Flash Fiction Friday: The Rot
As I briefly mentioned in the last post, my good friend Crow and I are both participating in a mini-project we call Flash Fiction Friday. We choose one or several rules, like "must begin with the word Mulberry" or "must include a dream." We'll both write a piece and post it on our respective websites — without revealing the rules! The gimmick is you'll read both pieces and try to figure out the similarities.
There are two rules this week. Read my story after the jump.
Cathy Waindell’s face took on a bizarre expression. “No,” she answered, “we don’t, sorry, Jackson. But I think CVS is still open, why don’t you try that?” She smiled curtly, and when he opened his mouth urgently to say his car wouldn’t start, she spoke again, firmly: “Take care, good night,” and shut the door.
The swelling of panic increased in his chest. His situation was trivial to her, but she didn’t have his condition. Already he had lost some. Could he afford more tiny bodily casualties? It began at the mouth and spread, that much he knew.
The only other neighbor he knew lived next to the Waindells. He owned two Airedales. Jackson ran to his door and knocked.
“Coming!” a deep voice rumbled. The man opened the door and eyed Jackson. “Can I help you?”
Jackson explained his situation, suppressing its escalating urgency. The man listened calmly, answered much like Cathy had, and shut the door. But Jackson knocked again. The door opened again. He no longer restrained himself but begged the man, revealing finally that if he didn’t help him, his mouth would begin to rot, and in fact was already beginning to in the spaces between his teeth. Encouraged by the man’s silence, he peeled open his lips and displayed the spreading soft areas of decay. It was a matter of health, and possibly of life and death, he explained fervently, because the rot would surely spread to the rest of his body, he insisted. His voice rose to a wail.
The man held up a hand. “Listen, Johnson, I think you need to go on back home. Why don’t you try using baking soda. My grandma used to do it. It works fine. Good night, now.” He closed his door. Jackson knocked again, despairing, but the man did not return.
Baking soda? This stirred a wisp of recognition. It was also his only option. Abruptly Jackson turned and jogged across two lawns back to his own house. He threw open the kitchen cupboards above the stove. Behind the jars of spices and of pills, he found an orange box in the back corner. It was old — it might have been there since before he moved in six months ago. His tongue ran over his teeth and tasted putrefaction. Retching, he poured some baking soda into his hand. It was granular and slightly grayish, but he ran the water and mixed it in until it formed a runny paste. This he stuffed in his mouth and scrubbed hard with the sinkside sponge. The granules were still coarse but though uncomfortable they did the job — the sandy friction wore away at the deterioration of his teeth. He rubbed for a while, and when he spat he saw blood. The taste, he realized, was awful. He gargled with water, feeling calmer, and spat again and again until his saliva was clear and the taste in his mouth settled to neutral. Now he could go to bed without feeling his body fester and spoil while he slept.
In the dead of night, Jackson suddenly awoke, moaning. A hard cramping had seized his insides and he curled up like a leaf in the fire. He rolled out of bed, limbs shaking, and staggered to the kitchen to vomit in the sink. The vomit was streaked with blood. The telephone, he thought. His hands walked across the counter and found the box of baking soda. Horrified, his body racked with seizures, Jackson saw that the house’s previous owner had crossed out the box label and had instead written something else. But his eyes teared up with the pain and he couldn’t read it.
You may now proceed to Crow's fiction. You are also welcome to participate in FFF provided you have a blog/website and enjoy tormenting yourself with inconvenient restrictions on your writing.