• 23 Oct - 29 Oct, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

He sighed, and ripped the stones out of the ground just as Dr Audley would pull bad molars out of a mouth; Brecan almost expected the holes to bleed.


Dr Audley was just clicking the padlock on the shutters, trying to keep his balance on the quaking ground, when Mrs. Knaggs strode down Chepe Street toward them, her handbag swinging like a mace.

“Doctor,” she said, from the other side of the house, looking at him over his own roof,

“I’m not at all satisfied with my new teeth.”

He turned his expression sweet.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Mrs Knaggs was big even for a giantess. Brecan saw a few of the more curious neighbours’ windows open a crack. The presence of onlookers seemed to bolster Dr Audley’s courage; perhaps he thought of them as witnesses.

“As you can see,” Dr Audley said, “I’m just closing up. Something, ah, personal to attend to, I’m afraid. But if you’d care to make an appointment…”

She shook her head, iron-gray curls bobbing under her pink hat. “I won’t be making an appointment. This is an emergency. This can’t go on.”

Dr Audley kept smiling. “Well, perhaps you could tell me what the trouble is.”

Brecan held his breath, waiting for her answer.

Mrs Knaggs drew herself up. “They’re giving me the megrims.”

“The megrims,” Dr Audley said.

“Indeed. I’m seeing things out of the corner of my eyes, even when my eyes are shut. Shimmering lights. I’m quite sick to the stomach, and my head’s not at all right.”

Mrs Knaggs looked right at Brecan, then. But Brecan hung his head. It was not his place to step in when customers complained; Dr Audley had told him that many times.

“I don’t see what that has to do with your teeth,” Dr Audley said “A fine set. Best of my inventory.”

Mrs Knaggs, Brecan recalled, hadn’t asked about where Dr Audley got his teeth. She’d leaned back in the giant chair and let Brecan fit her with a mouthful of rocks, with Dr Audley below, calling out instructions from the ground. Brecan had barely listened. It was Brecan, after all, who had twisted the giant-sized wire, who had taken up a giant mallet and shaped the rocks into something that looked like teeth, and who had invented the system for wiring the rocks together.

“I’ve never seen any megrims before,” said Mrs Knaggs, peering at the dentist.

“It all started when you put these in. There’s something ferlie about them.”


Brecan set the big chair up again, even more quickly than he had taken it down. He had left some of the joints of the chair assembled; he had suspected that the footsteps belonged to Mrs Knaggs, and he had known she would not be satisfied without an examination.

The ladder was almost as spindly as Dr Audley himself but Brecan held it steady as the dentist mounted to the very top and teetered there, unwilling to brace himself against his client’s powdered cheek.

“I see nothing amiss,” came Dr Audley’s voice, a little shaky.

“I can of course replace them altogether, but as there is no sign of misalignment or defect, I regret to say the cost would not be covered.”

“You don’t regret it at all,” boomed Mrs Knaggs.

“Well,” said the dentist, making his way down the ladder altogether too quickly for dignity, “you are of course welcome to inquire with my competitors but I doubt you will get a

better price.”

Mrs Knaggs grabbed her handbag.

“I expected better,” she said, looking straight at Brecan,

“from you.”

As Mrs Knaggs stomped away, Brecan could feel his heart pound to the beat of her steps. She had put her faith in him – not in Dr Audley, but in him.

The shopkeepers opened their doors and Dr Audley muttered something; an expression of relief, perhaps, that the encounter had ended so well.

“One must show backbone with these people,” he said to Brecan, “or they will demand free services and discounts, you know, because of their size.

It is a risk but the risk of not standing up to them is greater.”

Dr Audley mopped his brow and slumped on his

front bench.

“One more year,” Dr. Audley muttered. “One more year and I’ll be able to afford a place in the City and really make a go of it. I just have to put up with these people one more year.”

Brecan began to dismantle the chair again as his employer sat, waiting, doing nothing to help, as usual. He did not even look behind him to see how Brecan was getting on.

Brecan took a deep breath, and pulled a large key out of his pocket.

“Ah,” he said, but his throat caught. He cleared it,

and then said, again, loud and clear: “Ah. She must have dropped this.”

The dentist turned. “Bah. She’ll be back for it, then. Run after her, will you, and save me having to deal with her again.”

Brecan nodded, and sauntered after the retreating form of Mrs Knaggs, just as she was rounding the corner, leaving Chepe Street.

“Wait!” he called.

She turned, like a ship turns.

“I must apologise,” he puffed, “for my employer’s behaviour.”

Mrs Knaggs looked down her nose at him.

“You believe me, then? You believe the teeth are giving me the megrims?”

Brecan nodded. “I’d be happy to replace them. With better rocks. Rocks that won’t give you the megrims. I’ll carve them to fit perfectly, I promise.”

“I see. And what will you charge me for this service?”

“Nothing,” he said,

willing himself not to look behind, not to look back.

“I ask only that if the new teeth are satisfactory, you tell the other giants. Tell them there is a new dentist in the Borderlands. Tell them about the importance of regular cleanings.”

She smiled at him, with her mouth full of gray teeth sparkling a little where they caught the sunlight.