He took the screwdriver to the sink in the kitchen, washed it thoroughly in hot water with a lot of soap, and washed his hands. He carried it back to the bathroom, walking quietly, trying to step around the spots where the floor creaked so he wouldn’t wake her. He pulled the door closed.
The tooth was all the way in the back, a wisdom tooth that had come in crookedly. Watching himself in the mirror, he stuck the screwdriver in his mouth, the warm metal slipped in and touched the swollen jaw around the edge of his tooth. He couldn’t see well enough in the mirror, even if the tooth wasn’t so far back, the screwdriver was in the way.
With his tongue, he guided the flat head of the screwdriver to the edge of the tooth. Still watching himself in the mirror, he pushed on the handle, trying to slip the tip of the screwdriver between the jaw and the tooth. He saw himself wince, pushed hard before he could think about it, and bit down on the thin shaft of the screwdriver to stifle a moan.
His eyes in the mirror looked nervous, scared. He pushed again, trying to lever the tooth out, and felt the handle slip. The screwdriver jerked into the space where his cheek met his jaw, stabbed him in the tender flesh there. He spit the screwdriver out into the sink, followed by warm spots of blood, and cupped his jaw, afraid to wince. He studied his cheek in the mirror to see if he’d poked through and saw that he hadn’t.
He lowered himself onto the toilet and rocked back and forth on the cold porcelain, holding his jaw. After a moment, he remembered to listen whether he’d woken her in the other room, but he couldn’t hear anything except the throbbing in his mouth. He glanced at his watch. The dentist appointment was in two days. Really what he needed was something smaller, maybe the bit from the electric screwdriver. But it would be a little while before he could try that.
He rose, spit into the sink and rinsed his mouth off, then sat back on the toilet, shifting his weight from where he’d warmed it until he felt its coolness on the skin of his legs again.
CL BLEDSOE is the author of two poetry collections, _____(Want/Need) and Anthem and a fiction collection, Naming the Animals. A chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. A minichap, Texas, was recently published by Mud Luscious Press. His story, “Leaving the Garden,” was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for Story South’s Million Writer’s Award. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 3 times. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings, http://clbledsoe.blogspot.com.