“Is that a knife or a blade?” you ask.
“A knife!” answers the man holding it.
“A blade,” says his companion.
“I’ll cut you!” shouts the first, pointing
it at him.
“What? With that little blade?”
He pulls it back and holds it near his
grinning teeth. “Knife,” he spits.
“Well, I don’t think it’s either,” you tell
“Huh? Well, what do you suppose it is
then, smart pants?” says the one
“It’s obviously just a toothpick.”
“A toothpick?!” shouts the companion,
jumping up, his feet bouncing on air.
“I intend to.” He creeps closer to you,
holding the thing out and twisting it
“What are you doing?” you ask, taking
a shaky step back. Your leg lands as
though on a train. Luckily, you are in
fact on a train, and they don’t notice
“What am I doing? I think you have
something stuck in your teeth and I
aim to get it out,” the man says,
staring at your mouth. As the car
wobbles on the rails so does the object
in his hand. Plus—and, or maybe—he’s
also very likely drunk. You wonder
how good his aim could possibly be in
these conditions. You wonder if that’s a
good or bad thing.
You turn to run but his companion cuts
you off and trips you to the floor, face
first. The diamond patterned metal
cheese-grates your cheek. He leans
his knee into your back and holds your
head up and mouth open. Your spine
pops under the pressure. Grit from his
fingernails lands in your mouth and
collects at the corners. The first man
appears in front of you and holds the
sharp object to your face.
“Please don’t,” you plead without the
aid of your lips.
“Why are you so worried? It’s just a
toothpick.” He smirks as he hunches
forward to within inches of your face.
His hot breath in the cold air flows
over you like a heater. He smells of
turpentine and cigarette butts and
those little suckers they give out at
He jams the object in and two teeth on
your lower left sting as it splits them.
He wiggles it around. Pulls it back. He
holds up the thin sliver of wood. Im-
paled on the end is a piece of string
bean. The other man lets you go and
your chin hits the floor.
“See?” says the first. “Just something
in your teeth. All we wanted was to
help.” He wipes the green off on his
boot. You feel around your mouth but
everything’s still there, though they do
feel a little cleaner.
“What a rude fellow this guy,” the
companion says as they walk forward
to the next car. “No manners at all.”
Geoffrey Uhl's fiction has appeared in Opium Online, The
Latent Print, Sillymess.com, and Stories Stuck To His
Mother's Refrigerator Door With a Magnet. He lives in San