Jessica Claire Haney

Teeth in It

All Jenny wanted was a cup of coffee she didn’t have to make herself and a retreat from the living room with its overflowing laundry basket and second-hand nursing pillow.
She refrained from telling the two young women in line in front of her It’s not true that you never see your own face in your dreams, as the blonde had just told the redhead so confidently.
She’d heard the same falsehood back in college when these two were probably still in diapers. It helped to imagine them in giant Pampers as they stood in front of her waiting for the coffee-like beverages it took them a full thirty seconds to dictate to the barista. Half this, flavor that, hand-squeezed milk, froth you could see through.
None of the dirty dishes in her sink held remnants of meals half so intricate as those drinks.
Yesterday, after the voicemail about her being overdue for a dental cleaning, Jenny had, for the first time since the baby was born six months ago, flossed her teeth. Her gums ballooned up, red and sore. Jenny was certain that you could see your own face in your dreams because that night—last night—she’d inspected her mouth in a dream mirror and watched herself wiggle a molar with her tongue.
Shifting her weight in line behind the two women who probably had pearly whites, Jenny shivered slightly and tried to push away the rest of the dream vision. Even at their age—when coffeeshops were still a novelty—Jenny hadn’t been the type to make light banter. She bristled at their tinny laughter, watching their impeccable coifs lightly bounce, and thought, “Airheads.”
The outdated word made her laugh, flashing a little engorged gum on one side. Gum cleavage. She had the real kind for the first time in her life but no one to appreciate it, except Emma. The airhead comment was funny because of the image she’d conjured just yesterday when she pulled the bitey baby off her breast once again.
Sitting up on her couch, Jenny held Emma at a distance, her legs dangling innocently as though they weren’t skilled at bruising her. Emma’s bald head was still unreasonably large for her body, and Jenny imagined it filling with air like a giant balloon, getting larger and larger until that sharp maniacal tooth Emma had just bitten her with popped the whole thing.
There would be no blood or gore—just a shattered shell of a face that shriveled softly down to Emma’s neck, its broken scraps like a flouncy collar.
This she could handle, Jenny thought—having only the body that would learn to crawl and eventually walk but no teeth to clamp down on her nipple.
Of course then the baby also wouldn’t talk. Would that really be so bad?
Emma wouldn’t need to eat either. They’d been trying solids for a few weeks. Neither of them enjoyed the experience.
Jenny imagined browsing for a new baby head online, one with all its teeth grown in, and without that blotchy eczema. Some actual hair. She’d pay extra if there were a guarantee her daughter wouldn’t turn into the kind of person to take thirty full seconds to order coffee.
In her dream, Jenny watched her loosened tooth bounce off her lower lip before clinking into the sink. Within seconds, the rest of the top left half of her mouth was falling apart. Her dream teeth dropped from gums that disintegrated like a soft shelf of watermelon. She held her teeth in her hand and looked back at herself in the dream mirror, one side of her face slightly sunken in.
Maybe baby Emma was getting back at her for pushing mushy sweet potato into her face, her until-recently-toothless mouth with its untrained tongue. Nothing about Jenny’s life was her own anymore.
Awake now, or hoping to be once she got her coffee, Jenny looked down at her baby in her stroller and imagined Emma’s head remaining intact as it inflated, rising and hovering over her like God.
Emma would look down on her mother holding her teeth in a pool of melted watermelon in her adult hand. She would smile, exposing her lone shark tooth, and say, That is good.

Finders Keepers

At the playground near the river, down the slope from the chamber of commerce, the babysitter lost her charge.
She was talking to the shorter boy while her friend sat on the swings with the taller. When she looked over to the play area, the little girl was gone. Her skin prickled with heat as she tried to spot some movement, some sign of the girl’s limbs or her lavender shirt.
The babysitter turned away from the playground and imagined that the girl, who had sticky fingers and unbrushed hair and always-dirty toes, had been pulled by the river through to the other side of the bridge.
She said as much, the words getting faster as she found them. The boys laughed at her for not knowing the water flowed in the other direction, which was obvious when she looked down and followed its movements through the shadows under trees as it twisted around a corner, to where, she had no idea.
The others were leaving to walk up to town to get root beers, but the child was missing. Maybe she had walked up there, they suggested, to the card store that sold candy. She wasn’t that little. Kids that age liked to play hide and seek.
The babysitter jumped up, saying she had to search the whole playground structure. After she’d peered under the blue slide and through both plastic yellow tunnels, empty except for dried leaves and mulch, she turned and saw the girl emerge from behind her car in the parking lot, carrying a turtle.
Each of its four legs took turns reaching out, pawing at the air. Its eyes looked wide and confused, probably like her own. The girl’s were gleaming.

Jessica Claire Haney is a Northern Virginia-based writer, editor, and writing tutor. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Delmarva Review, Washington Writers’ Publishing House, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Mason Jar Press’ Jarnal III, Written in ArlingtonGargoyle Magazine, Porcupine LiteraryEarth’s Daughters, and DC Women Writers anthologies. She’s had essays and articles in The Huffington PostThe Washington Post, Scary Mommy, MotheringWashington FAMILY, Healthy Woman, and in parenting anthologies. In previous lives, Jessica was a high school English teacher, a community wellness advocate, and a parenting blogger. Instagram @jessicaclairehaney & Twitter @crunchychewy.