January 2013

“Where there is no imagination there is no horror.” -Arthur Conan Doyle

In exactly 500 words, what is happening here?

Michael Lejeune says:

Fifteen years was a long time to go without seeing a dentist.

She knew that. It was embarrassing to tell the hygienist, but more so to hear her tell the dentist under her breath, the two of them facing away, pretending to examine the x-rays they’d just taken. Didn’t they know she was right here in the chair?

Besides, it wasn’t her fault. She was twenty-nine years old; the last time she’d been in the chair was when her father took her to Doctor Avery, the family dentist. He gave her a banana lollipop after every checkup, a habit that had charmed her as a little girl and embarrassed her as a teen.

A visit to Doc Avery’s cartoon-covered examination room sounded like a walk in the park now. They’d done a lot of drilling in her mouth today. Good thing they’d given her some injections to numb her against the pain.

“Sit up and spit,” the hygienist said, handing her a new plastic cup. She sat up to the miniature sink on her left. Was her mouth full? The throbbing and numbness made it hard to tell.

Water goes in, swish, and…

Oh my God.

There was so much blood. Had she just thrown up?

There were…pieces.

But she’d skipped breakfast, anticipating the trip to the dentist. There was no food in her stomach, yet she’d just disgorged a flock of spongy curds into the white plastic basin. It had to have come from somewhere.

The room spun. The injections made her head swim. The hygienist touched her chin to open her mouth, and she noticed she was lying flat again. The drill’s vibrations thrummed in her skull, blocking out the top 40 hits tinkling out the overhead radio. When the drill dug deep it buzzed loud in her ears and blurred her equilibrium. It felt almost like being drunk.

“Try to keep your mouth open, sweetie,” the hygienist said from somewhere above her. She tried to open further, but it must not have been enough, as she was prompted to sit up and spit again.

Water goes in, swish…

They tumbled out.

More pieces. What are they?

She reached into the basin, tenderly turning one over, the throbbing in her head numbing her concern into a muted unease. The tidbit rolled under her finger, soft as a piece of sweet-and-sour pork. And under it was…

A tooth?

It was hard to care.

She lay back, closing her mouth for a moment to probe around with her tongue. The insides of her lips were there, and gums pocked with soft caverns. But where was the roof of her mouth? Where were her teeth? She could not find them.

Sure is a lot of room in there.

The thought seemed silly. She giggled, the same way she’d giggled for Doc Avery and his banana lollipops. The hygienist smiled down at her and touched her chin again.

“Open wide, sweetie.”

She did.

If I’m good, maybe I’ll get a banana lollipop.


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