MASH Magazine Issue 2 - Page 16

The Dentist’s Chair J ane closed her book and settled back into her deck chair. It was a pitch black night and starting to become chilly. She switched off her torch and pulled her gloves on, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. In the distance she could hear the sound of a barking dog and the rumble of traffic. She knew she would have to get up early in the morning—for the last day of work experience at the dental practice in town. The dentist was a friend of her mother. “You could be a dental nurse or even a dentist,” her mother had said. “You like science and dentists earn lots of money.” Reluctantly, she had agreed, just as she had agreed to do biology A-level, even though she hated it. “There are lots of opportunities in medicine,” her mother said. But Jane had other ideas. She wanted to be an astronomer and had insisted on doing physics and maths as well. The arguments with her mother would continue but at the moment she had only one aim: to find the Andromeda galaxy. Her book, a constellation guide, said it was ‘visible to the naked eye on a clear, dark, moonless night.’ Tonight was just such a night and it didn’t happen very often, so she was determined to find Andromeda. Pegasus was easy enough—it was a big square of bright stars—but how could anyone imagine that it looked like a horse? And a horse with wings at that! But there it was, with a sort of triangle of stars attached to the bottom right hand corner and a Happy Anniversary line of three stars sticking up from the top left hand corner—that was Andromeda, just three stars— whoever dreamed up those names? She knew that they were characters from Greek legends. Was it Plato…? No, he wasn’t much of a scientist; he believed in the spontaneous generation of frogs. Democritus…? No, he invented democracy, didn’t he? Aristotle… yes, it was him. His star chart was used for hundreds of years and he named the constellations after mythological characters. ‘But they don’t look anything like a horse and a beautiful young princess,’ Jane thought. ‘More like a dentist’s chair, with a footrest and a tall back.’ Then, finally, she saw what she had been looking for. It was much fainter and larger than she’d been expecting, just an oval smudge of light, really. But she knew it was made up of billions of stars, spinning round like a slow motion Catherine wheel, and so far away that you could hardly see them. “Jane! Come in now. You’ve got to get up in the morning for work experience.” Her mother was calling into the night from the back door. Tomorrow, Jane would arrive bleary-eyed at the dentist’s surgery. She would be there for one more day and it would soon be over, but her journey through the universe was only just beginning. H e’s sitting in one of the chairs when I arrive. It takes me two seconds to realize this—one second longer than it should have. He knows I’m aware of his presence as soon as I know I’m aware of his presence. As if to prove this, he leans forward, and half of his face sticks out around the chair’s high back. It’s the good half. “We had orders, Steven,” I say. “If the target had escaped, an entire city would have been destroyed. I couldn’t save you and complete the mission. You would have done the same in my situation.” “Hey there, Jimbo,” he says. My name is not Jim. It’s not James, Jimmy, or Jimbo. But he calls me Jimbo nonetheless. “It’s been a while.” Shortlisted Story Michael E A Lyons Michael Lyons writes fiction, nonfiction, and occasionally, poetry. He lives on the south coast of England in a small cottage with a large garden. When not writing, he teaches mathematics and his leisure activities include astronomy, running and compiling his family tree. “Well I guess we’ll never know, will we?” Steven says. “But one thing I do know is that I’ve lost everything. And that’s why I’m going to take everything from you. Not today. Not tomorrow. But some day. So go on living this fake little life you’ve built. Pretend you’re some sort of dentist. We both know what you really are.” “It’s been five years, Steven,” I say. Five years to the day. An anniversary I never planned to celebrate. He turns to leave, but I know he’ll be back. I should shoot him. My gun’s sitting right there in my work bag. “Did you think one of these low-grade security systems would keep me from getting into your office?” he asks, pointing to the numbered keypad on the wall. “At least you stepped things up at home. Went with the Andromeda Maximum Home Security System, huh? A tougher nut to crack. Good choice, Jimbo.” Problem is, shooting your brother is easier said than done. I say nothing. “Not that I couldn’t have gotten into your house,” he continues. “I think we both know that. And I think we both know I woulda had no problem walking right up the stairs to your precious daughter’s room, tossing her yipyap puppy out the window, and giving her a good look at what her daddy did to me before throwing her out too.” Steven stands up fully, and for the first time in five years, I see the damage that was done. Not that I could have forgotten. I see his face in my dreams regularly. Not nightly anymore, but still more than I like. The scars have neither gotten worse nor better. They simply are what they are. My eyes flicker away, only for a moment. But it’s a noticeable moment. Shortlisted Story Mike Billeter Mike Billeter is a writer living in South Dakota. He’s worked as a marketing copywriter for six years and is in the process of publishing his first children’s story, Samuel Sporter, The Bravest Reporter: M