Sunday, August 13, 2017


This story was published in a couple of anthologies. Remembering Mom:

In her thirties, Nellie wore miniskirts and go‑go boots, false eyelashes and hairpieces, and seemed oh‑so with it, up‑to‑date, and modern. Her small square teeth gleamed in a perfect line behind a red lipstick mouth. She laughed and giggled weak‑in‑the‑knees through days where nickel and dime tips forestalled economic disaster. Her life was hard work and more work and raising kids, and sexual trysts on the sly. Nothing long‑standing, nothing lasting. 

         Even the children metamorphosed into upwardly mobile wraiths who disappeared, then reappeared with babies. But Nellie was strong, looked younger than her age, and then there were her teeth. Perfect. She had no cavities.

         In her fifties, she finally needed dental work. Nellie traveled to Juarez, Mexico to get the work done cheap.  The dentist suggested gold fillings for three of her front teeth.  He patted her knee.  "Special price for you."   

         Her children had only seen gold teeth on winos and the occasional rap music star. "Why?" they asked each other in disbelief.

         Nellie shrugged.  "He said gold would last forever."  

         She flashed her golden smile often, and the kids gave her $500 to get the gold taken out. Nellie bought a new water heater instead.  “I look fine,” she said. “You try taking a shower in ice cold water and see how you like it.”

         In her seventies, her teeth began to trouble her. They would have to be removed. "Give her the best dentures available," her children told the dentist, secretly relieved that the gold‑lined teeth would go. Nellie would look like every other senior citizen equipped with porcelain choppers.

         "Don't let the dentist keep that gold," Nellie warned her children when they took her for the surgery. "I paid a pretty penny for it!" 

         "Everyone wants their teeth blazing white these days," her children told her. "You'll look modern."      

         Nellie frowned.  "I don't want people to know I'm wearing false teeth.  Makes you look old." 

         The dentist fitted her dentures perfectly to her mouth and handed her a mirror. Nellie smiled at her reflection, turning her head to the right and the left. She ran her tongue over her small square teeth gleaming in a perfect line and nodded at the dentist, satisfied.

         Her children waited in the lounge and stood to greet her as she left the office. She gave the dentist a hug.  “You’re a genius!” she gushed. “I look better than ever.” 

         Nellie turned and smiled wide at her sophisticated children, gold now lining every single artificial tooth in her mouth.


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