Write It For Her Anyway

My grandmother, Nannie, died over twenty years ago but I still tear up at her memory. At the time she died I had never written much at all, and certainly not attempted poetry, but the urge to express what she meant to me kept surfacing. Her love of God and her insistence that we would all be together again were on my mind as I thought about writing a poem. Nannie was a second mother to all of her grandchildren, helping our mothers raise us, watch out for us, worry over us and pray for us.

Just after Nannie died I mentioned to a friend while she and I were at lunch that I had a poem in mind about Nannie, one that kept surfacing when I least expected it. I wished I’d written something for Nannie before she died so she could have read it. My friend had one response.

“Write it for her anyway.”

And so I did.

Today, that same friend called to let me know her mother died. In discussing what the family intended to do for a service, my friend said she wanted to write some things to say about her mother but she wished she’d written them while her mother was still here. I had one response.

“Write it for her anyway.”

My friend had long forgotten that she’d given me the same suggestion, one that would encourage me to write the first poem I’d ever written. Nannie wasn’t there to read it, but I wrote it for her anyway.

Hand in Hand

You held me tight in times I might
Not have wanted to stand.
A child so young, life just begun,
You there to hold my hand.

Your years flew past, painfully fast,
Sooner than I had planned.
Effort in talking, weakness in walking,
My turn to hold your hand.

But there’ll come a time, both yours and mine
To see wonderful things, so grand.
We’ll meet in that place, a smile on the face
And we’ll hold each other‘s hand.

Stuart M. Perkins

143 Comments

Filed under Family, family faith poem, Nostalgia, poetry

Who’s It Gonna Hoight?

“Ah, who’s it gonna hoight? Me, I got enough.”

He wasn’t looking for an answer. His rhetorical question was more of an explanation. Not that he needed one.

The old fellow in a grease-covered uniform had an accent I hadn’t heard since Archie Bunker. I smiled and waved to the sweaty man who seemed very tired.

Evening walks through my neighborhood take me mostly by houses and condos, but a few blocks further along is an industrial area with the usual mix of manufacturers, package delivery services, and even a brewery. On one corner is an auto repair shop. By that time of day the mechanics are rolling in tire displays, hosing down bays, and performing general closing procedures.

For a couple of weeks I’d noticed the Archie Bunker mechanic walking from the repair shop and up a grassy slope toward an overgrown fencerow. The small hill was an effort for him, especially because he carried a plateful of something in each hand. I’d seen him walk up that slope so many times that my curiosity got the better of me. This time I stopped on the street to watch him.

He first lit a cigarette. Holding it in his mouth he made his way to the top of the slope, careful to keep the plates steady on his way up. When he reached the top he stood for a moment to catch his breath. He leaned down towards the overgrown fencerow and in a voice more high-pitched, yet soft, than one could imagine coming from an elderly, oily, mechanic with a cigarette dangling from his lips, he very sweetly called “kitty kitty?”

Instantly, three scrawny kittens rolled from the brush and bounded over one another to get to the plates he had set on the ground. The Archie Bunker mechanic stood up straight, flicked ashes from his cigarette, and in fine falsetto continued to baby-talk the kittens as they inhaled the plates of food.

They were still eating when the mechanic took one last puff of his cigarette, flicked it aside, and stepped carefully back down the slope. He had seen me watching and as he passed by he smiled, nodded his head, and summed up his simple, kind effort in the one rhetorical question.

“Ah, who’s it gonna hoight? Me, I got enough.”

A couple of weeks later I was walking to lunch with a coworker. As she and I passed the front stoop of a small convenience store, an old woman sitting on the step with a styrofoam cup asked if we had any change. My coworker kept walking as I slowed up just a bit. I knew why she kept walking. We’d had conversations about panhandlers. Neither of us had ever given any of them money. She was very adamant on the subject.

I thought, stopped, and took a couple of steps back to the woman on the stoop. I had no cash and the little bit of change in my pocket couldn’t have been more than a dollar, but I dropped it into her cup. She thanked me and I turned to go to lunch.

My coworker didn’t say anything. The shocked look on her face said it all.

