This story is by Marien Oommen and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
This beautiful morning,the birds were singing and the sky was blue.The flowers were still in bloom though the torrid days of summer had begun to show its face.Suddenly a horrible foreboding cast its dark clouds on my mind and heart.
In strange contrast to the feelings,I break out into a song.
In my Lord, my hope is found,
He is my solid ground,
My strength, my glistening shield,
Much more so,at times as these,
When to a dentist, I must yield.
Finally the day of reckoning had arrived.
“What happened? What’s bothering you?” George asked,rushing off to work.
“I’m never brave when I go meet my dentist.Scheduled for my double implant today before the big presentation on Tuesday.”
“Can you show me what you’re implanting,doc?”I ask.The dentist shows me two titanium 10 mm long rods he was going to screw into the bone of my lower jaw.
(Please don’t faint.If you’ve fainted, go smell an onion)
What marvel of science is this? Titanium. The substance you find mixed in beach sands.Somebody casts them into rods and somebody else hammers them into your bone?
In MY mouth!…Ludda hav’mercy!I believed the mouth is a sanctified place where only good things must enter therein.
“I’m traveling soon,doc,will there be any problem?”I ask.“You know air pressure and that sort of thing? I don’t want blood in my mouth as I sip champagne.”
“No,it will be fine.You got two days for recovery.”
Dr Kaino was an expert,very composed, and extremely polite.He warns me of the three injections he was about to jab in my mouth.
I can’t feel a thing.But I feel like a drunkard.Not that I’ve ever been drunk.Stamp an angel icon right on the centre of my forehead,please.
“Dkoc,kleepp twalkinnnn,twell mehh whaaa youz dooooinnn naoooow?”
Silence from his side.He looks ominously at the nurse behind me. Somebody switches on a machine.
Gbbbrrrrrrrrrrr a drill machine starts reverberating just behind my head. There is an ear shattering sound boring into my bone.Like a miner. Searching for gold.Drill. Drill. KBrrrrrrrqrrrrrrr
How can any human take this?
Words of the song come back: He is my light, my strength, my song;this cornerstone, this solid ground,firm through the fiercest drill and storm.
My hands are shaking a bit.It must be the anesthesia.I try to talk.Sounding so drlunk.
Thump. Thump…the machine is now shattering the ground zero of my mouth like an earthquake.
His love for me, mere words can’t tell,tongue anesthetized,it cannot speak.
“Sister, pass me one rod,” he tells her. She passes it; overt actions take place behind me.The job has to be done in thirty minutes flat.
Three of us are wrapped in a beautiful sky blue protective layer, so no germs travel.We could’ve been in a space capsule named Vostok or Mercury.I look out the window.I see no shooting stars outside the glass, but cars,trucks and people on a regular street.
In the mirror affixed on top,I see me open-mouthed.There’s a red river within,looking gooey.Like paint.
Thou watchest the last oozings,minute by minute,and it’s not red velvet cake.
Take your mind off the present situation when anxious…I hear my mama’s voice from the distant past. Then I focus on the hammering of a nail in his hand.
Thump thump. He had no anesthesia. Yet he bore it.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when drillings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in His love,I lie prostrate on a dentist’s chair.
I hear the thumping in my brain and sense a dull numbness all around. Someone tell me how long this hammering will go on?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard until this moment- are terrifying. My mind cries out with Keats. It takes forty minutes and the doc washes his hands with a look of achievement.
“It’s done, you can gargle now.”
Next patient’s waiting.
Relief sweeps over me like a gentle breeze. I inhale the miracle of modern science. I could do a titanium dance right then.
Did Adam have toothaches,I
Villagers chewed on Neem twigs to strengthen their teeth. Grandpa used tooth powder. Back then nobody had tooth implants.
Granpa and granma had dentures, which they removed at night, and carefully placed at their bedside tables. They told me Phantom had left them there. Those bygone days Granma looked adorable when she tried to talk without them.
“So how did you feel? What was the experience like?”
“You really want to know,doc?”I smiled.
“Yes,tell me.It’s for my record,”he said opening his diary.
“Well, when it got too much,I began to focus on Him who took the drill without anesthesia.If a man could take raw brute pain,then I who have borne babies can too.”
That thought had made the pain and fear reduce considerably. Somebody had already gone through it while imparting his gift of love and endurance on us,earthlings.
Dr.Kaino looks at me strangely.No patient had ever given this response all his working years.He smiled to himself as he jotted it down.
There must be something about this man who bore it all.Who IS he?
I get back home.Rhea greets me with a dress with a torn strap.
“Ma,be a doll.Stitch these for me, puleeese.Both her cotton leopard print dresses had their straps broken-on.
I was‘doll’ every time she wanted me to do some stuff for her.
“Okay, go get the needle and thread,” said I. She brings them and it’s white.
“You can’t use white thread on a black dress.”
“Oh,it won’t show,”she says.“Like your implants.”
I give up trying to thread the needle, my mind racing back to the days I threaded the needle for my mama when she said she couldn’t see clearly. Thought she was acting up then.Now I’m in that role.Heavens!When did that happen?
Rhea says,‘Awww, Pattomama’.That was the name given to my darling mother by all the grandkids,because she lived in Pattom.
“You better thread it,Rhee.”
“Why on earth don’t you know how to stitch,Rhee? Even dad can stitch!How can you go through life not know how to stitch?Dentists gotta stitch!”
My ‘stitching’ started in Holy Angel’s Convent under old Sr. Bazilia. She taught us cross-stitch, running stitch, back stitch, button stitch. Sometimes we simply raised our hands at regular intervals, from the backbenches,to show we were stitching. Reckon she had poor vision in spite of her beagle eyes.We loved playing the fool till the bell rang.
“Ahhh funn!But why should I stitch? We’ve got tailors from India, Pakistan,sitting outside school,”she said very seriously.“Like literally ten tailoring shops.It’s the garment district.”
So I stitched while she hummed. As I wove the thread along,I philosophized about the thread.Titanium was making me wiser.
“You see this thread is like a husband and wife on either side of the needle. They go along side by side, patching up holes together, going over bumps, around the curves, sealing up the cracks. They got to be knotted at the end,or else one will slip off.You got to pull at it to get it equal on both sides like there should be equality in marriage.Then after some time, a scissor comes like the hand of God, snips one off,and the one is left alone.The ‘left behind’ weeps for a time.”
The daughter,bright-eyed,pontificates with a wave of her hand.
“Then the surviving one goes and marries a curvaceous woman like Gloria in Modern Family.Or the crying woman wipes her tears, goes, marries a Maxwell Sheffield.All’s well again.”
“I’m astounded at your understanding of human affairs, you reckon a wife is like a new implant,hey? Life is never like Modern Family or The Nanny.”
Her categorical pronouncements came from her childhood fascination with Calvin and Hobbes.
Jaw hurting, I complete the stitching and return both the dresses. Things are changing too quickly. Yet,if nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies. I sighed a bit too loud. My breath blew the needle away. You know how needles have this habit of disappearing just after you’re done with them. If you were a woman, you’d know.
We search frantically for it.I didn’t want Dolce swallowing it and the needle settling in his big fat butt.
“Hurry, Ma! Find it. Gotta go! Class starts in half hour!”
As she rushes out to catch the bus, Rhee asks, “Ma,didya even have leopard print dresses when you were young?”
“No, honey! Neither did I have titanium rods in my mouth.”