Dora Prieto

 The Last Wisdom Tooth


Dora Prieto is a Mexican-Canadian emerging writer and translator who writes about memory, trauma, love, and the illusions therein. Born in Nova Scotia and raised between the US and Mexico, Dora is at home in central Mexico and the west coast. Her fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in Adbusters Magazine, Marías at Sampaguitas, SOMOS Magazine, and The Acentos Review. She currently lives, writes, and loves in the stolen territories of the Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh Peoples.

Twitter: @dorajprietoInstagram: @primadora_

The zócalo danced, stumbled, and danced some more. Groups orbited and dispersed and lost bits of themselves in celebration of San Antonio de Padua, the patron saint of lost things. Selfies flashed in front of the parroquia. Artisans shouted macramé prices. Clouds of large families milled about, the drunk uncles and mothers-in-law looking disapprovingly at their daughters-in-law. It was a normal day.

Seeing the apparent normalcy of the afternoon in spite of the occasion, Andrés felt self-conscious—he wasn’t sure how much meaning to ascribe to the affair. He spotted a family shuffling slowly and put on his best journalistic enthusiasm: a measured, authoritative kind of excitement.

“Good afternoon, ma’am,” he addressed the matriarch of the group and took off his hat. “My name is Andrés and I am writing about the last wisdom tooth—what are your thoughts on this event?” He held his breath; it felt like God was turning up the heat.

She pursed her lips. “Young man, the last wisdom tooth was pulled out ages ago. What are you talking about?”

Andrés deflated. She didn’t even know about it.

“It’s for the Voz de la Nación.” Name-dropping his employer sometimes got people to talk. “I’m writing about the last wisdom tooth, which will be extracted today!”

A young woman in the group furrowed her brow and gripped an older man by his arm, propping him up whenever he stumbled. She barely looked at Andrés. “No idea, man.”

The man lurched toward Andrés, swinging his left arm and laughing. “Hey man, I’ll remove a tooth for you!”

Andrés stepped back. The young woman sighed. “Tío, stop that.”

A child with a chocolate stain on his chin peeped out from behind the family. Andrés smiled at him. The child stuck out his tongue.

Andrés shook himself off and turned to the next person in the group, a young woman who was eating an ice cream with a tiny wooden spoon. He beamed at her. “What are your thoughts on the last wisdom tooth?” The question was becoming a metric for his own growing obsession with the story.

“Umm…” she said, looking far off. Another tiny scoop landed on her tongue. She gulped.

Andrés nodded at her, still smiling.

“I mean, I guess we don’t need them anymore,” was the uninspired reply as she covered her laugh. The matriarch scoffed.

Andrés thanked first her and then the family, and kept walking around the square. He sighed. He was hoping to capture the richness of the wisdom tooth extraction for two main reasons:

1. His boss had already planned tooth-related merchandise, so they needed the feature to really sensationalize the extraction.

2. He was sentimental about “lasts,” and this one felt particularly fateful.

Andrés pulled his phone out of his pocket to see a text from his boss: Cuesta de San José 16. Andrés leaped away—it was starting! The last wisdom tooth on the planet.


Caught between her parents’ poverty-informed wishes for her to be a doctor and her own self-interested desires to be an artist, Magola became a dentist. As she was extracting the last wisdom tooth on the planet, in the desert highlands of Soledad, she thought about how future generations might covet the wisdom teeth of their ancestors, finding within those malformed evolutionary mistakes a key to the past. She really hoped they would, but as she was cutting gristle, slicing the gum, and twisting while she pulled the tooth from the patient’s mouth with agility, she also doubted it.

Magola had already dipped her own wisdom teeth in gold and studded them with her uncle’s leopard opals from the Sierra Madre Oriental, in an effort to persuade her descendants to revere these rare treasures. This particular mix of logic and creativity was precisely how Magola became a dentist.

