Qualia Literary & Art Journal

A Good Bet

His hands dug into the leather, toes curled. A long necked light shot into his face. He twisted his head. And hands, latex hands attached to hairy forearms jammed plastic phalluses deep into his mouth. They sucked out extra saliva, kept the extraction site clean. The hands reached again for his mouth. They stretched his cheeks, twisted his head. Left, right, left. A needle shot out of the latex hand into his lower gums. It pushed further and deeper and harder into the rotten flesh. He raised his chest, but the hands pushed him back down. Held him still.

And then the yanking and the pulling started. The dentist’s hairy forearm tugging on the worm eaten tooth. Hole so big he could stick the tip of his tongue in it. One of the three that hurt him all day and kept him up all night. The only one of the three that he could afford to get pulled. Then the drilling, the buzz sawing started. Because the tooth, the withering bone, didn’t wanna go down easy. And he felt the hand try to rip the wasted bone from his mouth. And he heard the bone fighting back, holding on.

Until, crack. Crack, crack. Little pieces, splintering. Breaking off. The hairy arm quivering, tugging. And yank. It was out. He tried to breathe through his nose, to swallow. He choked on blood. The hands shoved gauze into mouth, helped him off the chair, and led him into the waiting area.

A large coffee, four creams, six sugars. Saturday edition of the New York Post. He flipped to the back page. Night at The Garden. Knicks set to play first playoff game in ten years. He smiled. No fuckin way we gonna lose to the Celtics, he thought. And before he paid for the paper, before he could dig into his pocket for the loose change. Before he could bring his lips to the steaming sugary cup or smile at the North African behind the counter. Before he realized that he had let go of the cup. The pain. The tooth.

The eyes behind the counter widened. Mouth gaped, hands flew in the air. Everything went silent around him. The cup hit the floor, exploded. Top blew off, liquid gushed out. Creamy milky liquid spread on the dirty tile. He reached for his jaw, bent over. Moaned. Fell to his knees.

He scooped up the water soaked paper, winced goodbye, and shuffled next door. Donaughy’s. He took a seat at the end of the bar. Three seats away from a pair of dangling breasts and a cigarette scratched voice. He flipped the paper open. Knicks nine and a half underdogs . He did the math. Took a shot of whiskey, then another. He checked the clock. Still enough time to get the bet in. Just lose by nine, he thought. That’s all they got to do. A freakin home game. In the Garden. He called Sal. Bet a hundred win three back

Sal grunted, hung up. Probably stuffing his face with a calzone, the fat bastard. An hour til game time. He stayed at the end of the bar. Spending the betting money. Washing it down with shots of Jack. Wiping his lips, grinning. Knicks win, and I get my teeth out. What a day. Every few minutes he rubbed his jaw, called for another shot. He inched closer to the dangling tits, reached out for them. Slap, smack. He toppled from the stool. Arms picked him from the floor, propped him back at the end of the bar. Game time.

The ball hit the hardwood, swung to the wing. To Carmelo, silky smooth, man with the mid range, the pull up and the deep three, dribbled to his left, cut right, pump faked, went up in the air, held the position- ball cocked over his head, knees bent two feet off the ground- and cameras flashed and snapped and the ball left his fingers. Swish. Sea of screaming orange and blue. Knicks up twenty. Two minutes left in the forth. And he danced around the bar, shoved his head between the dangling tits. Wet lips kissed his face.

High fives and triumphant smiles. He ordered another round. Called Sal. No answer. Probably just busy, he thought. Across the bottom of the screen. Breaking Local News. Sal “Triple Bypass” Bynazio has just died of a massive heart attack. Sal had part ownership of …He winced. Reached for his jaw.


About the Author
Clark Cooke was born in the Prospect Park section of Brooklyn. When he was five, his family relocated to the monochromatic suburbs of Westchester, NY. After flunking out of college and getting fired from his family’s business (Real Estate), he fled to Montreal where he worked odd jobs, learned French, and began writing. Since returning to the States, he has earned a B.A. in French from Hunter College and an MFA (Fiction) from the University of California, Riverside where he received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship. He was a 2011-2012 writing fellow at the SUNY Purchase Writers’ Center. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in PANKConnotation PressThe Westchester ReviewLes Amuses-BouchesThe Review Review, and Kweli Journal, among others.

Other works by Clark published in Qualia:
Lorca (nonfiction)