Three Views of a Dentist
“It’s ten minutes past. I guess we might as well get started,” Alice said, putting her phone back on the table.
“But there’s only three of us,” Jerry complained. “Shouldn’t we just cancel?”
Attendance for our writing group wasn’t so great, especially when it snowed, but this was the first time only three of us had come. All the writing groups I’d joined seemed to follow the same trajectory: lots of members at first, but after a while less and less people came until it was just me. It was hard not to take it personally.
“We can’t cancel,” I said. “I made cupcakes,” gesturing towards the table to my right. “You have to help me eat them. I can’t just eat them all by myself.”
“Besides,” Alice said, “I want to hear what you guys came up with. I’ll start.”
“Have a cupcake before you start reading,” I insisted, holding out the plate. After Alice took one, I held the plate out to Jerry, who also took one. Before taking one myself, I realized I’d left something in the car, so I ran out to get it. Alice started reading her story once I came back.
Our story prompt was to write a horror story involving a dentist. Alice kind of cheated in my opinion. She wrote a standard horror story about a man – who just happens to be a dentist – who gets attacked by a monster while out camping in the woods.
I read my story next. It was about a sadistic dentist who performed unnecessary surgery on his patients without using anesthetic. I actually hadn’t finished the story, which Alice gave me crap about, until Jerry admitted he hadn’t written a story at all. No wonder he wanted to just cancel.
“Anyway,” Jerry said. “I bet I can come up with a scarier story than either of you on the spot. So, the last time I went to the dentist, he was scraping my teeth, right? Then he accidentally cut open my gum!”
We looked at him, waiting for him to finish.
“That’s it,” he said.
“How can that be it? That’s just something that happened to you.” Alice complained.
“No, it didn’t really happen to me, it’s just a story I made up.”
“That’s even worse,” I said. “Why make up such a banal story?”
“Because,” Jerry said, “It’s something that can actually happen. Monsters aren’t really scary because they don’t exist. Serial killers do exist, but they’re so rare, it doesn’t make sense to worry about them. Don’t tell me the thought of the dentist accidentally cutting your gums on your next checkup doesn’t scare you. That’s something that can actually happen.”
“Well, of course, it scares me,” Alice said, “But it’s not interesting as a story.”
“That’s weird,” Jerry said, lifting his arm, then letting it drop. “I feel like my whole body’s going to sleep.”
“Me too,” Alice said. “Maybe there’s a gas leak in here. We should get outside.”
“Wait!” I said. “I just thought of an ending to my story. So, the dentist can’t kill any of his patients because he’d get caught. So instead, he joins a writing group and drugs everyone by putting curare in the cupcakes. Enough to paralyze them, but not enough to stop breathing. The thing about curare, it keeps you from moving, but not from feeling pain. You can’t even scream for help.”
Neither of them was able to say anything.
“You’re both so wrapped up in yourselves,” I continue. “You didn’t notice that I didn’t eat a cupcake myself. You didn’t even ask what I went back to my car to get.” I pull out my dentist’s drill. “And all these months we’ve been in this writing group together, you never once asked me what I do for a living.” I turn on the drill, rev it a couple times.
“I’m a dentist, by the way.”
D. J. Moore lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and daughter. He edited the literary magazine Megaera and holds a degree in English from the University of Utah. He’s published three novels, a few novellas, and his short stories have appeared various places online. He’s an adventurous eater and spent the night of his 25th birthday violently ill in Peru after eating horse jerky he bought from a guy on the side of the road. He’s also a fan of quality cinema and was an extra in Sharknado 4. Visit his website at maniadelight.com for more info.
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