Bad Teeth – Good Whiskey – No Girls

Contributor: John Laneri

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Webster Nightingale trudged on, feeling another gust of winter wind blow against his neck. He needed sustenance – anything to warm the fibers deep within his being.

The storm raging about him was a severe blast, one reminiscent of the blizzard of 1887 when the Brazos froze from bank to bank. Now, only a few years later, he, along with most of the people in Neverton, a small town on the cattle trail to Fort Worth, were indeed feeling its fury.

Grumbling, he lifted his collar, determined to make his way to Aunt Jillie’s Boarding House, the finest establishment in North Texas. Near the town square, he looked up and spotted Roscoe Sayers standing in front of his newspaper office leaning against a post. Curious, he turned in Roscoe’s direction and made his way across the street.

“Mighty cold morning,” he said, when he reached the boardwalk.

Roscoe looked his way, his eyes lifting weakly. “I’ve been standing here since dawn, hoping the cold air might give me some relief.”

Webster spoke out, his voice bellowing against the wind. “I thought you promised the Good Lord that you’d stay away from Mexican beans. Most folks consider ‘em powerful enough to prime cannons.”

“It’s not the beans. It’s my tooth,” Roscoe replied, as he turned away from another gust of wind.

Webster scratched at his whiskers and reached for a back pocket, his eyes settling on Roscoe’s bulging jaw. “I remember one year when I was workin’ cattle on the high plains in the Panhandle....”

“I don’t need another of your long-winded stories. My tooth hurts too much to listen.”

“I wasn’t talkin’ to your tooth.

“Maybe so, but, my tooth has ears. It hears you just the same, and it says, talk softer ‘cause it feels the words.”

Webster took a draw from his flask. “You may be right, but like I was sayin’, a good drink of whiskey works magic for easing tooth pain. There’s no a finer remedy known to man.”

“My little lady frowns on whiskey -- claims it’s the fastest way to get possessed by the devil.”

Webster lifted the flask and downed a shot, smacking his lips. “But, it’s a mighty fine way to get possessed, leads to all kinds of interesting possibilities.”

“Like what?” Roscoe asked.

“Like getting acquainted with one of those pretty young girls over at Aunt Jillie’s Boarding House. There’s a world of pleasure waitin’ at her establishment.”

Turning away from another flurry of snow, Roscoe replied, “I don’t step around. And besides, it’s too cold.”

Webster did a double take and looked directly into Roscoe’s eyes. “It’s never too cold for a good tossing. As a newspaperman, you should know that. A little lovin’ keeps the world warm when the snows ‘a falling… might help your tooth too.”

Roscoe lifted an eyebrow. “Fooling around with young girls won’t help my tooth.”

“Maybe so, but they did me some good when my rheumatism was acting up.”

Roscoe cocked his head in Webster's direction, his eyes brightening. “As I recall, you were laid up in bed for quite a spell.”

“I was until I visited Aunt Jillie’s and met a cute, little filly with flame red hair. Afterward, I came out feeling like a new man. Yes sir, a good tossing has a remarkable way of curing most maladies.”

Webster handed the flask to Roscoe. “Take a couple of swigs. Then we’ll head over to her place and get out of the cold. The girls are always happy to have visitors.”

Hesitantly, Roscoe took the flask in his hands and turned a portion, his face contorting in various directions. “Your whiskey tastes terrible.”

“Take another shot. It might do you some good.”

Roscoe again tipped the flask and took a healthy pull. “You’re right, it does make my tooth feel better.”

Webster chuckled. “After a while, it makes the girls look pretty too.”

For some time, they passed the flask back and forth while they continued to discuss Aunt Jillie and her girls at the boarding house. Finally, the sound of groaning caused Webster to lower his flask and glance in Roscoe’s direction.

Seconds later, Roscoe pitched forward and bounced off a hitching post, his face plowing into the snow.

Hurrying to his side, Webster helped him to his feet. “You needn’t be in such a hurry. Most of the girls sleep ‘til noon.”

“I wasn’t headed to the boarding house. I was trying to lean against a post and rest my tooth. I so happened to miss the post.”

Webster downed another shot while he watched Roscoe stagger about with his fingers in his mouth. “Is something bothering you? It looks to me like you’re trying to eat your fingers.”

“I got it... Look here,” Roscoe said, as he shoved a hand at Webster's face. “My tooth came out when I fell in the street.”

Webster lowered the flask. “By golly, that does look like a tooth. Now, I’m disappointed.”

“Why are you disappointed? I’m cured. The Good Lord saved me from going to the boarding house and sinning.”

Webster grunted. “He only saved you from suffering a toothache. I’m confident He expected us to walk over to Aunt Jillie’s and spend some time with the girls.”

“But, I made the right choice. You can still go to the boarding house. No one’s stopping you.”

“I would,” Webster replied, as he stumbled into a snowdrift. “The problem is, I’m too drunk to walk by myself.”

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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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