Dental Floss Debate: Good vs. Not So Good by Paul Beckman

Dental Floss Debate: Good vs. Not So Good

Murph pulled weeds for four of his neighbors from the age of five until he was eight. On his eighth birthday he passed out flyers offering to shop, babysit or cleanup before or after parties or bar-b-qs. When he was twelve he was allowed to have a paper route and built it up from fifty customers to almost a hundred. Along with that he mowed lawns and took on odd jobs like cleaning out basements and garages for some of his customers. Soon he was making enough money allowing his mother to give up taking in laundry.

Murph was always in great demand. Mrs. Lacy tossed him a juicy tangerine after he handed her the paper and later on, while sitting on Mrs. Stewart’s steps trying to get the silk from the tangerine out from between his teeth, Mrs. Stewart brought him a packet of dental floss and taught him how to use it. He liked the feel of flossed teeth and carried the dental floss everywhere. He kept the new floss in one pocket and the used in the other.

Murph concentrated on making a dental floss ball and when it got to be three feet he hoisted it out of his basement with a fulcrum, and put it on his old Radio Flyer red wagon and covered it with his Sponge Bob sheet.

On a suggestion from his father, he went around town charging a nickel just to look at the ball but a dime to look and touch. He’d take your picture with it for a dollar and pretty soon, after the local papers featured him in an article, he was able to quit his other jobs and became a major contributor to the family’s income, allowing his father to leave his second job.

All the while Murph continued adding to his three-foot ball of floss — and it grew to four and then to five feet, and became too heavy for him to push into the basement so he went through the kitchen door, down the basement steps and over to the hatchway to pull it down. But then the rainy season came and the floss began absorbing water, becoming both heavier and smaller, when Murph walked to the bottom of the stairs, grabbed a hold of a long loose floss and gave it one final tug, and it rolled down the steps and atop Murph — crushing the life out of him.

At the viewing, Murph’s casket was set low so the well-wishers could see him. His face, remained just as it had at the end — a surprised mouth-open look, eyebrows raised up high, arms wrapped around the floss and one leg stuck out at a ninety-degree angle. And that was how Murph went to his final resting place, in a box stamped Steinway, while his parents collected five dollars a head to view and ten for a picture standing next to him.


dental floss


Paul Beckman’s stories are widely published in print and online in the following magazines amongst others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Blue Fifth Review, Flash Frontier, Metazen, Boston Literary Magazine, Thrice Fiction and Literary Orphans. His work has been included in a number of anthologies and published in a dozen countries. Paul earned his MFA in creative writing from Bennington College. His latest collection of flash stories, “Peek”, published by Big Table Publishing weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages. His website is


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