Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am
18th May 2010

The Tooth Will Out.

I tell ya Kid I shoulda seen it comin, when that first scheming crack let me know I was housing a quitter I shoulda seen it comin. Course the seeing and the getting out the way are two different things, ask any old road-kill. Never figured myself an easy lush but still I wait for the hit like any good stool pigeon should and soon enough that tooth goes bad and works me over like the turncoat it is. Voices its resignation by poisoning my face and swelling me up like an engorged leech. An urgent memo, one might say. The upsettin thing is I raised that tooth like it was my own, now it bites the hand that feeds and I figure there’s more respectful ways to expire. Whole episode put me in mind of rats leaving a sinking ship, the ship being destroyed  not by wind and rain but by time, the storm of old age, the rot that don’t heal.

“Only da captain goes down wit da ship” laugh the rats, “we ain’t gonna croak on account of another mans mortality”. The kicker is I got no comeback to rat wisdom.

Now when it comes to the criminal assault of Dentistry I’m not a well connected man so I figure I’m gonna fall for the double bluff and get suckered up with some vicious backstreet practitioner, big mean fingers, never made it as a butcher and now empties sore heads for a fiver and a favour. Dead fish eyes and a smile so empty you know he tried his craft on his own incisors first. Probably enjoyed it. Maybe he took the “Do unto others….” gig too far, now he’s a junky for the extraction habit. Anyways I call the bureau and make my appointment and when the day comes I develop such a burning hatred for that weasel tooth I almost wish for the worst atrocity to bring it to its knees.

Wouldn’t you?

I’m despatched to a small community centre, invisible unless you’re invited, a pensioner’s yoga hall but with part time medical ambitions. There are forms to fill out first but I already dig the forms are only there to justify the filing cabinets so I only tick boxes that make me out to be a saint. I figure it’s the least I can do to lie to those that collect paper souls. The Doc calls me to the slaughter routine (white tiled abattoir to remove all sense of hope) and I see straight through the haze of disinfectant and that white coat and size him up immediately. He ain’t Johnny Local but he sure is professional, got hands that never dug a hole unless it was into gum and root. Cell walls littered with certificates and diplomas for placebo effect.

As neither of us are a fan of the small talk we get straight to it and he gives me a shot in the back of the mouth that makes my face fade into numbness, pure junk kick, stop you getting too uppity as you suffer the dental murder. Reckon he keeps the best stuff for personal. He clamps the tooth with some tool looks like it could take the nuts off the wheel of a bus and then he gets to wrenching from side to side. Cracking sound like an old branch. I can see it’s taking all his strength to twist me this way and that and I feel my head move like it wasn’t attached no more.

“Sweet Jesus this guy’s good” say the rats, “He pull off da whole head rather than deal wit da tooth, keeps down the expense”.

He’s quicker than a thief on a crowded subway and more voracious of intent. The tooth comes out in two halves in two minutes flat and I stare right in to its bastard soul as the doc makes to throw it in the trash. “Hold the front page Doc” I say through half a face, “Put the sonuvabitch in a baggy and I’ll take him home”. I got a real tasty vengeance planned soon as I get that Judas tooth back to the ranch.

I break out into the sunshine weighing about 6 grams less than I did on the way in, wondering if it will always take pure attrition to rob me of my youth. I figure no one ever really died of old age; they were just removed from general service one fragment at a time, all bought and paid for y’understand? I walk one block and already I got a crimson tide filling my mouth and I gotta spit. Now, Kid, when I tell ya that muck hit the sidewalk like I done slaughtered a pig there, well that’s only half the story. Make you wig to think of it. I thought I was gonna wig right there and then, ya dig? I only gotta walk another six blocks but suddenly my chances of survival are questionable. I’m emptyin quicker than an informant in the witness box. Don’t suppose swallowing blood puts it back in the right place neither. Anyway, I get the determination kick and make it home without emptying out altogether. I got the rounds to do and leastways dying today means a victorious tooth and I won’t give that sonuvabitch the satisfaction.

