View Archives by:


My Secret Fantasy Life

Timothy Bradford

Cheryl, the dental assistant,
welcomes me, is
real nice, makes me feel
right at home. She wears
scrubs, latex gloves, a blue paper mask
and clear plastic eye protection.
She asks about
problem areas, and when she
has me down, my
mouth wide open and a large
dental pick scraping the grooves
on some sensitive tooth
in the back, she asks
if I've been to the State Fair yet.

I nearly gag answering
with my tongue trying to lie down,
be polite, not follow her work
all over my mouth like a needy
dog. So I take to grunting. She
seems to like it, responds by
asking more questions, increasing
the pressure and speed
of the dental pick until it begins
to nick at my gums here
and there. Behind
the too-big mirrored sunglasses
she's given me for protection,
I close my eyes and remember
that scene in The Marathon Man.
Cheryl could ruin my mouth
with a quick slip.
My leg twitches. I sweat.

And imagine Cheryl, about the same
age as my wife, astride me. She wears
the turquoise dental assistant's top,
nothing else, and gently rocks
back and forth, like a chambered
nautilus swims, as she works.
Fear and eroticism are fine bed mates.
She stops asking questions, works
with an intensity that feeds
my fantasy, almost makes the minute,
enormous pain bearable.

I want to open my eyes and look
at her, but when I do, my fantasy
goes askew. She's at the wrong angle,
has the wrong grimace on her face,
looks like she could be scrubbing
the neck of some little kid in a tub,
determined beyond the kid or dirt or
tooth or husband or job that involves
looking into hundreds of mouths, all
with their own unique
mouth smell, weekly. So I
close my eyes again, try to
imagine the pressure of her body
over me. She is slender but fairly
tall and would weigh more
than you would think.

My fear? Vagina dentata? No, not teeth there. The teeth in our very own mouths. The
labiodental and linguadental sounds and their absence. Pit, pet, pat, pot, putt, put. The
way we’re born to gum, then chew, then, if we’re lucky? gum again. The singularly oracular
symbolism of the mouth and the phantasms of worlds it spews. Teeth in a kiss, or more so,
a kiss without teeth. These little enamel plates of clack-clack that fall out, hide under
pillows, mutate into coins, scintillate in the sun, work against the tongue, with the tongue,
“by these teeth I thee wed,” the stain, the decay, the loss. A weak spot in some god’s plan,
like knees. Or is it just our sin of sugar? Oh, little white sweets of sin, please stay firm in
the sulci.

Cheryl finishes. I am awake and sitting
upright, talking to the dentist.
She says, "Everything looks great," and I agree.
The sun, breaking through the clouds,
reveals a single bullet mark
in the glass before us, but the surface
still has integrity, keeps
the animals out
though they can see,
relaxed, grimacing, done,
us through the glass, window
to our interior human world.

Timothy Bradford

Read Bio

Author Discusses Poems