2012 Quill Award For Best Flash Fiction
Phil was just finishing his three burritos and two tacos he got from Taco Bell when the phone rang. Taco Bell wasn't his first choice of fast food cuisine, but the nearest Burger King was on the other side of town, and he wasn't about to go out of his way after a ten hour day of riding on a jackhammer. And with his wife and daughter out of town and not being very good in the kitchen, he'd settle for what he could get.
"Is this Phillip Taylor?" a professional voice asked.
"Yes. Who's this?"
"Hello, Mr. Taylor. My name is Steve Baxter. I'm with the Lexington Insurance Company. I understand that you don't have any dental insurance at the moment. Is that correct?"
Dental insurance? He didn't even know if there was such a thing, and if there was, it was covered in his medical insurance at work.
"I don't want any," he said. He started to hang up when the voice said one single word that grabbed his attention.
Andrew was his middle name, which he hated. He never used it, opting instead to just use his middle initial. He looked at the phone for a second, then slowly raised it back to his ear. "How do you know my middle name?" he asked.
"That's not important right now, Andrew. What is important is having dental insurance."
Phil was already irritated by being called by a telemarketer, especially after such a hard day at work. And now this asshole was going to call him by his middle name?
"My name is Phillip," he said with a sharp edge in his voice.
"Very well. Now, Andrew, do you realize how expensive dental work is these days? Not just for you, but your wife and daughter, as well?"
How does he know I'm married? How does he know I have a daughter? Phil could feel his blood beginning to boil.
"Look mister, I don't know how-"
"We know everything, Andrew," the voice interrupted. "Lori has been quite forthcoming, given the circumstances."
Phil started to panic. His mind tried to pretend he didn't hear that right.
"What do you mean, 'Lori's been forthcoming'? Where is she?"
"Again, that's not important right now. Have you ever had a toothache, Andrew?"
"Where is she?" Phil demanded. "What have you done with them?"
"Relax, Andy. Lori's sitting right here, safe and sound. Well, maybe that's not the best choice of words. She's acting like she wants to talk to you. What's that, Lori?"
There was a five-second pause, and then Phil heard a high-pitched whirring noise, followed by a muffled scream.
"I think she's saying that you should get dental insurance, Andrew."
Phil's mind was racing. A bead of sweat rolled down his temple as he tried to suppress a bad memory of a 'visit' to the dentist when he was nineteen. It was supposed to be for a filling, but before the day was out he ended up having an emergency root canal. He remembered the sight of the drill, the feeling of the bit as it bore into the enamel, the chipping and grinding, the vibrations in his lower jaw for what seemed like eternity. He could even remember the stupid song that played quietly in the background while he looked out the window, because that's all he could look at. It was Christmas time, and he could see the snow falling outside, and the song was 'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,' and in his mind he pictured the snowflakes as pieces of his tooth slowly falling away.
But what he remembered more than anything was the sound of that whining drill in his head. 'Weeeeeeeeen! Weeen, weeeeeeeeeen!' It was something he couldn't forget, no matter how hard he tried.
"Andrew? You still there?"
"I'm still here, you son-of-a-bitch. What do you want?"
"I'm so glad you asked. For a limited time, we're offering family dental insurance for a one time payment of one million dollars."
"How do I even know that's really her?" he asked, but he knew already it was. He just knew it.
"Good question. Sarah? Would you like to say 'hi' to your daddy?"
Phil could hear movement in the background. Then he heard his daughter's voice: "Daddy? Daddy, help us! This man's got mommy and he's-"
Sarah's voice was abruptly cut off, only to be replaced by the voice of Steve Baxter. Or whatever his real name was.
"So, Andrew, what do you say?"
"I don't have that kind of money," he stammered. He honestly didn't, and he didn't know how he could get it.
"Weeeeeeeeeen! Weeeen, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!"
More muffled screams.
"Stop it!" Phil yelled. "Stop it, please. I'll get it. I don't know how, but I'll get it."
"When can you get it?"
"I don't know. I'll try to get it tonight."
There was another pause, and Phil held his breath, praying he wouldn't hear that drill again.
"Tell you what, Andrew. We here at Lexington Insurance will allow you twenty-four hours. After that, your family might need more than dental insurance. How does that sound to you?"
"I swear, if you hurt them..."
"Relax. They'll be fine. And Andrew?"
For the rest of the night and all the next day, Phil made a lot of desperate phone calls. By mortgaging the house and depleting his savings, he managed to come up with most of the money. He had to borrow another $100,000 from his brother for the rest.
Exactly twenty-four hours later, the phone rang. Baxter told him a man would meet him at Fifth and Elm. He rushed over there, and the man took the money.
"Where are they?" he demanded.
"They're already back at your house," the man said.
Phil raced home, opened the door, and to his horror, there they were, sitting on the couch.
All sixty-four of them: incisors, molars, canines...
(the prompt for the contest was 'a telemarketer')