Nighthawks: a piece of flash fiction

This 450-word piece was published on 22 June last year for Flash Fiction Day on the official website, FlashFlood. It’s called ‘Nighthawks’. I like doing these sort of ‘talking heads’ dialogues; the flash fiction mode seems to lend itself to that form. Hope you like it.

Chordeiles Henryi: common nighthawk

Chordeiles Henryi: common nighthawk

Zinna comes to bed wearing a gumshield.

‘What the hell is that?’ I ask.

‘It’s my teeth-whitener’, says Zinna.  ‘It’s to whiten my teeth.  I got it at the dentist this morning.’

‘But your teeth are perfectly white’.

‘No, they’re…ivory.  I want them to be pearly white.’

‘You won’t start glowing in the dark will you?’

‘No, of course not.  It’s a very subtle process.  Clinically proven, said James.’

‘You won’t turn out like what’s his name in ‘Friends’, you know, Ross?’

‘Nothing like that.  It’s all tested scientifically.  It takes out the stains and, well, whitens the teeth to a perfect smile.’

‘That’s against nature,’ I say.  ‘Nature makes our teeth the colour they should be.  It’s like, I don’t know, black people whitening their skin.  Michael Jackson.’

‘Don’t be melodramatic.’

‘I’m not.  You’re Jacksoning your teeth.’

‘No, I’m not’, says Zinna.

‘You’re doing a tooth-job.’

‘Now you’re being insulting.’

‘Do you have to wear that gumshield all night?’


‘It’ll be like sleeping with a prop forward.’

‘What’s a prop forward?’

‘Do you have a sponsor’s name on the shield?’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘Is this what all those syringes are about in the fridge?’ I ask.

‘Yes.  They’re all part of the whitening process.  I have to squirt the solution on before I wear the gumshield.’

‘I thought you’d become like a junkie or something.’

‘There aren’t any needles.  Just the syringes.  And the fluids taste disgusting.  Like fish spit.’

‘That’s what threw me.  You keep the needles someplace else, don’t you?  I may be wrong; I’m not up on drug culture.’

‘It’s nothing to do with drugs,’ says Zinna, turning off her bedside light.  ‘As you well know.’

‘Do I?’

‘Of course you do’.  She turns abruptly away from me.  ‘You just don’t like it that I went ahead and paid for this process without consulting you.’

I adopt a tone of mortified innocence: ‘You don’t have to consult me.’

‘I know.  That’s why I went ahead and did it.’

‘You might at least have mentioned it, though.’

Zinna turns over to face me again.  ‘What?’

‘The teeth.  The nuclear fission on your teeth.’

‘Don’t exaggerate.  It’s a natural, toxin-free procedure.’

‘What if you get cancer from the fallout?’

‘Ridiculous.’  She turns over, away from me again.

‘Sex is out of the question now, I suppose?’ I ask.

‘Was it ever in the question?’

‘It’s not very attractive.  The gumshield.’

‘It will be.  Bit like a teenager’s brace.’

‘Who’d snog a teenage brace-wearer?’

‘You did.’

‘You weren’t wearing a brace.’

‘I wasn’t referring to me.’

‘How could you know that about me?’

‘You have no idea how much I know’, she says.

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