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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?”

“Aarcggh.”

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

“Rorkah.”

“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.”

“Whar?”

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

“Oooo.”

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.

Coo-coo-ca-choo!

— 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