A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) by Annie Acorn and Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Hill
Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) by Annie Acorn
Just when my broken foot was beginning to heal… Just when the dreaded crutches (ATOW: Does Crutches) had been put in the closet… Just when the air boot moon cast (ATOW: Moon Walks) had become a thing of the past… I discovered that it was time to get my teeth cleaned.
Allow me to provide a bit of background at this point, so that you can completely appreciate the sinking sensation that I felt, when I realized what lay ahead of me.
Those of you who follow this blog know that until I turned six our young family lived on one side of a duplex in Columbus, Ohio. My paternal grandmother and great-aunt shared the other half, where they spent most of their time in the kitchen satisfying their mutual sweet tooth.
A green glass jar on the buffet in their dining room was home to a steady supply of homemade butterscotch candy. Primarily comprised of butter and sugar, the original mixture had been boiled to hard crack and then poured onto buttered waxed paper that lined a metal pie pan. Once it had cooled into a hard disk about ¼” thick, my grandmother would break it into manageable pieces with a tack hammer.
To say that I loved this confection would be one of the world’s greatest understatements. I was obsessed, and I became quite adept at climbing onto a dining room chair from which I could raise and replace the glass lid without making a sound.
Once a piece of Grandmother’s butterscotch had entered your mouth, you had committed to a long term proposition. Hard as a rock when you first popped it in, the candy would gradually soften. Sometimes it would wedge itself against the roof of your mouth. Eventually, the piece would grow thinner, at which point with a great deal of persistence you could roll it into a scroll with your tongue and begin chewing. Some would always adhere to the top of your molars, where it would remain for the next several hours, continuing to provide pleasure.
The first time I went to the dentist, I had three cavities that were blamed on the bad teeth that historically had run in my family, no one connecting the dots back to my obsession with Grandmother’s butterscotch. I, of course, was too young to work it out for myself, and by this time, my addiction was too embedded for me to have broken my relationship with this favored treat anyway.
A couple of years later, our young family moved to East Tennessee, leaving the older generation in the other half of the duplex behind. My new adult teeth breathed a sigh of relief as we drove southward, never realizing that my supply line remained virtually intact.
As a young woman in England, this grandmother had been trained as a seamstress. Several times a year a box of handmade clothes for us girls would arrive. Nestled among the shorts and tops or the flannel nightgowns and pajamas would be a cardboard box from Lazarus Department Store. Within its protective exterior, a disk of the treasured butterscotch always lay, wrapped in buttered waxed paper and secured with a generous amount of strong kitchen twine.
I would’ve been watching for the box’s arrival for days. The minute the mailman had detoured along our front walk with a box in his hands, I had run to the pantry where my father’s yellow-handled hammer was stored. Now I stood ready, this strong instrument in my own sweaty, slightly shaking hand. One sharp strike of my weapon was all that it ever took, and the disk shattered. Believe me, I was a pro.
Always concerned about their young children’s health, my parents routinely hauled us to the office of a dentist that belonged to their bridge club. He was a nice man, well-trained, but he had one little foible. He did not believe in the use of novocaine.
For the better part of thirteen years, I had cavities filled in his office chair twice a year with no anesthetic. Only an idiot could’ve failed to connect the dots between the butterscotch and my dental caries, but denial, my friend, is a wonderful thing and no one but me was aware of how much I was consuming. To this day, I can barely stand the sound of a saw on a DIY show, its high-pitched squeal too closely resembling the sound of a dentist’s drill.
When I checked in for my first cleaning at my current dental emporium, I was asked to fill in a form.
1. What is your main memory of previous dental experiences?
2. What would keep you away from the dentist?
Fear of Pain
3. What was your greatest concern as you came here today?
Needless to say, after the staff had reviewed my initial responses, I was treated with kid gloves.
Ms. Brush, my dental hygienist, is an all-American gal, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, with a smile that has the potential to blind you with its dazzle at a mere forty paces. WaterPik should hand this young woman a tall stack of their stock. She is one of their best saleswomen.