I wasn’t looking for an answer. My rhetorical question was more of an explanation. Not that I needed one.

“Ah, who’s it gonna hoight? Me, I got enough.”

Stuart M. Perkins

81 Comments

Filed under charity, donate, help, life

Award Season!

one-blog-lovely-award

A few days ago, Sherry Bibb at http://akalunchlady.wordpress.com/ nominated me for “One Lovely Blog Award”. I thank her for that! In my one year of blogging I have been graciously nominated for various WordPress awards but never officially “accepted” them. The reason is deep, serious, and deserves mention: I had no clue how to download the award image…a “requirement” of acceptance.

I could write all day, but ask me to “simply copy a URL” and you may as well ask me to build a space shuttle using only a spoon and a sheet of plywood.

I’m happy to say I figured it out! Thanks again, Sherry Bibb!

This is how the award works:

1. You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.

2. You must list the rules.

3. You must add 7 facts about yourself.

4. You must nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

5. You must display the award logo and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Unlike the Liebster Award which is aimed at newbie bloggers, this award has no restriction as to who you can nominate.

Seven facts about myself:

1. I have two hilarious, kind, intelligent, fun-loving, good-looking children. My daughter Greer will soon be 18 and my son Evan turned 16 earlier this year. Both are driving, dating, and growing up. None of which thrill me…

2. I was born and raised within the city limits of Richmond, Virginia, but was lucky enough to grow up in a very rural way and my grandparents’ small farm was the focal point for my extended family. We lived in houses surrounding my grandparents and the memories of good times in a huge family are some I will never forget.

3. I work at Georgetown University and am immersed daily in the serious paperwork surrounding clinical trials for cancer research. While I don’t work directly with patients, I work closely enough with their doctors to be reminded every day of what we all already know – cancer is no joke.

4. I always loved birds. As a kid I once had in my bedroom two parakeets, two finches, a quail I’d hatched in an incubator, and in a corner by the closet I had made a temporary pen in which I had several baby chickens and two baby turkeys. Mama claims that she still finds feathers… some 35 years later…

5. I always loved birds, but cows are the best. We had a few at home, but my uncle had a huge farm with many, many more. I wrote a paper on “herd society” for an Advanced Biology class in high school. I used what I knew of my uncle’s herd as a basis. I still have that paper – maybe because it was one of the few A grades I got in that class!

6. I eat too many sweets. Ice cream, pound cake, cheesecake, and donuts are a few. I walk/run daily to counter the effects, and since I also love Diet Coke I like to think that cancels out a few calories…

7. Blogging has been one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done. It’s given me a forum in which to share memories and thoughts, enabled me to interact with people all over the world, and allowed me to remind people that we all have something to say about what we’ve seen, laughed at, or been affected by. Good grammar and punctuation skills are nice, but they don’t tell the story, you do. So write it down.

And my nominations, in no particular order, are:

http://yvonnesmusings.wordpress.com/

http://kerryswindingroad.com/

http://unhonest.com/

http://chesapeakejournal.wordpress.com/

http://philipshiell.wordpress.com/

http://thepracticalpsychosomaticist.com/

http://theminstrelscitadel.com/

http://storytotellya.com/

http://pondblog2011.mlblogs.com/

http://mccallumogilvy.wordpress.com/

http://clarabetty.wordpress.com/

http://stockresearch52.wordpress.com/

http://giftsofthejourney.com/

http://poemsandpoemes.wordpress.com/

http://elleturner4.wordpress.com/

Thanks again,

Stuart M. Perkins

25 Comments

Filed under award, blog, blogging, nomination

A Three Dog Night

I agreed to dogsit for two friends while they vacationed in Greece. I stayed in the home of The Mama, a beautiful, independent, occasionally indignant, red Siberian husky. Staying with us for the duration were two miniature long-haired dachshunds. Effie Mae and Pearl Jean are two cream-colored half-sisters, short, pretty, and comical as only weenies can be.

Directions on the care of these three took some learning. Pearl Jean, deaf since birth, understands several hand signals which I had to master. The Mama is blind in one eye and requires a daily series of eye drops. Effie Mae has an uncontrollable urge to lick people. Anywhere. Anytime.