The tooth glistened in her forceps as she held it up to the light, rubies of coagulating blood sliding down and forming a small red stalactite on that last anomaly, semiprecious and ridiculous. Below, the wide-eyed whites of her patient’s eyes glowed against her skin. She took in the sight of her bloody tooth, which was now free of her body and being held by the smiling Magola hovering over her. The furrow in her brow betrayed an uncomfortable reminder that Magola’s delight was her patient’s distress.

“Is it…done?” The patient articulated slowly and laboriously, with Magola’s fingers still exploring the left side of her mouth. The patients expected her to display nothing more than competence with a side of boredom.

“Yes. And—wow—it was a good one! Very, very clean.”

Magola had to remember to stay in control of her passion for dentistry. She remembered when in dentistry school, the professor had to pull her aside and explain that overzealous dentists were not agreeable to people. Like prison guards or morticians, it was considered morally compromising for a dentist to take too much pleasure in the gory work they did. Her practice patients had reported that they’d felt like powerless little mice strapped to her chair and subject to the maniacal feats of a bloody oral frenzy. This felt entirely unfair to Magola, who never saw the patients that way, but instead thought of them the way an artist would a muse.

Magola collected herself, moving methodically as she dropped the patient’s tooth into a sterile bag and put down the forceps. She asked the patient whether she would like to keep her tooth. The patient said no.

“Really?” She betrayed her feigned stoicism.

“Yes,” the patient said. “You can throw it away.” It felt like she emphasized throw it away with the barbed delight of someone enjoying another’s distress.

“Throw it away—no problem!” Magola tried with a casual tone. Had she been too much?

“Thank you,” the patient said.

“I’ll just—I’ll just bring it to the human waste bin now,” said Magola as she stood up.

She regarded the patient, the stain of blood blooming through the cotton balls in her mouth like a watercolor. The patient must have felt the fascination with her tooth was one of generations past—her generation had no time for such sentimentalities, having inherited the task of Saving the Planet, not saving teeth. Magola clucked her tongue as she approached the garbage can. She felt like she moved in slow motion. She pulled the lever to open the airtight lid and dropped in the tooth, which landed with a soft splat, lodging itself into some more fleshy bits of coagulated blood from a 10:00 a.m. root canal. The act felt sacrilegious; she felt the devil creep into her bones. Afterward, the cleanup and the patient leaving all happened in a blur.

Outside, Andrés was shifting his weight, peering through the glass and taking notes, trying to make eye contact. Magola took off her gloves and wiped her brow, waving him in.

She was an impressive woman, 1.8 metres tall. She wore her thick, dark hair in elaborate braids, which Andrés guessed were born out of function: to keep her hair out of the bloody mouths she spent her time in. Her muscular forearms contrasted with elegant, precise fingers.

Andrés fell in love immediately. Her face was flushed and golden in the afternoon light, smooth as honey except for a fleck of something meaty forgotten near her right nostril like a beauty mark. Above high cheekbones, dark circles suggested a tormented soul but her large, heavy-lidded eyes were full of tenderness. Her upper lip jutted out in an overbite that made her chin rounded and sloped, like a pleasant rolling hill down to her neck. Andrés was contemplating her downturned mouth when Magola gestured for him to take a seat in the chair. It was still warm from the patient.

“Hello—you must be the infamous Martina,” He took off his hat and held out his hand.

“It’s Magola, actually.” She turned away from him to file the appointment log and didn’t notice his hand.

“Magola—I meant Magola!” He cleared his throat. “Dr. Magola Guzmán,” he declared, extending his hand further. However, this gesture continued unnoticed as she selected tools from the cupboards to the right of the dentist’s chair. She laid the selection of drills, hammers, and an obscenely large syringe on the counter. He retreated his hand.

“That’s right. And you are?” She paused to look at him for the first time.

“Of course—I'm the journalist, Andrés.”

“Right, I had forgotten they were sending someone—nice to meet you,” she said, holding out her hand. Andrés seized this opportunity and gave an exuberant three shakes.

