Welcome back to Stranger Than Flicktion, our new Flickr-inspired column. We provide writers with five random food-related Flickr images and ask them to construct a fictional short story in under five days. This week, we explore an unusual food pairing: toothpaste and cake.
You're not supposed to eat toothpaste, or lick each other's feet, but my big brother Chick and I always did, and we're both fine. His favorite toothpaste was always Dentagard—the pink stuff that tastes like Clark's Teaberry gum and wintergreen—but it's become harder to find. Now he sticks with Crest Cool Mint Gel. I like Crest, too.
When I read last year that Crest puts little beads of polyethylene plastic in some of their toothpastes "for decorative purposes," I emailed the article to Chick. We laughed, and agreed to meet at Kroger that very afternoon to find and sample such a tube. I followed him into the supermarket men's room and we each licked about four fingers of the plastic-infused Crest off of one another's feet, just like old times.
I said to Chick, "I can feel the little plastic bits on my tongue, and I think I can taste them too. Can you taste them?"
"Of course not," he said. "Nobody can. All I can taste is cool mint, and your disgusting foot vinegar. Is my foot vinegar worse than yours? I think so!"
Chick will drive across town to my house for dinner, burp, and blow the burp gas into my oldest son's glass of milk through a long straw he keeps in his blazer. The milk will bubble up into a gossamer dome, and my son Bedros—he's six—will laugh his beautiful laugh as the pretty dome disintegrates. The levity and love Chick brings to our dinner table every Sunday are the real deal. They're everything that matters, and I'm lucky to have a wife who understands this. Chick has never spilled a drop of my son's milk, but if he did spill the milk, do you know what we'd do? We'd live.
"Hey Bedros," Chick says. "Do you know how I can get away with brazenly burping into your milk at the dinner table?"
My son knows the answer by heart, by now, but pretends he doesn't. He likes the verbal dance with Uncle Chick.
"How can you get away with burping into my milk, Uncle Chick?"
"Because I have a salary, Bedros. Men with salaries are allowed to take liberties with their mouths, just like boys who get good grades. How are your grades, Bed? Are they cruddy like your dad's feet?"
"My grades are great, Uncle Chick."
"My grades were always great too, but your dad's were even better. Do you know how to spell the words 'subtlety' and 'sieve'? Your dad knows, and he knew before I ever did. Your dad is my best friend, and the smartest man I know. Is he also a dumb idiot? I think so!"
When we were kids, Chick loved toothpaste and feet so much, he said he wanted to become both a dentist and a podiatrist: a Dental Podiatrist. This is the kind of thing he'd muse in my direction about, at length, over a shared game of Mega Man, or Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!:
"I'll frame my double degrees in dentistry and podiatry in rock candy, or Jarlsberg cheese, and hang them from the steel nails in my boobs," Chick would say. "Watch 'em swing like pendulums—my dangling candy-and-cheese-framed credentials—as I walk down the street, arms outstretched, wider than the whole sidewalk. This is how I'll find my first clients: charismatic close-and-personal flesh pressing. Don't underestimate a carnival barker who believes in himself. Anyone who doesn't like the way I look—doesn't like the way I handle my business—can go blow. This is America. Let them find a cheaper, better service provider. One with less-tastily framed credentials. They won't be able to, thank you very much—not in Northwest Ohio. I'll make it my goal to offer the best rates and most efficient service in town: my well-compensated hygienists will double-team your face and feet for one low price, and you'll walk out of my office feeling not only refreshed on both ends, but thrifty. That's the Chick's Dental Podiatry Guarantee. Will it work? I think so!"
By the time Chick was done dreaming aloud, he'd knocked out Mike Tyson for the umpteenth time. (We had the version of the game where Mike Tyson was still Mike Tyson—before they turned him white and changed his name to Mr. Dream.) Chick was usually the first person we knew to beat every new Nintendo game.
When Chick cut the ribbon on the first Chick's Dental Podiatry location nine years ago, I threw him a party and baked my first two toothpaste cakes: one vanilla, one chocolate. I mixed Crest Cool Mint into the vanilla frosting and spelled Chick's favorite saying, in pure Crest, on the top of the vanilla cake: I THINK SO.
It was one of those parties so great that everybody basically forgot to take pictures. These, right here, are the only pics I have.
The dog liked the toothpaste cake better than most of the people liked it. My wife, thoughtful as always, sliced up strawberries for anyone who didn't care for the cake. Those were gone quick. I also made some kind of yogurt-and-graham-cracker thing involving plain yogurt that Chick and I had churned with our feet until it got yellow. He and I were the only ones who ate any of that particular dessert, as I recall.
The rest is history: We've got Chick's Dental Podiatry locations all over the state, with more on the way all the time. If you choose to join our family as a management trainee, you'll earn a decent salary from day one, and you'll be free to live as you like. We'll all get together and Chick himself will throw a big party to celebrate your arrival.
So tell me a little bit about yourself.