Toothache

Linwood Wilmer was known affectionately as “Toothache” to those who frequently crossed the Jamesway Bridge. He could usually be found near the billboard, a palm to his jaw, wincing as he hobbled, searching for aluminum cans or whatever else anyone may have pitched from their window. Sometimes he’d fix up a scarf, tying it up nice with a bow on top of his head like in the cartoons.
To most people, old Toothache was something to point out, to wave at in passing, worth maybe a few miles’ banter before taking the on ramp to the interstate.Toothache enjoyed living alone, although, to be fair he didn’t consider it that. He had the lady watching over him. With her gentle blue eyes and slight curve to her nose, her skin radiated the days’ sun while her giant, gleaming smile caught the moonlight on clear nights. The lady whispered into his thoughts, promising him a safe night’s sleep—a few hours reprieve from the teeth that troubled him so.
He liked the overpass, the thump-thumping along until the first pulse of pain found his jawbone, the start of another excruciating day of torture. It was no different on that first day of spring, as Toothache rubbed his eyes, his palm finding his jaw. The taste of rot in his mouth. It was then he looked to the lady. What he saw made him scream.No. No. No.

He spat puss as he clambered to his feet, his untied boots flapping at the soles. Tears filled his eyes, as he took it in. She was mutilated, covered in blood. It covered one eye, dripping and running from her shiny blonde hair to her lovely unblemished skin, past her ear to her dimples. But the teeth, her gleaming white teeth had been destroyed.

Some sort of message. The letters rearranged themselves to shapes, squares and triangles, blurring into the hatred. While Toothache had never learned to read, he had a sense for these types of things. And he knew this was done out of hatred. Hatred towards him.

His lady cried out for his help.

Toothache scrambled to pick up his staff. He climbed up to her, to defend her honor. He scrubbed her cheeks, cars honking and yelling as they sped past him. Tears filled his eyes. His hands, already rough and calloused, bled and blistered from his labors.

He collapsed on the side of the road, her face now filled with white patches. He dragged himself back to his hole, where she spoke to him that night. She asked if he still loved her. Toothache wept more, stoking the fire as the cars thumped along.

Toothache woke to the sound of machinery. Of men gathering, a scaffold being built at the lady’s pedestal. Toothache turned, again reaching for his staff as he pulled himself out to once again defend his lady’s honor.

The men turned, eyes widening as Toothache jabbed the staff at them, a warning shot for them to clear off.

“Take it easy, man.”

Toothache was not about to take it easy. The lady screamed out, calling for him to help. The men, having ripped out the sky from behind her head were we’re now peeling at her skull.

He let out a wail, then charged.

***

The police arrived to find Toothache in front of the billboard, waving a stick and daring anyone to come near. The men were huddled in the crew cab, windows up, watching with smirks. After a quick game of Rock, Scissors, Paper, the losing officer sighed and started to get out of the cruiser. “What do you think’s gotten into him?”

The driver gave his partner a smile. “A toothache, man. It’ll drive you crazy.”

 

 

 

–PeteFanning/2019

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