“I don’t have much time.” She let his hand go.

“Of course—you must have other appointments to get to, more important than me—the article, more important than the article,” he corrected. “Just a couple of questions.”

“Ask away.”

“So, how did the patient react?” Andrés asked.

“Well, she didn’t react much at all. It was like a normal extraction.” Magola said normal extraction with disbelief.

Andrés leaned in. “But it was the last wisdom tooth on the planet. It was anything but a normal extraction.” He wasn’t sure if he was reassuring her, or if he was reassured by her. “What was it like for you?”

At this, Magola went on a monologue describing the fantastic gum density, the perfectly formed molar that was beautiful in its lack of necessity, how the white bone had contrasted against garnet-coloured blood clots collecting in the ridges of the molar, and how the pop of the tooth coming loose had a particularly loud, peculiarly final sound. She was breathless.

As for Andrés, he was slack-jawed and fascinated, his imagination going wild with images of Magola, blood, and beauty in such a way that he knew his report could never capture. He closed his mouth and gazed deeply into her eyes. “Oh, I understand.”


Andrés bounced along the Cuesta de San José with a sparkle in his eye. He passed the parroquia, stopped, and then returned to throw some coins into the collection box. “Greedy bastards!” He yelled joyously.

He whistled and waved at passersby, both acquaintances and otherwise—even that old gossip, the baker from Café Arco Iris. He stopped on a corner to appreciate the iron-red stripe along the bottom of the houses in this part of town, a rich colour reminiscent of oxidized blood and accented by the rushed strokes of graffiti. El Chamu. What an absolutely hilarious and strange tag, he thought to himself. He closed his eyes as he walked the familiar sidewalk uphill, feeling the sun bless his face with its vitamins. When he opened his eyes, he turned around and gazed down at his city. A marvellous constellation of memory and colour, both joyful and otherwise. Across the city, La Macha rose to a gradual peak that dwarfed the buildings, mocking even the parroquia with its proximity to God. Beyond La Macha, the hazy purple Sierra Madre Oriental rose even higher. Andrés lifted his chin higher and beamed at it all. What a day to be alive.

Andrés hung up his dusty, sun-bleached suit jacket as he entered his apartment. The chair groaned as he sat down at his desk to start. The sound of Magola’s nasal, raspy voice kept replaying in his mind. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, inviting stillness. As he breathed, he was acutely aware of the sounds of his body carrying out its various processes. In fact, Andrés suffered from a strange and rare condition called hyperacusis. He had once been kept up by a couple on their wedding night from eight blocks away. Even now, he could remember perfectly the sounds of the wedding musicians donning their studded pants and shirts, tying red bows around their necks, pulling on wooden-heeled boots, and tuning their instruments. Unbearable. He took a last deep breath and cleared his mind of weddings.

The task at hand was never an easy one, and he felt particularly disquieted by the various thoughts and feelings he had in writing this piece. He jotted down some title ideas to help guide his thinking.

The Ivory Tower of Molars. He scratched it out. Too serious.

Toothy-bears, the Wisest Gift of the Season. Way too silly. He drummed his fingers on the table. He tapped his pen. He texted his boss: FYI nobody cares about the wisdom tooth.

Behind-the-Scenes: Talented Dentist Reveals Her Side of the Story. He paused, half-smiling, but then shook himself out of this reverie. He looked at his phone to see his boss’ reply, Something short and succinct then.

His breath whistled through clenched teeth as he contemplated the meaning of “succinct.” Brief. Better get this over with. The Last Wisdom Tooth on the Planet. Cold and literal. Unimaginative. An “objective" angle. Fine, he shrugged, resigned. He settled into his chair and began writing.


