art by Tais Teng
Bit by Bit
by Karina Fabian
Sally blamed the drill bit stuck in her tooth.
She didn't blame the dentist. It happened sometimes. The tiny little bit broke and got stuck. Nothing for it but to fill the gap and go on. If her roots were thin and twisted, it wasn't his fault.
If she was hearing alien voices now, that wasn't his fault, either.
At first she thought it was the codeine, but even after she stopped taking that, she heard them. Thin short tones, more easily heard on the left side. Where the bit was, of course. That's how she knew.
Thin, short tones, in a language she didn't understand. Not like insects. More like birds, asthmatic birds chirping patterns day and night, keeping her awake.
She tried to explain to her dental insurance why she needed the tooth extracted.
"Ma'am. Other people have had bits of equipment break off during root canals. They don't hear voices."
"Maybe it's because I have so many silver fillings? Can I get those replaced, then? I can't sleep for the voices."
The agent suggested a psychiatrist.
Her best friend at work suggested a new tinnitus cure she heard about on the radio.
"Tinnitus is a buzzing. This is a pattern." She tapped it out. Her friend gave her that face that said, "Stop it! People are staring!" but her eyes were wide with worry. Sally never brought it up again.
On the way home from work, she saw a bum with a colander coated in foil on his head.
"Does it work?" she asked.