(Disclaimer: this series of stories is completely fictional and none of the persons, places or institutions in these stories are real, but figments of my own imagination. Any similarity to any real person, place or institution is entirely coincidental.)
Dentistry must be the Devil’s favourite profession, Dave thought as he waited silently and with what he hoped looked like eternal patience for the dental wing’s receptionist to finally acknowledge him. She had noticed him, he knew, for she had actually made eye-contact with him as he had hopped, with his now-moon-booted crushed foot, on his unfamiliar crutches towards the reception desk… Yes, he reassured himself, she had seen him; indeed, for a moment he’d actually allowed himself to think that she was even going to speak to him, but her attention was suddenly diverted by what was apparently an urgent telephone call… it was certainly a long telephone call.
After the first few minutes, Dave looked around him to take his mind off his leg, which was beginning to ache a little now, and noticed a portrait of the dental wing’s patron and founder, one Dr Vladimir Von Draco; a famous, if imported Australian, who had earned himself the nickname ‘Vlad the Sucker’ for inventing the little metal vacuum-sucker-hose that dentists use to suck dribble out of their patients mouths so they don’t drown on their own spit, thus not only killing the patient – the goose that lays the golden egg – but also putting an end to the dentists’ own sadistic pleasure at his patient’s discomfort.
Returning his gaze to the receptionist he saw she was still deeply involved in her telephone conversation. “Now I know why they call us ‘patients’…” he thought to himself “…we have no choice but to be patient…” as he silently sought aloft for divine inspiration and the strength to endure what he knew was going be an ordeal.
Finally the receptionist’s voice became audible as she brought the telephone conversation to a close, “… no… don’t worry, he’ll like it I tell you… yes, I think the blonde highlights really suit you; look, gotta go; see you Saturday!”
Turning at last to Dave she barked, “Name?” with all the natural charm of a Howitzer, to let him know, in case he hadn’t guessed, that she resented being torn away from her beloved telephone. Dave gave his full name; the breadth of the reception desk forcing him to speak in a loud, firm voice in order to make himself heard. The receptionist checked it against that on her computer and then demanded, “Address?” again Dave gave his address, though it made him slightly nervous to voice such personal details in such a public place as this in this glorious twenty-first century. Next, the receptionist demanded, “Date of birth…” Dave glanced around and behind him, nervously casting his suspiscious gaze over the current occupants of the waiting area. “Crikey!” he thought, as he also gave the receptionist his date of birth, “I hope none of those people sitting there in the waiting room are cyber-criminals; there’s enough information there for anyone with a bit of knowledge and a larcenous inclination to steal my identity!” He couldn’t help wondering why the receptionist didn’t just ask to see his driving license along with his Medicare card, which she did ask to see. That, Dave thought, would have been much quicker, much more discreet and much more secure.
Eventually, after checking several more computer screens, the receptionist said, “Oh yes, I see you have an appointment. Please take a seat in the waiting area…” Thankfully Dave hopped over to the waiting area and gracelessly plonked himself down on one of the chairs; arranging his crutches underneath his moon-booted leg to raise it as much as possible off the floor, grateful to be finally able to do so; it was beginning to feel quite sore from its unaccustomed and protracted perpendicularity. After a few minutes’ wait, the dentist and his assistant emerged from among a vast maze of corridors and cubicles and introduced themselves. The dentist, who introduced himself simply as ‘Andrew’, was a tall, freckled youth, complete with curly red hair, n his early twenties. His assistant, Katarina, was a raven-haired beauty with the palest of skin and emerald green eyes.
Dave had often wondered why dentists always had such gorgeous assistants; he finally realized that it was all part of the system; male clients, at least, were much less likely to complain and much more likely to put on a show of macho bravado in front of a perfectly made-up and coiffured, very pretty assistant, as the dentist poked and prodded his teeth with what seemed like an increasingly numerous array of implements, both hi- and lo-tech…
Once upon a time, he remembered, there had just been the dreaded ‘hook of pain’; but now there was also an ‘air-test’, an ‘electricity test’, and what Dave could only describe as a ‘blunt-instrument test’, in which the teeth were tapped with a blunt metal instrument; indeed each of these new tests proved equally capable of producing dental pain in a new and different manner. Instead of one painful test to discover which teeth were rotten, now there were four… and the dentist, of course; a fourth-year dentistry student; insisted on a thorough analysis, using all four tests. “Now that’s progress!” Dave thought.