My traveling friends have known each other for years. Their dogs are well acquainted and see each other often so it was no major production when the weenies were brought over for their stay with The Mama and me. Pearl Jean, a bit shorter in length than her half-sister, waddled over to greet The Mama. Effie Mae, who outright adores The Mama, raced ahead to reach her before Pearl Jean.

The weenies sat and looked up admiringly at The Mama.

The Mama stood and looked down on the weenies with disgust.

She huffed, blowing just enough air from her mouth to make her cheeks puff. With obvious loathing she left the kitchen to go to the living room sofa – her throne. The Mama knows weenies are unable to jump onto sofas.

They can’t jump onto beds either – which I was reminded of that first night. The Mama slept on her regal pad beside the bed. I assumed the weenies would be happy with the beds I made for them on the floor near The Mama.

They were not.

Instant yapping indicated that they expected to sleep with me. I lifted them onto the bed and their yapping mercifully ceased as they dug here and there, balling up the sheets into acceptable bedding. They curled up in silence. I couldn’t believe those two diminutive divas demanded to sleep on the bed. Neither could The Mama.

She huffed from her regal pad.

In the silence of the night and in a state of half-sleep I was awakened by the piercing yap-howl of Pearl Jean. I looked at her, unsure of what a deaf dog would bark at in the night. She looked back at me, puzzled that I wasn’t as alarmed by what she wasn’t hearing as she was. Effie Mae, used to such nonsense, did no more than lift her head momentarily before going back to sleep.

The Mama huffed.

In the wee hours of the morning, after having slept for less than half the night, I was roused by very strange sensations. Through the fog of sleep deprivation I became aware of something licking my feet. Even more disturbing, something was licking the inside of my mouth. With flashbacks of a party I attended in my college days that I probably should have skipped, I instantly awoke. Both weenies halted their licking to waddle closer to be petted, tails wagging.

I hadn’t slept enough, my feet were wet, and my mouth tasted like, well, I shudder to imagine. It was a miserable night and I knew no one on earth could be as disgusted as I was at that moment.

The Mama huffed.

The next day, like every other for two weeks, The Mama had to be given her series of eye drops. For “allowing” this, she was given a treat of a few chunks of rotisserie chicken. I was left several chickens’ worth of meat in the freezer for this purpose. Each day I shook the eye drops to mix them well. The Mama endured them graciously and awaited her chicken treat.

The weenies soon learned that the shaking of eye drops meant the presence of chicken.

I could hardly give The Mama a treat and not give one to the weenies…

With that policy in place I went through all of the chickens in the freezer, bought several more, and realized Pearl Jean’s collar was fitting a bit tighter than when she first arrived. She also waddled more slowly. Effie Mae loved the chicken too, but obsessed with licking my ankles she missed many treats.

In addition to her licking obsession, Effie Mae liked to stare. I never knew at what precisely. She sat in the yard and stared into the sky, at the grass, or at a tree. In the house she stared at walls, the refrigerator, and herself in a full length mirror in the bedroom. She was staring at the leg of a table one night when the phone rang. It was a call from Greece.

As I described how smoothly things had been going, I yawned. It could have been the sleep deprivation that made me drop the latest rotisserie chicken purchase that I had been holding when the phone rang. Effie Mae stopped staring at the table leg to stare at the fallen chicken. Pearl Jean barked at something she didn’t hear. Things were going just fine, I reassured my friends.

The Mama huffed.

By the time my two week dog sitting stint wrapped up, the dogs and I had worked ourselves into very comfortable patterns. The weenies learned to get on and off the bed by themselves using a “ladder” I fashioned from a chair and some cushions, occasionally I placed something new in the floor for Effie Mae to stare at, and Pearl Jean’s collar fit a little better because I had learned to shake the eye drops quietly. The Mama? Well, she’s The Mama.

My friends returned bearing unbelievable gifts from Greece for my watching their dogs. They were glad things had gone well, commented that The Mama seemed fine, that the weenies looked particularly well fed, and they hoped it hadn’t been too much trouble.

