The sheriff walked into the saloon, looked around, and went up to the bar.

“You sent for me, Joe?” he asked.

“Yeah, Slim’s in again. You remember he was in last week with that toothache, right? And he raised so much hell?”

The sheriff nodded.

“Well, his gum is swollen up like a boil on a cowboy’s ass. He’s already drunk, and it ain’t gonna be long before he starts breakin’ things. I figured maybe you could settle him down some.”

“You know we have a new dentist in town, don’t you? Some young guy from back East,” the sheriff said. “Just opened up next to the bank. Send Slim over there.”

“I told him to go. He said he’d rather get his pecker caught in a meat grinder than go to a dentist. Said he’s almighty scared of needles, and no tinhorn is gonna stick a needle in his mouth.”

“Well, dang it, I don’t have time to baby Slim, Joe. He’s gotta get that tooth pulled, or he’s gonna get really sick. Tell about four of those boozehounds over there I need them to carry Slim down to the dentist.”

The sheriff walked over to Slim and hit him once over the head with his nightstick. Slim sank to the floor.            

“You guys carry this bag of crap down to the dentist—and stay there. Hold him down until the tooth is pulled.”

The next part was easy. They carried Slim down the street, with the ladies and kids gawkin’ at them, and propped him up in the chair. Then two held his arms, and two his legs.

“Hurry this up, Doc. When he wakes up and sees where he is, he’ll be meaner than a cat who fell down a two-holer. He ain’t like your genteel ladies back East.”

The young dentist was scared. They didn’t teach him how to handle situations like this in school. His hands were shaking as he got his tools. He heard, “Hang on guys, he’s wakin’ up!”

Slim opened his eyes, and saw this guy with a big needle standing there, shakin’ like crazy.

Those guys got cussed at, punched, kicked, scratched, spit on with tobacco juice, cursed, and stabbed by his spurs.

“Hold on guys! For God’s sake, Doc, get it done!”

The dentist came closer with that needle. And, suddenly, Slim—well, he just took a dump in his pants. Now, beans might be good for you, but when you get rid of a bean dinner, you want to be outside with a strong wind blowin’, not in a 10 x 10 room with five other guys.

Those guys had had enough; they couldn’t take any more. They let go of Slim, and headed for the door. Slim leaped out of the chair, grabbed the needle and threw it across the room, then took the dentist by his collar and the seat of his pants, and ran him straight out the window. Slim went outside, walkin’ funny. You could almost see the stink. He stood there, then walked into the bar.

He grabbed a chair and hit the biggest guy there on the back with it. The guy turned and said, “Damn you, Slim! I’m gonna knock your head off!”  He swung, and Slim just stood there, and kinda turned his head a little. 

That punch landed right where Slim had planned it. He fell to the floor—we all figured he was dead, but then he got this grin on his face. He opened his mouth, dribbled out some blood, and then he spit out that damn tooth. He got up and said, “Billy, I owe you a drink.”  He grabbed a bottle, kinda wobbled out to his old pick-up, and headed out of town.

The sheriff sent us out to check on him, and we found him sittin’ buck naked in the creek, singin’ and drinkin’.

“Come on in, boys.” He said. “The water’s fine-all the crap is down river by now.”

We just headed back to town.

Well, the next day when the bus came, danged if that dentist didn’t get on.

“I’m leaving town, boys. I’m going to go back to school. I’m going to be a lawyer. My Ma didn’t raise me to be a fool!”

FLYING SOLO by Leslie Ann Bosher

FLYING SOLO by Leslie Ann Bosher

LANTERN LIES  by Judie Maré

LANTERN LIES by Judie Maré