The Curmudgeon


Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Father of Teeth

Text for today: Cavities xix-xxxvii

However, the Father of Teeth took the wrong road and arrived instead at the Entomological Improvement Facility, where six hundred women sat in sterilised overalls and hair-tight caps pulling the legs off flies. The operator of the franchise, a handsome gentleman with a thrusting paunch, grasped the Father of Teeth by the shoulder and then, after the Father of Teeth's hair had dusted his knuckles a bit, by the elbow, and cordially offered to show him the premises.

"We get so few visitors hereabouts," the handsome gentleman explained; "the prevalence of corpses and dog excrement in the district tends to put people off, so I find myself starved for company."
"But what about the harem?" asked the Father of Teeth, who can always adopt an urbane business demeanour when it suits him. "You are a handsome enough gentleman, after all, and in a position of some authority, surrounded by these hundreds of hard-working females with their lowered eyes and deft fingers - surely their capabilities extend to a little entertaining conversation now and then?"
"I wouldn't know," said the handsome gentleman virtuously; "their duties permit of no frivolity. There are half-hour lunch breaks and occasional resting periods for the independently wealthy, but those who cannot afford to sleep or eat must necessarily make more constructive use of their time."

So saying, the handsome gentleman conducted the Father of Teeth around the factory floor. Each of the six hundred workers sat in front of two pipes, and each pipe ended in a hatch just wide enough for one hand. The first pipe was connected to the maggot vats in which the flies were bred, and as each insect matured it was forced down the pipe. Having grabbed a fly, the worker would quickly and efficiently remove its legs, one two three down one side and one two three down the other, and then drop the legs into the foot-locker and place the improved fly in the second pipe. As soon as the hatch was closed a heated draught of air would push the fly up the chimney and out into the world.

"Very efficient," said the Father of Teeth.
"Indeed," said the handsome gentleman; "much more so than in the old days, when we were pulling the wings off instead. Our insectile customers seemed to lose all initiative, all get-up-and-go; even the ones that made it to the outside were good for almost nothing except crawling around, so they were soon eaten by predators or squashed by local pleasure-seekers. Their attitude was most unconstructive."
"While the flies without legs are more buoyant?"
"Quite noticeably so, except for the ones that try to land upside down on the ceiling; those tend to fall down rather persistently. We are developing some artificial aids: miniature springs for help with take-off, a sort of glue they can dip themselves in when they absolutely must be upside down. Unfortunately, at the moment these projects are at a rather rudimentary stage; the springs are purely a set of squiggles on some paper in my office drawer, and the glue is hardly more than a fairly brilliant idea, but I'm sure that your investment will stimulate considerable progress towards the realms of practicability."

The Father of Teeth allowed the handsome gentleman's grin of hope to hang glittering on the handsome gentleman's face for a moderately excruciating period. "Investment?" he said.
"Well, of course," said the handsome gentleman. "A reasonable sum, as between two business associates, two entrepreneurial pioneers, two fellow servants of Evolution." The grin widened. "Don't imagine you can fool an operator of my perspicacity; I wasn't awarded the franchise yesterday, you know. Your tattered clothing and defeated demeanour, your carapace-coloured gums and stylishly immoderate dishevelment, all speak loudly of a life devoted to the sacred task of thrift. Surely you have assets - a nest-egg - a mattress stuffed with cash?"
"I'm afraid not," said the Father of Teeth, "and as it happens I do not serve Evolution, nor Entropy either. I have made offerings to both, but like most extremes they tend to strain towards each other."

So saying, the Father of Teeth resumed his way, leaving the handsome gentleman in the middle of his factory floor with the maggot vats seething above the ceiling and six hundred workers all wishing he would drown in them. Some of the glitter went out of his grin, which nevertheless remained bright enough for occasional escaped flies to keep bumping against it; though not very many, as the workers really were very efficient indeed.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home