I told them of course it was no trouble at all and that I’d do it again without hesitation. During a pause in our conversation, Pearl Jean barked at absolutely nothing and Effie Mae stared at my leg and then licked it. They really were comical. Who wouldn’t enjoy spending two weeks with those two dwarf divas?

The Mama huffed.

Stuart M. Perkins

51 Comments

Filed under dachsund, dog, friend, friends, husky, vacation

Try Writing

“Thousands of people who write believe they are better than thousands of others. They believe they will pen the next great American novel but their writing is dull and full of grammatical errors. Why do they write anything intended to be read by the public? Why do they write?”

I read those lines and was impelled to respond. The blogger’s entire post was arrogant and sarcastic, but those lines were the cherries on top. After I acknowledged that he can post what he likes on his own blog, I then asked if rather than squelch ambitions with a negative message about imperfection, he could instead applaud people for their attempts, for our attempts because I am one of the imperfect. But, we still try.

I don’t necessarily like being serious because, well, it’s not funny. I love a little arrogance and sarcasm as much as anyone, maybe more than anyone, but his post was nasty at its core, humorless and discouraging.

For me, playing with words to form sentences in an attempt to evoke anything from laughter to sadness in a reader is “magical”, and I rarely use that word. Writing is simply another way to make thoughts available to a reader. I don’t believe I will pen the next great American novel, “dull” writing is subjective, and I am certain I end up with grammatical errors in my writing. But, I still try.

I started blogging less than a year ago and up to that point had hardly read one, much less considered writing one. With encouragement from a good friend, I gave it a start. As an adult I’ve never taken a writing class and in high school English I was at best mediocre. So why do I write? Because I want to. That should be answer enough for the judgmental blogger.

When I have thoughts to express, nothing stops the freight train of desire to write them down. I imagine everyone who writes experiences the same at their own levels. If one’s writing could use some pep or have the grammar refined a bit, those things can be remedied. Writers can learn to amp up their styles and they can become more familiar with grammatical rules. Those things can be learned. What can’t be taught is desire. People who need to write come pre-loaded with the desire to try. And so we write.

I sent my comments to the blogger expecting to hear nothing back really. I simply felt the need to counter a little of his discouragement. That freight train of desire to write my response just couldn’t be stopped! In less than an hour he replied. I hesitated for a second to read what he’d written, but the optimist in me thought why not, it could be he’s given some of his overly critical attitude a second thought! I clicked on his response and read the one line from him:

“Your comments contained two grammatical errors.”

He didn’t even tell me what they were!

It didn’t really matter that he’d paid no attention to the point I’d hoped to get across.

But, I tried.

Stuart M. Perkins

225 Comments

Filed under blog, blogger, blogging, writing

Thirst Quencher

“I’m thirsty!” John said.

“Me too.” I agreed.

“I could use some Champagne.” Carol said.

“A keg.” Marvin chimed in as he joined us standing in the scant shade of a lone pine tree.

We had just finished a long mountain hike. Some days prior we had decided on a weekend camping trip together. Martin had tents and supplies, John and I were eager to go, and Carol and Rhonda agreed it could be fun.

“Anybody think Rhonda had success?” I laughed. She had stayed back at the campsite in hopes of seeing a “Squatch”.

“Not if it saw that face of hers without makeup.” Marvin joked.

“No really, I’m dying of thirst.” John interjected.

“Oh come on,” Carol began, “there is no Bigfoot in Virginia!”

“Big foot? Check out Rhonda’s hooves.” Marvin joked again as we made our way to John’s car.

“I’m seriously thirsty.” John said solemnly.

Being only semi-devoted to roughing it, we had taken the car in air-conditioned comfort to the start of the hiking trail and we were now ready for a cool ride back. Instead of unlocking the car, John walked to the trunk and began to dig through its contents. From deep within its recesses, back behind a spare tire and an old can of tennis balls, he pulled out a little red jug.

“Thank goodness.” John sighed.

“Wait.” I said. “That’s the jug you used months ago when we played tennis, right?”

“Yep,” John said as he eagerly flipped the top and stood poised to drink, “and it’s still half full.”