Magola woke up in the middle of the night from a stressful dream, shaken awake by a popping noise like the sound of the wisdom tooth extraction, but louder, and with an echo. When the echo faded, she lit a candle and stepped onto the floor, the warm, soft pads of her feet cooling and contouring to the cold, hard floor. Again, she heard the pop, this time fainter. It was on the move. She followed the sound upstairs. Magola climbed the wrought iron ladder into the cold desert air and stepped onto the roof.

She peered over the roof. Rebar jutted out of the concrete at each corner. She was reminded of her parents. They had left the rebar untrimmed because they had wanted to build another floor for her. For her hypothetical family. Her eyes and throat swelled at the memory. The possibility. The thought that her parents left behind only the skeletal remains of rebar longing to have a purpose.

Her breath spiralled up into the full moon. The rabbit on the moon gazed down at her with pity. That rabbit could see more from up there than anyone could from down here. She was sure she could see the distant craters form into a smug, knowing smile.


Again, this time so loud it echoed out over the whole altiplano. She looked around.


She thought she saw the moon move out of the corner of her eye. She looked up at the moon again and kept her gaze there for several minutes, until—

Pop! This time she was sure it was coming from the moon. She squinted at it.

The rabbit moved its hind leg. She rubbed her eyes. Now the other leg was moving, too. She stood there with her mouth hanging open as the rabbit continued to shift about, as though it was stretching from the delight of a long slumber. The rabbit twitched its ears and abruptly jumped off of the moon. Magola gasped. The rabbit simply looked about, wagged its tail, and bounded off through the night sky, growing smaller as it leapt away further out into the solar system until it faded from view. The moon, sans rabbit, elongated, and was then torn loose by constellated forceps from its spot in the night sky, this time resounding with the loudest Pop! yet. This was not good.

The rabbit-less moon, extracted from the gaping mouth of the sky, hovered and throbbed and then unceremoniously shattered into hundreds—no, thousands— of fragments. “No, no, no…" uttered Magola as she backed up, covering her mouth in horror. The pieces expanded out in all directions and fell like small missiles over the altiplano. The moon-missiles spread out as they grew closer, brightening the streets but leaving the vacated heavens in pure pitch. A newly dead sky, robbed of its light. The more distant shards scattered like tiny grenades of white light, careening to the edge of the town.

Magola moved by instinct. She ran across the roof, climbed down the ladder, and ran out into the streets. When she got to the edge of town, she kept going and sprinted into the desert towards La Macha. Cactus spines punctured her bare feet and drew blood. She ran until she got to the top of La Macha and looked down at the town, feeling more protected by the distance. Some of the moon-shards arrived and fell like ivory meteors onto the hills around Soledad, cacti and dirt spraying in all directions as each piece exploded into the earth.

         She surveyed the damage. The remaining moon-shards hovered over the town. The moisture in the air filled with refracted sunlight, brightening the sky. Dawn and a new day. The threatening satellite had faded into the calm blue haze of morning.


None of the buildings of Soledad were damaged, but there were mounds of rock, cacti, and sand at equidistant intervals, which no one except Magola understood. Magola, who had never been late for work in her life, was nowhere to be seen at the dentist’s office that morning. Looking out his bedroom window in the late-morning sun, Andrés conversed with his neighbours and was shocked that they hadn’t heard the noises from the previous night. He wondered if perhaps his hyperacusis was simply getting worse.

Andrés wiped the lagañas from his eyes. The commotion from the night before had kept him up. The tooth. New love. Work. Now sleep deprivation. Andrés was usually overwhelmed. Today he was extra overwhelmed.

He went for a walk to clear his thoughts and ended up at Café Arco Iris, lured by the smell of fresh croissants. He paid for his croissant and a café de olla, and the baker handed him a newspaper with a smirk. “Earthquake or Aliens?” was the front-page headline. So it was real, he thought. Then, reasoning: It must have been an earthquake then. Aliens are more subtle, more intelligent. He flipped to the last page. He steeled himself against a feeling of regret as he read his own words—a couple of detached sentences hiding shamefully amongst the classifieds.


