrell. “Besides, they make fillings out of better material nowadays.”
“That’s supposed to make me feel younger?”
“I’m just saying.” She slurped a chow mien noodle. “Has nothing to do with getting old. Just bad fillings.”
I chewed solely on the right side, not wanting to lose any Kung Pao down the hole in my tooth. Lord knows how far down it went.
We opened fortune cookies and read them quietly to ourselves. Mine said it was a good time to take risks. She stifled a laugh before tossing hers onto the plate.
If I concentrated, I could feel the weight of the filling in my left breast pocket. I’m not sure why I kept it. Just a fragment of metal, but like the pins that hold my knee together, it had been a part of me for more than twenty years. Blood, tin, bones, steel, holding us together to make us work.
And here I am again. Standing over the sink, mint foam bubbling down my chin, watching for loose springs, listening for squeaky gears.
“Hey,” she yells from the bed. “Did you call the dentist?” She waits a rushed two seconds. “Hello?”
I don’t respond. I only scrub and scrub, daring another piece of me to fall. I scrub until my gums bleed and my fingers cramp.
But nothing falls. Not tonight.
First published in longer forms in Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine, 2012.
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