“Oh dear!” Carol gasped. “You’re going to drink liquid from a jug that’s been in your trunk for months? You don’t mean it!”

“I’m thirsty!” John repeated, and with that he turned up the little red jug and took several greedy gulps until there was no more.

“Wasn’t it hot?” I winced.

“Couldn’t you taste it?” Carol clutched her breast.

“He could probably chew it.” Marvin added.

We piled into the car and headed back. John said nothing, but his repetitive burps foreshadowed what was to come. Back at the campsite we found Rhonda frying bacon.

“Why on earth are you frying bacon in this dreadful heat?” Carol asked as she took off her designer hiking boots and reapplied her lipstick.

“Squatches love bacon.” Rhonda proclaimed as she slapped a second pound into the skillet. “The aroma will lure one outta the fahrest, then I can take a photo and send it to the Enquirah.”

Marvin took over the skillet, scrambled some eggs, and we had breakfast for dinner. Afterwards, we sat in a semi-circle of lawn chairs drinking fresh water and other beverages. Carol had packed a bottle of Champagne. As we began our after dinner chats, I looked at Rhonda.

“No Squatch?” I asked.

Before she could answer, we heard a loud WHUH! Conversations ceased as we looked around for the source of the strange call. We wondered if the smell of frying bacon had worked in Rhonda’s favor after all.

“Run fetch me mah Polaroid!” Rhonda yelled through a mouthful of bacon. “I just heard a Squatch!”

“Oh bless!” Carol said. “You don’t think that really was a…”

WHUH!

We heard it again, but identified the source.

John emerged from his tent where he had been lying down for quite some time. He hadn’t said he felt bad, but his normally boisterous personality was less so that evening. We attributed it to the long hike.

We should have attributed it to the liquid in the little red jug.

“WHUH!” John said again as he stepped from the tent. His normally ruddy complexion was replaced by the whitest white a human can become while still maintaining a detectable pulse. His face was drenched in sweat and he clutched his stomach. Luckily, experienced at roughing it as we were, we had pitched our tents very near Building A which housed the bathrooms. John headed that way, slowly.

“WHUH!” he said with every step. We learned later that with each step, the vile and evil contents of his digestive tract forced their way to the point of escape, violently and abruptly. Only the dark jogging pants he wore spared us the visual. We could only stare blankly as John shuffled past our semi-circle in the direction of Building A.

“Are you ill?” Carol asked.

“The jug.” I said under my breath.

Unaware that John had gulped bacteria laden liquid from the little red jug, Rhonda assumed his noise to be a tease about her search for Bigfoot. “Don’t diss the Squatch!” she yelled at him as he gingerly made his way through the thick brush that grew between our tents and Building A.

“Are you all aware,” Carol stated in a whisper, “that he is suffering a most heinous and foul intestinal woe from the liquid in that little red jug?”

“Alcohol would kill it.” Marvin said as he sipped a beer and watched John pick his way through the undergrowth. We heard another “WHUH!

“Why is he dissing the Squatch!” Rhonda said as she headed for her tent. “I’m going to bed to eat mah cheese and crackahs. That noise of his has skeered ‘em all off anyway.”

Unsure whether we should call a park ranger or try to find a doctor, we decided to do the next logical thing. We picked up our lawn chairs and faced them towards Building A to watch John two-step through the huckleberries.

WHUH!” we heard as he reached the screen door to Building A.

“I just can’t bear this for him!” Carol said sympathetically. “Champagne anyone?”

As John shuffled slowly through the screen door, we noticed a man approaching the bathroom from another trail. He held a toothbrush, stepped happily, and whistled a joyful tune. All that his pleasant mood lacked were cartoon bluebirds flying overhead holding ribbons and roses in their beaks.

The man neared Building A.

“Oh no.” Carol said. “Whatever should we do?”

“Have a beer.” Marvin said as he popped one open for himself and handed one to me.

“This is just awful!” Carol said as she poured more Champagne.

WHUH!” we heard echoed from inside the bathroom.

“He’s making fun of the Squatch!” Rhonda yelled angrily from inside her tent, still unaware that John was engaged in battle with the bucket of bacteria he had earlier chugged.