The Last Wisdom Tooth on the Planet

The last wisdom tooth on the planet was extracted at 12:04pm on Thursday, June 13th, in the desert highlands of Soledad in the office of the illustrious and dentally superior Dr. Magola Guzmán. The event passed with little interest and celebration, and the tooth was subsequently thrown to the garbage.

— Andrés Camacho-Bautista, Cultural Reporter


It felt like an obituary. He cleared his throat and closed the paper. He took a bite of the croissant and closed his eyes again, chewing slowly and allowing the simple pleasure of the buttery texture to push aside his ignominy.

This indulgence was interrupted by gasps and murmurs on the street corner opposite the Café. Andrés stood up to see the commotion and saw Magola running across the street barefoot and in grime-soaked pyjamas. As she passed by, a wall of stench wafted over the street and cleared the tables at the Café. Andrés pinched his nose and followed her trajectory to the office, stepping over the light red of her footprints. Blood? He watched as she crashed straight into the door of the office as if in a daze before stepping back, turning the handle and charging in. She sprawled across the floor, her hair full of sticks and sand and oozing the brownish red of old blood. Her feet were studded with the earthy jade tones of cactus spines contrasting with fresh blood. Patients with delayed morning appointments were standing outside, confused and impatient, but shocked enough to stand back and gossip instead of getting involved.

Andrés jumped up the stairs to the office and stood in the doorway, repelled by the awful stench.

“Umm… Magola?”

“What? Oh, you,” she grumbled, the rise and fall of her breathing dramatic as she lay on her side.

“What happened to you…was it the earthquake?” asked Andrés. He tightened his grasp on his nose and moved closer.

She shook her head and slowly opened her fist, revealing yesterday’s tooth, grimy but intact. Andrés gasped with delight and picked up the tooth to examine its ghostly ivory.

“More like a moonquake,” she said.

“A moonquake? What is a 'moonquake?’” He asked, using air quotations. Magola sat up.

“Well, first the rabbit jumped off the moon—”

“—Not the rabbit!—” He gasped.

“—and then the moon was pulled loose by celestial forceps,”


“But then it exploded into thousands of shards!” She shrieked.

“Oh no,” He winced.

“So I ran to the top of La Macha to get some perspective.”

“Very wise,” he agreed.

“And the shards detonated all around me like little vengeful grenades!”

“Jesus Christ!”

“Luckily, dawn was on my side.”

“Dawn! How I love the dawn.”

“So I ran back down La Macha and arrived at the bio-hazardous waste plant where I knew my answer was waiting for me—”

“—Ah, that’s why you smell so bad—”

“—And I broke into the human waste sub-tank, which luckily hadn't been processed yet.”

“Very lucky.”

“I’ve always been a good swimmer, but doing the breaststroke through expired blood, flesh, and tendons was a challenge I wasn't sure I could overcome...”

“How brave!"

“I had to come up once for air and then I dove even deeper. I know it sounds strange, but I felt like I could hear the tooth calling to me, like a magnetic ringing sensation.”

“That is odd, but I believe you.”

“I grasped its firmness amongst the softness of the human membrane surrounding me, and I felt my whole body relax. I pulled myself up through the top seal, gasping for air.”

“What a relief!” Andrés exclaimed.

“I held onto the tooth tightly and ran. I didn't even think about where I was going and I ended up here.”

He smiled and regarded his hero. “You must be exhausted, here—” He took off his jacket, rolled in into a ball and put it under her head. He then kneeled down and placed the tooth back in her hand. He was used to the stench by now and less bothered by it, so he sat near her feet and started picking the cactus spines out of her heels, enjoying the cathartic sound of thorns exiting flesh. Magola closed her hand again tightly around the anomaly and then they both felt the sky lighten its many-toothed load as clouds gathered and the crack of thunder gave way to a downpour.

© The Acentos Review 2021