The Tooth Extraction

Contributor: John Laneri

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The first time I visited Doc Merriman’s office was the day I took Lyle Winters in for a tooth extraction. At the time, I was living in Possum Hollow, residing in a double wide near the bayou.

Lyle, as I remember, was a fishing buddy – a fellow with a real knack for making the best of most situations. The Doc was also one of the good guys, a through and through professional. Besides providing the community with dental services, he operated the only funeral parlor in the parish.

Just for fun, my girl friend Betty Lou tagged along, saying she wanted to see a tooth pulled from a man’s head.

The Doc went straight to work. He situated Lyle in a dental chair and reached for a shot of local anesthetic. Being hard headed, Lyle immediately sat upright in the chair and flatly refused the painkiller, preferring instead several shots of whiskey to numb his senses. Before long, he was so drunk the Doc began to look worried.

“Is something wrong with Lyle?” I asked.

The Doc scratched his head. “He’s not breathing well. Maybe, I gave him too much whiskey or maybe….”

I interrupted him right off. “Doc, Lyle’s been drinking whiskey since sunrise. I thought you knew. He’s turned at least a half a gallon to ease the pain.”

The Doc cleared his throat. “That’s not good. A man can swallow his tongue during a tooth extraction.”

I noticed Betty Lou lift an eye. “Please don’t let him die. He’s such a wonderful man.”

The Doc turned to her. “He won’t die, honey. He's fine. But, he’ll need some sobering time before I can safely pull that tooth.”

The three of us looked at each other unsure of what to do until the Doc suggested that we move him to a comfortable place. So, in around about way that’s how Lyle ended up in the funeral parlor resting inside a casket with the three of us watching over him.

We must have stood there for thirty minutes not speaking a word just looking down at his immobile form – head resting on a pillow, toes pointed to the sky, hands folded across his chest.

Soon, I began to feel a creepy sensation edge along my neck. I glanced around the room then down at the casket and back over to the Doc. “This place is spooky. I don't like being around coffins. You’ve got them stacked everywhere.”

Betty Lou moved close to me and whispered, “I’m getting goose bumps just standing here.”

Doc simply chuckled. “Coffins won’t hurt you unless you drop one on your foot.”

He did have a point, so we returned to watching Lyle.

Before long though, I started to get bored from standing in one place. I looked over at the Doc. “Some fortification would be good about now. Don’t you think?”

The Doc cocked his head to study me, and then his eyes lighted like they were rigged to one hundred watt light bulbs. He hurried away and returned with his bottle of whiskey and a couple of glasses.

Finally, after another hour of sitting in the funeral parlor, during which time the Doc and I sampled the whiskey and engaged in friendly talk, I noticed Betty Lou ease near the coffin.

“Is he still breathing?” I asked her.

“I’m checking him now.”

I reached for the bottle and poured Doc another shot then glanced back at Betty Lou and saw her lean over Lyle and place an ear to his chest.

“Hear anything?” I asked,chuckling.

“I’m not sure,” she replied distantly. “He looks too serene. And, I don’t like the way his lips are curled.”

She bent closer.

I started to say something, but then, I noticed her fanny pointed straight up in the air exposing bright red underwear. Unable to resist the temptation, I reached over and gave the elastic a playful snap.

She shrieked and suddenly tumbled into the casket, her body landing on top of Lyle – totally surprising me. Behind her, the coffin lid slammed shut with a solid thud.

Surprised, the Doc and I came to our feet and hurried to the coffin, laughing all the way.

Sometime later, after listening to a lengthy duet of muffled screams and curses as well as a good bit of fumbling about, we finally managed to get the coffin lid raised and were back to offering toasts to teeth.

By then, Lyle and Betty Lou were sitting across from us on top of the casket, admiring his tooth.

Betty Lou turned to Lyle, “I’ll never understand how my panties got hooked around your tooth. One minute, I was listening to your chest. And before I knew it, we were squirming about in the dark groping each other. I didn’t know which end was up.”

Rubbing his jaw, Lyle replied, “I’m just happy you snagged my tooth.” He gave her a smile and turned serious, his year in college showing. “Your panties do good work.”

She smiled playfully. “You can touch 'em as much as you like.”

Lyle didn’t hesitate. And before I knew it, they were headed out the door walking hand in hand toward her place.

In all, I wasn’t happy about losing Betty Lou. But, a couple of weeks later, I got to know her sister Lillie, which was just as well because she didn’t bother with panties at all.

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit can be found on the internet and in several print edition periodicals.
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