The man with the toothbrush paused momentarily at the strange sound he heard. Deciding it was nothing, he skipped gleefully through the screen door and out of sight. After the door slammed behind the man as he entered the room where John sat in regretful agony, there were only sounds of crickets and the soft chattering of blackbirds as they began to roost in the trees overhead.

Then… we heard it. The blood curdling and primal scream of a horrified soul who had just walked in on one of the most grotesque sights known to mankind – the aftermath of someone drinking a jug of old water. When he screamed, crickets ceased their chirping and great flocks of blackbirds left the treetops as one. It was the scream of a man in torment.

“I heard a Squaaatch!” Rhonda yelled excitedly from inside her tent.

WHUH!” we heard as if in response to the primal scream.

“It’s a mated pair!” Rhonda yelled again as she fumbled for her Polaroid.

The screen door on Building A slammed again and we turned to see  the man heading down the trail from which he’d come. He was running this time and there was no happy whistling.

WHUH!” we heard one last time, then silence. Shortly, John returned in near darkness and said nothing but went straight to his car to sleep, where luckily he kept a second pair of pants. By morning John had regained some color. In the trash bin next to his car were a pair of balled-up jogging pants and a little red jug. We all packed for the trip home and stopped by the camp store on the way out to pick up some snacks for the ride.

“Well,” Rhonda told the park ranger at the counter, “not a Squatch in the vicinity.”

“No,” the ranger laughed, “but several campers reported strange sounds and disgusting smells near Building A last night.”

“I knew it!” Rhonda said as she subconsciously reached for her Polaroid.

John feebly approached the counter where we stood talking to the park ranger.

“Excuse me.” John said weakly to the ranger. “I was told you sell something for upset stomachs here but I can’t find it. Can you tell me what it looks like?”

“Sure.” the park ranger said as he pointed. “On the next aisle. It’s a liquid in a little red jug.”

Stuart M. Perkins

23 Comments

Filed under camping, friends, funny, Humor, mountains, vacation

Granola and Bear It

According to its wrapper, the granola bar in my hand promised to help me “Start the Day in a Whole New Way”. I took one bite and immediately felt a sharp pain in one of the molars in my lower jaw.

The wrapper was right. I had certainly started the day in a whole new way.

My tongue told me the shape of my tooth was different now. A small part had broken away but it hurt for only a second. Without the motivation of pain, I decided to simply tell the dentist about it during my next visit. Frankly, once I became used to the different shape of my tooth, I forgot all about it.

Until three weeks later.

That night something felt a bit different around the tooth. There was the hint of an ache, some puffiness in my jaw, and my cheek felt slightly warm. I went to bed having decided I might need to call the dentist if I felt a little pain.

Around 2:00 in the morning I felt a little pain.

And by “a little pain” I mean I awoke to the sensation of a red-hot poker being plunged mercilessly into my jawbone, hammered in further by hydraulic machinery, and all the while being doused with gasoline and set on fire. Beneath my jaw, just below the obviously infected tooth, was a swollen area warm to the touch and very painful. One minute I was in agony, the next minute the pain disappeared, but it came and went often during the night. While having pain-free minutes I drifted to sleep only to be awakened by the evil flaming jack hammer attacking my inner tooth.

Thankfully, the dentist could see me first thing in the morning. The dental hygienist took an x-ray the minute I sat in the chair. As the dentist entered the room he glanced at the x-ray on the wall.

“You’re probably in pain.” he said as nonchalantly as if commenting on a lovely sparrow singing in the windowsill.

“You’re probably right.” I responded. “Can you just patch the tooth or whatever it is you do?”

For some reason he laughed.

I had never felt such pain. When there was no pain, there was the fear of pain. I couldn’t think of anything that could strike as much fear in me as awaiting the next onslaught of pain.

“You need a root canal.” he said.

Until I heard that.

My mind flooded with memories of horror stories related to me by friends about their own root canal experiences. At that moment, the demon pain in my tooth awakened and in seconds it felt as though I were being kicked in the jaw by an angry, and possibly rabid, mule.

“Just do it then. Do it now.” I said. “And hurry.” I was starting this day in a whole new way. I began to sweat.

