Found: short story “Dr. Beauchef, Penguin Dentist”

Digging in the my folders for poems and plays to write and rework, I found a story I wrote for creative writing class, the one short story class I took before I changed my focus to poetry. It’s rather silly. It actually stemmed from a conversation I had with my brother, Kelly, about jazz song titles and how they don’t have to really mean anything. (Oh, and Kelly has asked me recently to name tunes on a CD he’s supposed to be working on. I’m excited.)

Dr. Beauchef, Penguin Dentist

by Sean R. Corbin

Based on the Kneebody song, “Dr. Beauchef, Penguin Dentist”

Dr. Beauchef took off his right mitt and reached into his pocket. He pulled from it a tube of procaine and inspected it as a stranger. The Ross Sea wind chilled his hand and he returned the tube and quickly redressed his hand. He was lanky, although one could not tell because of his parka. His hair was fashionably short, but his dress had changed drastically for the rough Antarctic weather he prepared for.

            On the rusty deck of The Bowman, headed for Antarctica, Dr. Beauchef, for the first time since he had begun this venture four years before, questioned whether he was doing a smart thing. He thought of the millions of other people’s teeth he could clean and correct; the various love affairs with dental students that, until the week before his departure, he had sworn off; he thought of the tube of procaine in his pocket, the same he used to aid mothers in the street with teething children. But he remembered the three penguins he had met at the zoo, and thought of the others – the other penguins – who could use his help. He remembered also that, despite the gruff that now battled with his usually waxed moustache, he was still very young. He felt, as he had joked with those back home in Newark, that maybe he could still return home – to the humans and their teeth.

            His mitt off again, Dr. Beauchef reached for the tube of procaine. Laughing, he rubbed the numbing grease on his gums.

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Dr. Beauchef had established himself as a successful and even charismatic dentist, opening an office within a year of receiving his Doctorate of Dental Surgery, and retaining most of his savings for his retirement.

            After his visit to a zoo in New York City, Dr. Beauchef approached John D. Rockefeller, who immediately put up the remainder of the expedition’s cost; without the help, he could have only made it to Brazil, about half the way. There was paperwork, something the dentist rarely had the chance to enjoy and he completed it with a sort of nostalgic liking. And, for “insurance purposes,” he was required to list the possessions he would be taking with him: his dentistry equipment, of course (all of which was itemized individually on an attached form); a weeks change of clothes; an extra week each of long johns, briefs and pairs of socks; toiletries; charcoal and six writing tablatures. All other items – provisions, the shelter, etc. – would not be listed.

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The Bowman landed on the shore of Edward VII Land, near the Ross Ice Shelf. As she left for the dark horizon of the sea, Dr. Beauchef was sure he heard the same laughter that had mocked his adventure from its inception.

            Once on the shelf, Dr. Beauchef realized just how alone he was: no one was there. A chill set in and, now more determined to find his true patients, he established camp and bedded early in hopes of finding the penguins the next day.

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The first day was his most successful.

            He awoke early and ate what breakfast he could (cold oatmeal and ham). He strapped his equipment to his back and started for the hill that was farther south. The crisp line of the hill was broken by a mass of black as a small group of penguins approached. His first thought was they had been excited, perhaps because of his camp commotion, maybe even just his arrival. He then reasoned with himself a bit more and knew they were simply coming for their first appointments.

            He approached them, crouched down and slowly, and spoke in a tender voice.

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Three months passed and his body was found on a small snow bank less than two hundred yards from camp. Most of his food was discovered to be uneaten and a journal entry revealed how disappointed he was to find that penguins, as he had been told, actually have no teeth.

 

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wakka wakka!

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We tried to feed Cleo a doughnut.

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Surprisingly, she had no idea what to do with it.

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The sign: There’s a Kneebody song “Dr Beauchef, Penguin Dentist” and I wrote a short story based on it. We saw this sign on Lincoln in Santa Monica this week. I think it’s close enough.

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I got my hair cut: it’ll never bee the same. I do like my hair cut though, it actually doesn’t look like a hair cut, but I miss the flip. See it? Gone. No personality.

Update – shooting from the hip.

I’m now a tutor at College of the Desert! I met with Rick Rawsley Thursday, he approved my transcripts, and I start training this week. It’s part-time (maximum 20 hours) and I’ll be driving out to Mecca two times a week to tutor at the new extension campus. Mecca’s out in the middle of nowhere, but I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so I’m looking forward to the new place. Also, I figured it be a safe bet to get the assured 12 hours out in Mecca and make up the eight hours where I can, rather than scrounge for all 20 with all the other, already established tutors at the main campus. This is my first job in education so I’m very excited.

I went to Los Angeles for two days, which was actually pretty productive… for a two day trip to LA. I got a haircut, we watched the beach, I watched four women dance, I drove like a fucking champion and saw a great penguin sign that reminded me of the Kneebody song that inspired one of my last short stories, “Dr Beauchef, Penguin Dentist.” Yessir!

I submitted six poems to CSUSB’s Sketchbook and I should hear from them soon. There were some old ones (“Shawn’s Market,” “Richard Hugo”) and some new ones (most notably my first prose piece, “prayer”), but I feel confident in them equally. I’m still working on other pieces but I really want to concentrate on my collaboration with Jen Rydzdikkkkk, maybe working in correspondence or AIM, because we can’t seem to get a meeting together. First, we’ll have to work on her goofy name.

March will be good for me: I have my ticket to clean up (it may cost me money I almost don’t have, but there’s a reckoning there), I have a lot of work to take care of and I’m looking to submit to multiple markets. I have the 2008 Poet’s Market and that really clear’s everything up.

And sorry for the lack of posts (saying sorry to, like, two people, dammit!), I’m just so busy with work and preparing for the coming month, I usually just conceptualize the hell out of my next post that I never get around to actually expressing it. Typical.

Oh, I picked up Ice Cube’s Death Certificate, which was a rap tape I had to hide from my mom. I swear, it’s even scarier today. Oh, and the new Flight of the Conchords sucks, majorly… except for episode 5, which is very funny and it has nothing to do with Gondry’s guest direction. Or that the guy from the Village People is in the opening song. Okay, maybe, but it’s damn good.