Recollect a run in with an old Chinese man runs this three gig outfit that makes him more greenbacks than a coke dealer on Wall Street in a recession. He got a Laundromat, a Restaurant and an Apothecary all in a row with doors knocked through all the walls so the same staff can service all three at once, no wasted time exiting one building to enter the next, no need to change aprons, maximises productivity, ya dig? The Chinaman is smart but he is also blind, been known to clean a suit in Demerol, prescribe Ajax for rheumatism and I hear it ain’t wise to eat the number 26 with noodles if you value your pancreas. But though he can’t see the end of his own bank account he sure got his philosophies down and when I went to see him (I’d eaten at the restaurant and therefore required the apothecary, I’m tellin ya Kid that Chinaman knew his business strategy) he lays me with this nugget: – “If I taunt you with Death every ten paces, you’ll show me what it is to live and walk a mile”. So now I got no comeback to Chinese wisdom neither, apart from it making less sense than rat wisdom.

I mailed the tooth to my ex-wife. It was the worst thing I could think to do to it.

by Chris
Posted in Words

6 Responses to
“The Tooth Will Out.”

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  3. Tif says:

    Ha, great read! Actually really enjoyed it, and it’s about you getting your tooth pulled! Awesome.

    Very Burrough’s like you say (even though i can only base it on the one book of his that i’ve read; Junkie). Have you got any suggestions of what else i can read of his?

  4. Chris says:

    I am re-reading ‘Naked Lunch’ at the moment, hence the inspiration as to how to write this story, it would otherwise have been clinical and uninteresting. This is the fourth time I have done ‘Naked Lunch’ cover to cover and although I can talk around it for some time, I couldn’t just sit down and explain to you what it’s about. Forget the kind of linear storytelling you enjoyed in ‘Junkie’, ‘Naked lunch’ is an altogether different trip. It’s brilliant and it is highly likely that this is my favourite book.
    That book lead Burroughs to the writing of ‘The Soft Machine’ and ‘The Ticket That Exploded’, both of which were written in a collage style known as a “Cut Up” with his friend and collaborator Brion Gysin. They are not quite as mental as ‘Naked Lunch’ but both very good and very funny. If you read about Burroughs he was a solid believer that language was a form of mind control that ought to be destroyed and re-created to reduce our dependancy upon it. The “Cut Up” technique was a very practical way of doing this and it is amazing how much sense you can still get out of a sentence that is effectively hacked to pieces and stitched back together in the wrong order with some bits missing and new bits added. Both those books are therefore highly recommended (I believe ‘Nova Express’ is also written in this style, most of his work is to be honest).
    For more linear stories try ‘Queer’, which I found to be very heartfelt and very sad. He also wrote a properly structured trilogy with the usual blend of fantasy, reality and a general disdain for the correct order of words, they are ‘Cities Of The Red Night’, ‘The Place Of Dead Roads’ and ‘The Western Lands’. These are all the bits I have read, the dude wrote LOTS more books as well as essays and poems (spoken word versions available on album, as is his collaboration with Kurt Cobain ‘The Priest They Called Him’) and numerous appearances in movies and documentaries.
    For all his ills, and there were many, he remains my first choice for guest at my fantasy dinner table and has inspired me in writing, painting and life for many, many years. I would not have been me without him.

  5. Tif says:

    Great stuff, cheers man.

    Naked Lunch has been ordered and hopefully being packed and sent as i type this..
    I read Junkie a while back now and really enjoyed it. I remember putting it down when i finished and thinking ‘I need to read more’. I stupidly forgot though, (i blame them damn drugs).

    Cheers for the reminder/suggestions. I will be reading eagerly over the next few weeks and try to get my head around this cut up technique you refer to.

    Oh, and the roots on that tooth look BIG. Bit too big if you ask me..

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