Vasant (Spring) 2021 Stories - Suzanne C Martinez


A Perfect Smile
By Suzanne C Martinez


Whenever I saw the picture of my unlined face in my little cell, I smiled. Thirty-five years have passed since that photograph was taken. I’m using it for my obituary. I already asked the warden, and he promised. I usually got what I wanted.


Even as a boy, my mom favored me over my little brother.By the third grade, I was taller than her. I got more treats and presents too, until she left. I always knew I was special and way smarter than my teachers. When I was in college ROTC, the Navy chose me for the special dentist-training program. I had one piss-ass problem though. The military made the participants repay the cost of training with six years of clinical service in ‘underserved’ communities.

I despised my clinic above a Korean deli in Brooklyn. Half the appointments were no shows; the patients neglected their teeth.


“How should I label the missed appointments? The state requires a record or you won’t get credit.” My dithering assistant never stopped pestering me.

I closed my eyes. “Call them dis–appointments.”


Why the hell did they hire people with presumed experience, such as my assistant, if they continually asked me to fix every goddamned thing for them? I needed the practice to haul in big bucks, so I could repay my loan, find that special girl, get married, and start a family. When I met the ONE, I didn't want to wait an extra minute for the complete happiness I deserved.


For a tall, good-looking, accomplished man like me, washing one dish every night was just tragic. I wasn’t a half-wit loser like my brother and the rest of my family.

My phone buzzed---TALL Club of NYC.


“Hello. Dr. Carnassial speaking,” I said.


“You’ve cleared the background check. Congratulations. You’re officially a member of the Club. Few non-athletes meet our height criteria. As a dentist, a professional, you’ll be a big draw. I hope to see you tomorrow at our meet-up at the Beer Authority on West 40th.”


When I arrived at the place, a perfect dive bar where high booths and low lighting easily hid intentions, I knew I’d made the right choice moving to New York City. The variety of women I could look in the eye at the mixer was impressive. Short females weren’t worth my attention. I walked over to a woman who stood six-foot-three in flats.


“Hi. I’m Brenda.” Her smile displayed a perfect set of teeth and her blonde hair shone. “You’re worth the cost of admission.”


“I hope so.” I’d love to see if her carpet and drapes matched.


“Want a drink?”


She nodded. I could almost read her mind.


We hit it off, and I left thinking she might be the ONE. At the next few events, I hung out with her and three other gorgeous women. I couldn’t believe the choices, so hard to decide. One night, Brenda and I left at the same time, and I offered her a ride home. She lived in Astoria, so we crossed the Queensboro Bridge. She told me to take this turn and that turn and after a while she said, “Stop.” She turned, smiling. Her teeth were dazzling, her eyes inviting.

I’ve never waited for opportunity to knock twice, so I leaned over, sought her lips, and let my tongue nudge those pearly whites open. I encircled her in my arms.
Brenda smelled like heaven. Her breath was minty fresh. She pulled back slightly, but I knew how girls acted. I held her firmly and let my lips and tongue explore.
She freed her arm and slapped my cheek – hard. The blow stung, so I smacked her a few times. When she opened her mouth to scream, I grabbed her by the throat, shushed her, and squeezed until all her fight was gone. Her head lolled onto my shoulder and nestled there quietly.


When I was a kid, we lived with my grandparents from Sicily. Grandpa reigned over the house, especially after Mother disappeared with a musician. He raised chickens, rabbits, and a dozen fancy pigeons. He loved animals in his way, but his expectations needed to be met. If a cat had too many kittens, the extras were drowned; if a hen stopped laying, she became Sunday dinner.


I was fascinated by the pigeons, how they mated for life with both helping to hatch the eggs, staying together raising their chicks. One day, they were gone. I found them in the freezerwith their legs cut-off. Maybe they’d tried to fly away.


I recognized Brenda’s dull stare. She was dead, like that frigid hygienist in dental school at Bethesda and that snobby cheerleader in high school. Women were always ‘come over here Simple Simon and taste my wares.’ Then they’d slam the door in your loving face. I followed their flashing signals. Green light! Green light!
I was always sensitive to people’s thoughts and desires. But none of them were discerning enough to recognize my exceptional qualities or they wouldn’t have resisted me. I’m special.


I drove around with her head resting on my shoulder until I found a dark overpass. I stopped, popped the trunk and folded her inside. On Saturday, I’d drive upstate to find her a peaceful resting place.


The next day while I was performing an emergency root canal, my car was towed to an impound lot. Brenda didn’t smell so pretty by then.

I’m incarcerated for life at Ossining, prohibited fromsolemn union withmy soulmatebecause of a stupid dis-appointment while my idealspouse is sentenced to an empty existence without my love. Tragic.


After I arrived here, a New York Times Magazine photo-journalist interviewed me for an article and snapped that great photograph. His story was full of lies, but I wondered if my family, assistant, patients, or the women at the Tall Club were surprised to see my smiling face on the cover. I bet they mentioned they knew me to impress their friends.



Suzanne C Martinez from USA is a visual artist with a BFA/MFA. Her work has appeared in The Hong Kong Review, Streetlight Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Broadkill Review and others. The Broadkill Review nominated her for a 2019 Pushcart Prize and 2020 The Best of the Net Anthology. Flash Fiction Magazine has nominated her for a 2021 Pushcart Prize.


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