His breaths deepened and I tried to cower, finding it near impossible in one of those dental-patient recliners. My “incident” had disrupted his lazy Sunday.
I pointed at the back of my jaw and opened my mouth. “Ah. Number Seventeen.” He said it like he knew my tooth better than I did. Like they were on a first-name basis. Nodding, I kept quiet. We both knew he wanted better for my teeth than the life I’d provided.
I’d hoped my blooper resembled something naturally occurring. Though I’ve never been to dental school, situations like “Dainty Molar” or “Tooth Crumble” sounded plausible. There was an outside chance those things—firstly—existed and—secondly—passably resembled my situation. Maybe they were even genetic conditions and, hence, wouldn’t really be my fault.
The dentist sat perched on his stool, looming over my feeble body. His eyes narrowed as I winced.
“Open.” I focused on my breaths. With his jabby lance he began the non-verbal part of his prodding. His probe was sharp, nimble, but did misstep once. I tried to maintain composure, managing to only emit a single soft groan. Hopefully this was just a textbook indicator of Stage-Three Tooth Crumble, but he said nothing.
“Hockey stick.” I offered up, nervously and in garbled speech, trying to end any line of questioning before it started.
“You play?” He retracted his weapon.
“No. Coming out of the grocery store. This lady was getting hassled by this drug addict.” I gestured. “Guy popped me with the stick blade.”
“No bruising on your cheek, though.”
“Right, well, it was real quick.”
He nodded as if that had explained everything.
I was hungry, and hadn’t taken a substantial bite since my incident. My stomach was beginning to rumble, as if on cue. He tightened his lips and sat back.
“Right,” I said, probably an octave too high. He drew a long breath through his nose and itched his temple. The truth would be gravely disappointing to one holding oral hygiene in such esteem. I get it. A dentist’s practice is basically a revolving door of adults and children lying about flossing, and he’s always going to care more about teeth than me. He’s the one who believes his grandkids can grow up to be president and I’m the parent considering scaling back the food budget for his public school flunkies.
I should have stayed home, rode out the pain and learned to embrace a life full of soups and exotic gruels. My swollen gum throbbed. He packed my mouth with cotton pieces and a river of drool cascaded out onto my paper towel bib.
“A real freak accident,” I managed through the cotton, “but not like that asylum bus on the interstate. Lest we forget.”
He stopped jabbing things into me. “It was a freak accident, or did you defend that poor woman?” Two of the cotton pieces tumbled out. We weren’t going anywhere until my explanation satisfied him. “Was this some sort of chance injury,” he persisted, “or did you valiantly defend this stranger?”
Extracting was his profession, and he knew precisely what he was doing. Number Seventeen. I didn’t need his blessing or that unimaginative dogma passed down from Big Dental. If it were up to me all my teeth would be named something fucking fun like Mr. Chomps or Bitey Jr. Yet again, I was at this phillistine’s mercy.
I wished I could be anywhere else right now. Or at least have another dentist in town who took my insurance.
He set down his medical javelin. With his hands in his lap he repeated the question. I could feel the guilt settling. Not guilt like where you owe someone an apology and need to make amends, but guilt where you just want to lie down and ask yourself if this is who you really wanted to be when you grew up.
I spit the last piece of cotton out of my mouth. “Fine. I shattered it at a benefit dinner last night. Broke it on a Tootsie Pop imitating Mr. Owl.” He gave no reaction. “Like from the commercial. Everyone though it was really funny.” His expression still didn’t change and I didn’t relent. “‘What a fresh impression,’ they all said. ‘Spot on!’ At first they had all thought I was faking, but then the whole appetizer spread was basically covered in blood.” I knew the words stung, yet his steely resolve remained. “I know,” I admitted, “it was a little… reckless.”
He gave a nod, solemn and sated. “There’s still few Tootsie shards in there.” With a few cotton pieces in hand, he forced them in between my gums and lips. “I don’t think this will require Novocain.” A smirk crept onto his face. “I know,” he paused, “It might be a little reckless.”
– Join below with just an email address for all posts to be sent directly to your inbox.