For fuck’s sake, Charles, we’re just talking habits here. He knows she hates that he has a mouth full of chaos. Bad teeth. Bad. Yes, he agrees, disgusting.
Charles, really, she continues, this is pride I’m talking about here, Honey, simple old fashioned pride.
He blubbers and covers his mouth.
She picks up her leather case to leave, hesitates. Just can’t do this anymore—her voice trailing off, as she turns her black buckled pumps, tramps out the door.
Full moon over scrub oak. Crickets complain about the heat, but nothing moves. Humidity lays on suburban neighborhood, heavy. And then a white-orange flash.
The house shakes. Upstairs, everyone jars awake, except ten year old Charles, snoring. The Bunning family scatters as the house shimmies, belches flame. Shouting, and finally gathering in the backyard, as fire eats out the north side of their home. Accounting for all the kids. Except Charles, snoring upstairs, still. Charles? Not one of his six siblings asks. Neither mom nor dad notices.
Firemen find him, eventually, rolled up in the bathtub, little fists and teeth clenching. He spends the rest of childhood anemic, not eating, not speaking. His mouth never opens so far as teachers can discern. Never cries out when freckle-faced Pete Koenig, the bully across the street, beats him up.
Never even seems to yawn.
Miss Prissy, 2012
His teeth are improved. It has been a focus. Charles and his teeth: a new-found and strong bond, a fondness born of fanatical routine.
The new mistress likes his radiant white smile and the boyish cuteness of his pink bulbous flesh under a whip. Charles, she says, I can’t believe how much you talk and eat, eat and talk, naughty boy. Down on your knees and get busy or it’s a spanking for you—
Charles flosses and brushes six times a day. Doesn’t sleep much. Balls up in a blanket, listening all night in the low crackle of decay.
Michael Dwayne Smith proudly owns and operates one of the English-speaking world’s most unusual names. His poems and stories appear in BLIP Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, Phantom Kangaroo, Quantum Poetry, and other convenient locations. He lives in a desert town with his wife, son, and many rescued animals—all of whom talk in their sleep.