Now and Then by Chris Riker

Primal stars were simple things

Great pompous boring fiery kings.

They ruled and died so long ago

Blown to dust, kaput…

but, OH!

That pyrrhic dust, it whirled back so

And formed the stars we love and know.

Brightly stuffed with gold they glow

Free-serving all this life below.

And when our stars go BANG again

They’ll shine anew somewhere… somewhen.

I’ll be a glont’ar-bu-va’af then

Or maybe just a kitty.

Or any old thing… or thing that’s new…

If you will be one with me.

Time may weave or burp or bend,

In truth, we have no earthly ken.

Still…

Wondrous suns warm wondrous ones

Each now and every then.

Hieronymus LaRoche, DDS

by Chris Riker

Dr. LaRoche moved with purpose, using two of his six legs to pull the water pick with him as he crawled over gums and molars to reach and clean deep crevices in his patient’s mouth. He found no new cavities, but those would certainly appear if this man failed to do a better job of brushing and flossing. There! A putrid hunk of masticated ham tucked behind a bicuspid. Dr. LaRoche reached in with one barbed appendage, skewered the morsel, and quickly jammed it into his own mouth parts. “Waste not, want not. Indeed, indeed!” he thought.

The dentist gave his patient a new toothbrush and inculcated him on the benefits of oral hygiene. The man, a sedentary-looking policeman with colorful donut sprinkles on his uniform, thanked him and hurried out the door. He’ll be back, Dr. LaRoche thought. More work for me. The thought of being useful bolstered his natural zeal.

The final patient of the day was a slender professional woman with glossy hair the color of radio wiring, which put ribald thoughts of nesting into Dr. LaRoche’s mind. The woman scanned the room, at first believing it empty. Then she noticed the diminutive dentist on the instrument tray and let out a yelp. “A roach!” she cried.

“La-Roche,” he corrected politely. “My family came from France. These days, we’re well established in Atlanta, though I have relatives all over: New York, New Jersey, indeed pretty much any city. I am Hieronymus LaRoche, DDS, just as it says on the diploma.” He used a stainless steel probe to proudly point to his bona fides, which hung on the wall next to a sign bearing the message: ‘Please don’t bite down during the exam.’

“You’re the dentist? My friend said you were good, but she didn’t mention–” Her tone seemed uncertain.

“I am fully accredited in the state of Georgia.” Standing on his hind legs, he continued, “You have magnificent teeth, Miss … Miss?”

“Constance Wainwright.”

“What a lovely name, indeed,” he responded, smiling. Her pale blue eyes were wide. Dr. LaRoche said, “Hop in the chair and let’s take a look.”

Constance Wainwright hesitated a beat, then climbed into the dentist’s chair as instructed. Dr. LaRoche scurried over the bib covering her provocative bosom and onto her lower lip. With a bow and a wink, he stepped inside.

As he worked, Dr. LaRoche could not help but feel there was something special about this woman; perhaps it was the sweetness of her voice, or the heady vapors from a lunchtime Pinot Noir which hung in her mouth and eased him into a pleasant euphoria. Whatever the case, Dr. LaRoche found himself daydreaming through the whole check-up. Was this the kind of woman, he wondered, who would like a large family? Perhaps three or four hundred children? 

Dr. LaRoche paid special attention to the cleaning, using his antennae to polish her brilliant white enamel. From deep in the throat of Constance Wainwright came a tiny song-like vocalization, rising sharply each time Dr. LaRoche scampered across her tongue. The melody escaped Dr. LaRoche, but he indeed enjoyed its child-like inflections.

He pondered whether she might enjoy dining in some dimly lit spot far away from the gaudy glare of neon. Dr. LaRoche screwed up his courage while putting his instruments into the sterilizer. As Constance Wainwright straightened her smart business attire, he asked, “Would you like to have dinner with me?”

Constance Wainwright did not acknowledge that she had heard his invitation. She took a swig of mouthwash, leaned over the tiny sink, and spat. Then she rinsed and spat again. And then twice more. Quickly thanking him, she was off and gone.

Dr. LaRoche locked up his office for the night. There was no denying it: Constance Wainwright had disappeared from his life as quickly as she had come. The loneliness of his existence weighed on him for one brief moment, but only one. Then, he brightened and thought, “Indeed, there are other fish in the sea. In a city this size, there must be some lucky lady who wants to date a dentist. Perhaps I’ll find a wine and cheese tasting club. Ah, the days ahead will be sweet. Indeed, indeed!” Dr. LaRoche’s gait became jaunty as he whistled to himself all the way home.