A hush falls over the office, the kitchen, the bus, as we contemplate the completion of another week of our lives and the approach of the weekend.
If only there was some way to know what to expect. If only we could be, say, forewarned so as to be forearmed…
But wait! Didn’t I tell you? My iPod! My iPod, set on “shuffle” and played during Friday morning’s commute holds the key to all of our questions!
What? Yes, really. Oh, humor me and play along. I have so little…
Suzanne by Leonard Cohen
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song by Fleet Foxes
New Orleans is Sinking by The Tragically Hip
Province by TV on the Radio
Tiburon by Stan Kenton and His Orchestra
The Crunge by Led Zeppelin
Since You’re Gone by The Cars
Without a Fight by Janelle Monae
Uh-oh. A sense of melancholy has just slid in under the door. That isn’t you, is it? Someone’s heart is going to be broken, I just know it. Luckily it won’t be mine, as I had it removed in splinters some time ago…
So! Do we have time for a story?
You remember Mary, don’t you? Mary, the woman with believes, like me, that Zantigo’s is a proper reward for hard work, a woman whose imagination jumps immediately to the ridiculous, the woman with whom I’ve considered becoming a sit-down comedian, has had a serious problem.
Mary needs to have a tooth pulled.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. Not when you have no money and no insurance.
For the last two months, Mary has struggled, consuming up to 16 Advil a day.
The left side of her face eventually became quite swollen.
“Looka be,” she moaned through clenched teeth. “I ab so hurty.”
The first dentist, whom Mary feared she’d have to pay in foot rubs and popcorn hulls, diagnosed the wisdom tooth as abscessed, gave her a course of antibiotics, and sent her out the door with a figurative foot to the small of her back.
“We’ll take it out when you’ve finished the pills!”
With two days of the pills left, however, the tooth, Mary swears, slid off her jaw and deposited itself under her tongue.
I went to visit her.
“Awb tellin ya,” she slurred from between clenched teeth, tears in her eyes, “dat guy’s tryin ta kill me.”
She sipped a Fresca through a straw. “Int’restin fack,” she slurred. “Dey train cadaber dogs wif dead teef. My mouf’s lak a cadaber dog’s trainin groun’.”
Luckily, having lived with a man who believes there’s no need to move the jaw while speaking, I am fully versed in Slur.
“You think a cadaver dog would signal on your mouth?”
“Awb sure ub it.”
The next day, Mary’s friend Becky stopped in. Becky’s mother, Rose, is in an assisted living facility, and Mary visits her a couple times a week. Mary doesn’t have a car during the daytime hours, and visits Rose come hell or high water, via bicycle.
“I’m taking you to my dentist,” Becky says.
“No, no, no…” Mary says, grabbing her coat and her purse.
Pages of paperwork are filled out, but the last page stops her cold. “All services to be paid in full at time of service,” it says.
“OK,” Mary mutters, “we gotta go.”
Becky puts her hand on Mary’s shoulder. “I’m paying.”
Mary stares at her.
“It’s the least I can do. You visit my mother-in-law when I can’t. Let me do this for you.”
Mary bursts into tears. “I’ll pay you back. I swear –“
Becky stops her. “Don’t you dare.”
The second dentist’s response to Mary’s abscessed wisdom tooth is encapsulated in one word: “Whoa”. Several shots of Novocaine later, a little gas to set the mood, and his knee is on her chest and wresting the offending tooth from her exhausted and swollen gums.
The tooth – and the pain – is gone.
“Everything okay, then?” he asks her. “You feeling okay in there?”
Mary grins, her mouth packed with cotton gauze. She gives him the “thumbs up” sign, the "A-OK" sign, and an earnestly slurred “Ah luh yoo mang”.
"I love you, too," says the dentist.
And just like that, it is over.
Mary is smiling again.
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