By Eric Suhem
Ever since she was a young child, Beverly knew she was destined to be an artist of some sort. She wanted to be taken seriously as a painter or dancer, indenting brilliance upon the culture, at the highest level. She pictured herself in the New York art scene, wearing black, a fixture at galleries and performance spaces, reveling in the idea of high art.
Instead she was known as the ‘Teen Dream Beauty Queen’ of the snow-covered prairie, as she had been competing in beauty pageants since she was 4 years old, at her mother’s insistence. Over the years she had done well in the pageants, thanks largely to her award-winning teeth. Beverly’s teeth were simply superb, and they compensated for any blemishes and imperfections she may have otherwise had during the fine-toothed rigors of beauty pageant judging. On some occasions, her teeth shone a shimmering dagger of white light that temporarily blinded some in the audience, many viewers opting for special industrial-strength sunglasses. Based on Beverly’s tooth prowess alone, her mother wanted the beauty pageant career to extend indefinitely, as the teeth had garnered adoration and tiaras.
“I want to be a ballet dancer that touches people’s lives with an expression of my soul,” said Beverly, “Or a painter, pouring my emotions out onto the canvas.”
“But your teeth touch people’s lives, look at these letters,” said her mother, showing Beverly the scrapbook of testimonials sent in by those whose lives had been transformed by the experience of seeing Beverly’s oral enamel. In response to this, Beverly frowned, not displaying her riveting teeth at all.
“All right,” said Beverly’s mother, “I’ll sign you up for a painting class.”
Soon Beverly was attending a class in Abstract Expressionism, and enjoyed it, though her instructor encouraged her to depict teeth in her paintings, as this seemed to be what she painted best. No matter how abstract, her work always included images of molars, incisors, or canines. “The teeth are the art that rings true for you,” said her instructor.
During this time, Beverly was still competing in beauty contests, though becoming increasingly vexed by the continued emphasis on her teeth, both in the pageants and her paintings. One evening, after a particularly demanding session with her Tooth Coach, Beverly went home and fell asleep early, drifting into a dream:
She was in a field of bright yellow flowers. She picked one of the flowers and held it to her mouth. Nectar tasting like a tonic from the gods oozed onto her tongue. Suddenly a dental chair appeared in the field, and the scene transformed into a dental office. The dentist was a parent of one of Beverly’s beauty contest competitors. Under bright pageant lights, as his daughter practiced her baton twirling amidst the dental drills and spit sink, the dentist removed all of Beverly’s teeth. Though now unnecessary, he placed a complementary toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, and dental floss in Beverly’s hand.
When Beverly woke up from the dream, she discovered that all of her teeth were gone, though she did find a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss near her pillow. She looked in the mirror and smiled, sensing possibilities.
“Beverly, what happened to your teeth!?” screamed her mother, looking up in shock from the beauty pageant schedule, and then fainting. After writing a long note to her mother, Beverly packed a suitcase.
She walked to the bus station and bought a one-way ticket to New York City. On the bus seat, she found a dog-eared paperback copy of Freud’s ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, describing his theory of dreams as wish fulfillment.
In Manhattan, using some of the beauty pageant cash winnings her mother had given to her as an allowance, Beverly bought a set of dentures, though she wore them infrequently, preferring instead to go toothless, enjoying making gumming noises. Soon Beverly started a new career as a performance artist, holding a microphone up to her rubbing gums, creating new sounds to entertain the avant-garde audiences in New York City clubs, becoming the artist she knew she’d be.
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Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the qualities of his vegetable juicer.
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