The Only Bones That Show

by Tom Leins

1900. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.


1. The hardest bone in the human body is the jawbone.

My face slams into the royal blue wall tiles at Parkside public toilets. The tiling has been polished to a deep gleam. Someone around here really takes pride in their work.

I slide down the wall and taste metallic trough-piss. At least one of my teeth comes loose and floats lazily towards the rusted drain, which is clogged with pubic hair, bloody phlegm and even a condom wrapper.

I pluck it out of the thick yellow stream and thrust it into my pocket. I haven’t lost a tooth yet – not in this fucking town.

2. The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot repair itself.

The man standing over me is called Tony ‘Uncle Bones’ Bonino. He is only 5’7″, but his compact torso is hard like brick. I handed Marie Andretti three of his teeth in a Bastins padded envelope last week. She prefers her revenge to be carried out with a… biblical sensibility.

Bonino had hit a kid in one of her boy-brothels the previous week, and he split his head on a trunk full of sex toys, losing a couple of teeth in the process. Bones and Marie were distant cousins, but she still wanted her grisly trinkets wrenched out of his gummy smile – and she paid me to do it.

3. A pack-a-day smoker will lose approximately two teeth every ten years.

Uncle Bones slides a pack of Silk Cut out of his breast pocket and sparks up a cigarette. He exhales in my direction, and the nicotine briefly replaces the pissy stink lingering in my nostrils. He glares at me, but his eyes lack genuine hostility, and he wears his defeated look uncomfortably, like a cheap Torbay Road sports jacket.

“I get it, son. You’re just the hired hand. You get me in the same room as her. I want what is mine.”

I nod, and he flashes me a gap-toothed grimace, before hoisting me out of the trough, twisting my arm sharply behind my back, and marching me out of the toilet block.

I blink the fizzy piss out of my bloodshot eyes and lurch towards a silver Vauxhall Cavalier that has been double-parked on Parkside Road. I open the car boot – without being told – and climb inside.

4. Humans produce excessive saliva before vomiting to protect the teeth from the acid in the vomit.

The early evening sky above the block of flats is the colour of clotted blood. Uncle Bones lurks in the shadows as I ring the buzzer. When I yank the door open he melts through the gap like a fat ghost. I consider throwing a punch, or stomping the backs of his legs, but the rat-tail sap dangling from his clammy hand puts me off. He grabs my wrist again and contorts it behind my back.

“After you, son…”

We take the stairs rather than the lift, and Bones wheezes with effort, abandoning his half-smoked Silk Cut on the first landing.

I bang on Marie’s door with the flat of my hand, and Bonino is behind me, pressed against me as intimately as a lover. We listen for her footsteps over the low thud of our mingled heartbeats. I hear the muted jangle as the security chain is unfastened, and slam my head backwards into Bonino’s skull. I feel his nose shatter, smearing snot and blood across my hair, so I do it again.

When I turn around his jaw is scummed with bloody drool, and a couple of mangled teeth protrude from his ruined top lip. He scrambles back down the hallway, vomiting over his silk shirt. I unclip the blood-red fire extinguisher from the wall and drift towards him.

5. No two people have the same set of teeth – they are as unique as your fingerprint, so be proud them. 

When Marie finally opens the door, she is wearing a black lace bra and panties, her elderly bones jutting out at awkward angles that remind me of a crash victim. Her complexion is crinkly like chicken skin, and her perfume gives off a damp, exotic stink.

I pass her the dripping fire extinguisher and scatter the bloody teeth across her soft beige carpet. She takes a deep lungful of smoke from one of her black-market cigarettes, and purrs.

“I don’t know if I ever told you before, but you make my bosom swell with pride.”

I nod. Once or twice.

Bonino’s bones creak as I drag his limp body out of the hallway and into Marie’s bathroom, heaving his lumpen form into the tub.

Marie passes me a drink – rum and full-fat coke. I take a sip, but my mouth still tastes of piss, and I don’t enjoy it.

I don’t even need to ask what will happen to Uncle Bones. Later tonight he will be dumped in a petrol-soaked squat with a handful of random junkies who are in hock to Marie. One of her coked-up second cousins will drop a match through the letterbox, and by the time their ashy bodies are raked into evidence bags in the morning they will only be identifiable by their half-rotted teeth.

Apart from Uncle Bones, that is.

His teeth will be removed with Marie’s father’s old chisel and stashed in her floor-safe – with the rest of her ghoulish bone-coloured baubles.




Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Near to the Knuckle, Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction. He has published two novelettes, Skull Meat and Snuff Racket, and two short story collections, Meat Bubbles & Other Stories (Near To The Knuckle) and Repetition Kills You (All Due Respect).

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