Dickson Telfer wrote a short story exclusively for Fledgling Press in anticipation of his book launch
Peaches ‘n’ Cream
I press my tongue hard onto the side of my tooth. As the victim is struck by his assailant, I press harder, levering with intent to uproot, dismissive of the odds against the fleshy mass getting any purchase. He falls to the ground and is kicked hard. For every boot, I lever harder and the nerve rages.
Trying to make up time, the bus driver races over a sleeping policeman, rattling his passengers around like Tic-Tacs. My book falls to the floor. People around me tut and hiss. A teenager says ‘fuck’s sake.’ I reach down to pick it up. The nerve begins its recovery from persistent invasion.
Before I can find my page, the bus reaches its final destination. Someone rings the bell and I catch the driver frowning in his mirror. The doors hiss open. Passengers conga down the aisle, me at the rear, still looking for my page.
“Was that you who rung that bell?” snaps the driver.
“No,” I say, raising my book to my throat. “I don’t know who it was.”
“Pisses me off when folk do that. I mean, I’m obviously going to stop at the bloody bus station, amn’t I?”
I flick my tongue rapidly off my tooth. The penetrative motion aggravates the nerve. It’s a different sensation than when I press.
“Eh, yeah,” I say.
I step off the bus, flicking away, the tip of my tongue prickling. I don’t look back at the driver. The doors hiss and he drives alongside me, like a horn-dog, kerb-crawling for a suitable hooker. My tongue finds extra strength and the nerve throbs, nearing the border between dull and moderate pain. The driver pulls up at another stance where there’s a queue of people. I weave through them and head for town.
On my way to the dentist, I see Charley Samson, who’s gorgeous. I think back to high school and cringe at the day I told my pals she was frigid. I only did it ‘cos I was scared. No wonder she dumped me. My tongue shreds and the nerve aches. Once she passes, I look at my watch. Early. I sit on a bench and rest. I want boiled sweets for comfort – Peaches ‘n’ Cream, like my mum used to give me in my lunch box, but it’s too much of such comforts that got me here in the first place. So I close my eyes and just breathe.
After the dentist I feel a bit woozy. Never been a fan of needles. But who is? I lean on a handrail at my stance and look at my watch. Early. I find my page and begin to read. The assailant pours diesel over his victim. It goes in his mouth and he chokes. I push my tongue into the gap. He lights a match and lets go. The victim ignites, screaming in pain, his flesh burning as the flames lick his assailant’s shoes. I flick and ram and press and push, but there’s only numbness. The bus pulls up and the doors hiss like an angry snake. I look up and see the same bus driver. My tongue automatically does what it does. I miss my tooth.