He laughed again.

The dental hygienist set to work to prepare me for the procedure. She fastened a tiny useless paper bib around my neck, patted my shoulder, and wished me luck.

How comforting.

The dentist hovered over my open mouth and began to apply a numbing gel to the spots where he would then inject my gum with even more numbing drug to deaden the tooth.

“It tastes like bubble gum, doesn’t it?” he asked in a tone that indicated he was already sure of the answer.

“It tastes like potpourri and dirt.” I corrected.

He laughed, hopefully at my comment and not at his actions, because he then jabbed my gum with the first of several needles. After a few injections around the hateful tooth, he waited for the numbing drug to take effect. When the side of my face felt like a slab of liver hanging from my head, I knew I was ready. This would soon be over, I thought.

I thought incorrectly.

After two hours of his drilling, scraping, poking, and suctioning, and my gagging, drooling, coughing, and moaning, he suddenly sat very quietly with his hands still wedged in my mouth. I would have asked what he was waiting for but my jaws were held open by what felt like the tire chock of a Boeing 747. I stopped counting the hairs in his nose and gave a questioning grunt.

“I’m just draining the infection.” he explained. “Once I drill down far enough into the tooth it’s like popping the cork on a champagne bottle and it all flows right out!”

Nice, I thought. Cheers.

He finished his handiwork, the dental hygienist dove into my mouth up to her elbows to finish something, and they sat me up.

“There you go.” the dentist said.

“Hey,” I managed to say with a numb tongue, “that wasn’t so bad, but glad you’re finished.”

“Finished?” he began, “That was only the first part. You need to come back at the end of the week for me to do the second part.”

There was a part two. I would have to start the day in a whole new way yet again. I began to sweat.

“Before you come back for the second part, why don’t you come in for a routine cleaning.” the dentist asked as he signed something handed to him by a passing coworker.

I pointed to my mouth. “But you’re in mid-construction in there. Isn’t that like washing the car while you’re still finishing up the body work?”

He laughed loudly.

“Just come back at the end of the week then,” he said, “but don’t worry, the worst part is behind you.”

“No, the worst part is before me.” I said. “I still have to pay for this.”

He laughed loudly again.

I returned later in the week for part two. The dentist began the injections to make my tooth properly numb. After several shots, he said we would now wait until they took effect. Remembering the last time when I had to wait in the chair for almost twenty minutes in order to reach that point, I tapped the dentist on the arm as he walked away. He stopped and looked at me.

“Do you get paid by the hour or something?. Is that why there’s been no effort to make a numbing drug that works any faster?” I asked.

He laughed.

In time, my gum reached peak numbness. Once again I spent two hours on my head in the chair, a street lamp hung inches from my face, and the dentist and dental hygienist performed their square dance in my mouth. When all was said and done, they wiped two hours worth of drool from my numb chin and sat me up.

“Well,” the dentist began as he sorted his tiny medieval tools, “you should be good now. Anything else we can do for you while you’re here?”

“Yes.” I said. “Could you go back in and drill deep enough to remove a kidney? I’ll need to sell it on eBAY to pay what my insurance won’t cover on this tooth.”

He laughed as he walked away and I heard him tell the girl at the front desk that he would “do this one differently”, but I paid little attention. I used the restroom and upon returning to the front desk I asked for the bill. I began to sweat.

The receptionist handed me the invoice and below the itemized column full of numbers and codes was a grand total. To the left of that printed amount was another total, hand written in ink. A significantly lower grand total.

“What does this mean?” I asked.

The receptionist explained that the dentist had given me the staff discount.

“Why?” I asked, still puzzled.

“He said he enjoyed your humor each time you came in.” she answered. “And that you had a point about how long it takes for the numbing injections to work?” She was clearly not sure what that meant, but she assumed I did.

I looked around for the dentist in order to thank him, but he had already crawled inside the next patient’s mouth.

“Tell him I really appreciate that.” I said.

“Sure will.” she responded. “He said to have a patient who actually joked through an entire root canal certainly did start his day in a whole new way.

I began to sweat.

Stuart M. Perkins

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