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Simon, Garfunkel and friend


On a sunny Thursday at 1:35 p.m., I had a root canal.  The two words, “root” and “canal,” may be harmless nouns, but for an hour-and-a-half I was attacked by ruthless verbs — drugged, drilled, hammered, tugged, sucked, banged and x-rayed by a 35-year-old balding linebacker of an endodontist named Christian.  And that was not all.

After I had been prepped in the dental chair by his assistant, Christian walked in smiling and said, “Hi, how are you?”

“I’m good,” I said and extended my hand.  In fact, I wasn’t good.  My tooth had been aching for a week, and I would rather have gone to traffic school than to see Christian.

I’d been frightened of dentistry since as a child I was taken to a dentist named Dr. Servine, a thin-lipped man with blonde hair and round wire-rimmed glasses who reminded me of a Nazi.

Christian sat down on his rolling stool and scooted close. “Open wide,” he said and quickly installed his paraphernalia — rubber dental dam, metal clamps, a plastic block to keep my mouth open. He then injected something into my right lower gum and left the room.  I closed my eyes and began to hover somewhere near my body.

When he returned, he said, “How are you doing?”


“OK, good.  Now, if you feel any pain at all, I want you to raise your left hand, OK?”


“What kind of music would you like — how about Simon and Garfunkel?”  He quickly set up his iPod before I could say, (if I could have spoken), “How about a Bach funeral cantata?” 

“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again . . . ”

“Now,” said Christian, “You’re going to hear some drilling, nothing to worry about.”

Whirr, grr, the smell of overheated tooth dust reaching my nostrils.  “ . . .  and the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains . . . within the sound of silence.”

“How’re you doin’?” he asked after more pounding, poking and yanking. The middle finger of my right hand began to twitch.

“Yalrga,” I replied.

“When you’re weary, feelin’ small, when tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all.”  More drilling, pressure, fried tooth dust; I knew he was headed down into my collarbone.  “I’m on your side, when times get rough.” 

I had just settled into something of a reverie when it happened.

Christian broke into song.  Now, it was a trio — Paul, Art and Christian.   His articulation was flawless, he knew every word, and — and he was completely tone deaf.

“ . . . like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down.”  His pitch, if you could call it that, wavered without a care.

He stopped singing long enough to reassure me by saying, “I’m running into some trouble here, nothing to worry about, but sometimes these canals are hard to find.” Oh, God.  I retreated back into a trance, my foot keeping time with “Slip sliding away. ”  Christian chimed in again.  “ . . . you know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip-sliding away. ”

“OK, he said, “you’re gonna smell some burning rubber now.”


“It’s rubber. We fill the canals with rubber, but we have to heat it up.  Don’t worry, I won’t burn you.”


Coo-coo-ca-choo, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know, wo wo wo. ”

“Let me get one more X-ray,” he said.  “We’re just about done.”

“ . . . God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson, heaven holds a place for those who pray, hey hey hey, hey hey hey. ”

“Looking good,” Christian said, humming along, still searching for a tune.  At last he stopped singing and removed his tools from my mouth.

“Yep, all done,” he said.

I got up and wobbled out to the receptionist’s desk.  I steadied myself against the counter, fished out my credit card, and was handed a receipt for $1,510.  Christian walked over and gave me a week’s worth of Amoxicillin.

I slipped my credit card back into my purse, stared in his direction for a long time, then began to hum.


— Rosie Sorenson

Rosie Sorenson is the award-winning author of They Had Me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster Hollow. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others. In 2007, she won an honorable mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Reflections of Erma