It’s the last gasp of sex as he reaches under the pillow, retrieving a velvet box the size of a walnut. Their whole reason for arriving at this motel, for taking their socks off on the goldfish-orange carpets, neglecting the pool out front, leaving semi-interesting criminals to sunburn in their latest swimwear, interrupting the clerk’s tangent on the price of snack machine refills to get the key with a room number that’s entirely their own, not even turning off the TV left on by housekeeping in a chokehold with the latest season of a hot and bothered soap opera, not complaining because it was the same room service team that placed this box under the pillow, with all the reliability someone could hope for at a motel like this, a godforsaken corner of Americana and sleaze. 

“This is it,” he glances, nervous, at her neon eyes.

“Now that it’s here,” she forces the stare between them,  “It doesn’t feel real.” 

“If you’re ready, I’m ready.”

“I’m ready,” she kisses him on the face, as sexual as it is sweet. 

Next is preliminary cigarettes, coming undone from one other, still slightly tangled, getting a good drag before they have to finally do something with this anticipation. And, he opens the box. 

He reads the note inside, each line stacked tight with cursive, “Dear Patron, congratulations. You made love on the tooth of one of our era’s most famous stars. Taken with care from our vast network of Hollywood dentistry clinics. No one on this side of the tooth’s removal could make such a claim as you. So, go ahead. Flip over the card. See whose tooth is under your pillow tonight.”

There’s a splash in the pool outside, a frantic cackling. The soap opera’s reaching its own climax. They look through their tobacco smoke, first at the tooth, resting in velvet. A molar with a silver pool set in its middle. 

One last fleeting eye contact–she’s more beautiful than ever–and he flips the card. 

“Billy Ray Cyrus.”

Caleb Bethea is an MFA at UofSC — also an ad man in sweatpants. But, his best time is spent with his wife and two goblins by the ocean. Catch his work in Maudlin House, HAD, Expat, hex, and elsewhere. Follow him on twitter at @caleb_bethea_

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