Under her influence a vanity on which my own model could sit was right up there with covered parking, in-house laundry, and move-in ready on my Must Have List, when I was looking for my current condo. As a true Ms. Brush devotee, I invest in top-grade dental care products. I floss and use soft-picks, and since the best daughter-in-law in the world is employed by Philips, I brush with a Sonicare toothbrush.
As a result, even though I have been going to his office for almost ten years, Dr. Floss’s hands had never been in my mouth except to nod his approval of Ms. Brush’s work. Mild mannered, with a shy smile, no one could’ve accused him of running a tooth mill. That is until now.
OOPS! Let me clarify that. Dr. Floss can still not be accused of running a tooth mill, but he has managed to get his hands in my mouth in the interests of his own work.
“We may have to do something about that tooth soon.” His face looked like he had just lost his mother six years ago. “We’ll watch it closely.”
“Sounds like a plan!” I tossed the words over my shoulder, as I grabbed my purse and made my getaway through the front door.
“It’s amazing how such a large filling is hanging in there.” He had gazed longingly at the reflection in his tiny mirror two years ago.
“Call me a survivor, inside and out,” I had responded with glee as I pulled out my checkbook, thrilled that obviously the Tooth Fairy had become one of my staunchest supporters.
“We have Ms. Brush to thank for the respite over the past six years.” He glanced with the pride of a father at my hygienist after my cleaning just before Christmas. “Unfortunately, your x-rays show that the tooth is now cracking.”
It was a good thing I was already walking on crutches (ATOW: Does Crutches) when I received this particular bad news, because my legs had suddenly turned into jelly.
C-Day was this past week. I say “C,” because I needed a crown. Dr. Floss was as excited at the prospect of providing this service to my back molar as a bridegroom on his wedding night. I had barely slept and felt a definite kinship to thousands of Inca human sacrifices. Ms. Brush waved and blew me a kiss as I forced myself past her procedure room.
Ms. Smile greeted me, took my glasses, and secured my purse, before I slumped onto the blue vinyl dental chair, utterly defeated. With a snap, a chain from which a crisp paper bib hung found its way around my neck.
Dr. Floss explained my Fear of Pain to Ms. Smile in hushed tones in a far corner, his expression appropriately sober. She produced a headset and a tiny MP3 player to help drown out the drill noises. A pair of protective glasses with, I swear to you, butterscotch-colored lenses were perched on my nose. A plastic protector was placed in my mouth.
Two pricks of the needle, a brief wait, and then the drill started. Despite the fact that I had crossed my ankles and locked my arms, it was all I could do to stay in the chair.
Dr. Floss bent to his work with a concentration that indicated he realized his time was limited. Ms. Smile patted my arm and kept up a pleasant chatter as music played in my ears. I began praying.
None of it helped. I was twelve again and back in East Tennessee. The squeal of the drill ran higher along the scales, and my right arm began shaking. In an effort not to make even more of a fool of myself, I determined that I could stand anything for five minutes and began counting.
With a sure hand, Dr. Floss kept up a steady pace and, suddenly, it was over. For a moment, the silence beyond the country singing in my ears was deafening. It was a toss-up as to who was more relieved that I had survived.
Ms. Smile and Dr. Floss were both full of apologies for any discomfort that I might have felt. The hole in my bite was fitted with a temporary crown, but throughout this final portion of the procedure, my insides were singing. The bitter tastes, the gummy substances, these were nothing when compared to the sound of the drill.
Ms. Brush stuck her head in the door just to check on me as I was retrieving my purse.
“Thank you,” I said, “for giving me six years.”
As I limped to my car, I thought back to the green glass jar filled with its rich, golden treasure, and I knew it. Despite the years filled with no novocaine drilling, despite the procedure I had just come through, if a mailman detoured along my walk tomorrow with a box from my paternal grandmother that had been discovered in a dead letter depository, I would run to my little red toolbox and retrieve Father’s yellow-handled hammer. I believe I could still smash a disk of butterscotch into manageable pieces with only one blow.
A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn