I spent two hours of MLK Day sitting in the dentist's chair. Well, wait, it's not really the dentist's chair because HE'S never in the chair and, for that matter, neither is my dominatrix hygienist of the day, Rose. It was sort of an accident -- my appointment wasn't until weeks later and when I called to change an 8 a.m. appointment to a more civilized hour, they tricked me into accepting a cancellation for that very afternoon -- a rare day off.
No matter what I do they always yell at me. Except for Kathy, that is, my favorite hygienist, who had bought my novel and leaned around the corner into Rose's cubicle to dish about the book. "I wish I'd had a life like that," Kathy said, while I drooled from the godawful banana-flavored numbing cream Rose had just q-tipped onto my gums. Damn that stuff is bitter. "I wish I'd had that much fun."
"Issha novel," I garbled, "made moshtovitup."
"Yeah, I'm not buying that," Kathy said. Maybe she needs to believe it really is possible to have a life like that. Maybe that's why nobody wants fiction anymore. Everybody wants to believe everything can happen. That's okay, most of my novel actually is true anyway -- or some timeworn version of "true" -- and I did have a hell of a lot of interesting adventures when I was in my twenties.
Anyway, apparently I have a small mouth, my teeth all crowded together in there, and that's why I'm always on the precipice of periodontal disease. When I get Kathy, she's kind to me, and that's why I always try to get her, but the last time, after she finished, the mean dentist came in and said I needed to come back three days later because Kathy hadn't gotten all the plaque off. I accepted the appointment but when I got home I called right away and cancelled it. They get me two hours every four or six months, and that's it. I like Kathy.
So I swear they gave me Rose on MLK Day to get even. She's funny and wry and I secretly like her -- I've been hearing about her kids and stuff for about 15 years -- but she's relentless. This time she insisted on sticking cardboard hell into my mouth for xrays, the heavy vest pushing against my heart and my throat gagging while she dashed away for each print. And then she started the cleaning with that sonic thingie that makes me feel like I'm being waterboarded.
Well, even with that I was holding my own reasonably well, concentrating on the oldies songs on CARS 108 and trying to get a peek at paltry snowflakes drizzling onto a little pine I always watch outside Rose's window. Then this kid arrived in the next cubicle over, and as soon as he got into the chair, he started shrieking. It went on through the eight needle pricks Rose administered to numb my wussy upper gums, it went on through all four of my quadrants, and it went on even through the cherry-flavored polishing.
"Wha ish it? Gwatanamo ovrthere?" I sputtered. "Hey, kid, don't give up the sheecrets!" Rose giggled and told me to suction. She said my gums were bleeding even though I floss every night and I've even switched to a buzzing electric toothbrush.
The kid shrieked some more.
"Theyshoogashim," I said.
"They're trying," Rose said. "He won't breathe in." He was eight, she said, and he does that every time.
Eventually the kid got done and I got done. The mean dentist, who's really not mean, came in and felt up my neck for tumors and shit and checked my gums, declaring me cavity and plaque-free. I asked him why he was running Abu Ghraib in Flushing, Michigan and he didn't laugh. I thought I was quite hilarious. Neil Diamond was warbling "Sweet Caroline" when I finally clambered out of the chair and got my free toothbrush and dental floss. When I went out to pay my bill the kid was playing with Legos in the waiting room, his hair askew but his face almost disturbingly calm. He wasn't making a sound. His brother was next in the chair, and Rose told me he never fights in the slightest.
The soft or shrill voice within us
7 years ago