Always a great believer in the prophetic power of Murphy’s Law, Dave had already predicted that before the torture-session they would ask him to accompany him to their own little cubicle, which would, and indeed, actually did turn out to be right at the other end of what also turned out to be a very large dental wing. St Helvi’s was, after all, a teaching hospital.
Indeed, Dave was learning all the time… right now he was learning that in using his crutches, he was obliged to lift his full bodyweight of about 90 kilos, with every ‘step’; using crutches was thus, essentially, walking on his hands. Even at home, just going to the loo was a workout. Getting himself up and down the stairs to his first-floor flat was an extreme sport… He would certainly sleep well tonight, he thought.
Of course, after all those tests, the dentist finally told Dave exactly what Dave had told the dentist on his arrival, that his upper right rear bicuspid, which the dentist, he noticed, referred to only with a number, was split vertically in two and would probably require extraction. Notes were taken and entered onto a computer and another appointment was made for a date mercifully a few weeks into the future.
This would give Dave a few weeks to screw up his courage to actually keep the appointment; he knew he would have to do it; this tooth had already caused an infection which, though it had abated now somewhat, had been extremely painful; and which Dave knew would return unless the tooth was removed. Oh yes! He’d have to do it, even if it meant facing needles and having the extraction done while he was still conscious…
He hadn’t minded being operated on five times already as the orthopedic surgeon rebuilt his foot; he had been unconscious for those and felt no pain; but this was different! The dentist had already squashed his pitiful plea for a general anesthetic just as, with effortless grace and perfect timing, his assistant had flashed him one of her most gorgeous smiles; and he was irrevocably doomed to an extraction under a local anesthetic. He knew from personal experience that as long as one was conscious, there was always the potential to feel pain, in spite of local anaesthetics, which he never entirely trusted; and Dave had never been fond of needles…
When his foot had been crushed and dislocated in his recent motorcycle accident, he had actually laughed and joked with some of the witnesses to help him to ignore the agony of his severely crushed and dislocated foot, until the ambulance man came to relieve him with his merciful nitrous-oxide lollipop; but when it came to facing dentists, Dave’s courage failed him and he confessed himself a coward.
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No, the reason Loose-Lipped Loreen had earned her nickname had nothing to do with her gossiping or her inability to keep a secret; it had to do with other uses to which that particular pair of organs might be put; if one were lucky enough; or unlucky enough; depending on one’s viewpoint and life-circumstances; for Loreen was, to put it kindly, a terrible flirt. She most especially could not help competing with other women whenever it seemed as if one of them was about to ‘get off’ with a new boyfriend… or occasionally even, so it was rumored, a new girlfriend.
As it was her mystic duty to protect Paula from herself, Loreen had noticed, with alarm, her blossoming friendship with Swannee in the staff cafeteria (although Swannee himself remained blissfully unaware of it!) and had immediately realized how much harder her job would be if Paula were actually to fall in love. Even now she was hard to keep up with; and even now she required constant surveillance; Loreen now knew not only the location of every closet, but also every other possible hiding-place in the hospital. But, she asked herself, with mounting horror, if Paula were ‘absent-minded’ now, what would she be like if her mind were as distracted as it inevitably would be if she were to fall in love. Something serious had to be done, she realized; and done soon!
Underneath her nylon work-coat, Loreen wore her sexiest black lacy underwear; she undid the top couple of buttons so it showed an ample portion of her not inconsiderable cleavage. Paula would hate Swannee if she caught him looking at other women, she realized; so she would make sure he had something to look at. She had deliberately chosen her shortest work-coat; one which she had deliberately bought a couple of sizes too small for just such circumstances as these… and, although she realized that, were she to be reported to the union, she could lose her membership for violation of the Occupational Health and Safety code, over her black fishnet stockings and suspender-belt, she wore a pair of very sexy six-inch stiletto heels.
“The man,” she said to herself, as she checked her reflection in the mirror as she left for work, “…doesn’t stand a chance!”
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