A month ago I woke up with a small gremlin squatting on my face. He had a hammer and chisel and he was using them, to great effect, on my lower-right wisdom tooth. It hurt. A lot. So naturally, I did what any trained-in-the-harsh-world-of-treeplanting macho-man would do: I sucked it up for about three seconds and then desperately rifled through my my medicine shelf, looking for something - anything - with which to poison the little bugger.

Antifungal cream? Nope. Baby-butt lotion? Nope. Then I found it - some sort of nasty, over-priced and long-since-expired pharmacological coctail containing more chemicals than its makers cared to admit. I gulped a few tablets down and went in to work, temporarily relieved.

At first, I figured I'd just do what I had always done whenever that gremlin showed up - suck it up and keep smiling. After all, six years ago - the last time I'd been to a dentist - I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed my wisdom teeth out... something about impaction and sideways growth and massive decay and blah, blah, blah. I wasn't about to go back in and hear more Teeth People with their perfect, white, artificially-straightened teeth cluck their tongues and tell me I was a few plaque-layers over my limit.

Partway through the day, however, that gremlin brought some friends, so I called a dentist and got an appointment for the next morning. After he looked at my x-rays and clucked his tongue over my six-year's negligence, he set up an appointment with a surgeon four weeks hence. First, though, I had to have a consultation. After a short wait in the oral surgeon's Official People-Magazine Area, the door burst open and Dr. Punchfacekevitch* stepped through.

He was a tall, broad man, with reddish hair and thick facial features. His lab coat was open at the front, and underneath it his green scrubs were stretched wide to accommodate a substantial girth. The overall effect was that of a small-town, Soviet-bloc butcher, and neither his accent nor his handshake belied this. "Chello, Mr. Barkey, I am Dr. Punchfacekevitch," he said, extending one of the meatiest hands I had ever seen, "step dis fay, please."

He led me into a back room, where he sat me down in what looked like a typical dentist's chair - if a bit more plush. I think the thick padding was supposed to distract from the fact that the thing had wrist straps on it. Once out of earshot of the nurses, Dr. Punchfacekevitch dropped all pretense of friendliness, turning first to a sheaf of papers, then back to me to sign off on a sheet of paper explaining I had been warned that this surgery could, in fact, cause me to drool uncontrollably for the rest of my life. He continued to explain the procedure as he turned back to the counter and started making notes. I wanted to lighten the mood.

"So," I asked, "I can't tell from your accent... where are you from?"

The pen-scratching stopped. There was a loaded, heavy pause.

"Europe," he said at last.

Europe? Europe!?! Great, I thought, I finally get around to oral surgery and end up with some guy who probably used to extract teeth from political dissenters - most likely against their will - for some undisclosed European dictator. The guy probably used to go by "the Butcher of Helsinki," or something like that. I was undoubtedly going to wake up from surgery in a dumpster somewhere, with an excruciating pain in my back and a few inexpert stitches over where my kidneys used to be.

Fortunately, the pain-gremlins went elsewhere after our consultation, so I was able to put it out of mind for a while. I even started to wonder if perhaps all this hub-bub was even necessary. Then, two weeks later, the gremlins were back, with even more of their stabbing, hammering, sawing cronies. I drugged myself into something resembling work-competence and went back to teaching, resigning myself to the fact that I was going to have to go through with this, after all.

Yesterday, I dropped my son off with his mother and popped the two Valium tablets the Butcher had given me "to make all those anxieties go away." When I got to his office, I was happy as a jaybird. They strapped me into a chair and put some sort of gas tube over my nose. I imagined it made me look like some sort of space-pig, which was of course the funniest thing in the world. I started to smile really, really wide. I wanted to share my hilarious observation, but if there was anyone else in the room, I could not manage to focus on them. They stuck me with a needle. Normally, I hate needles, but this one felt kind of cute.

And then, just like that, it was over. I was coming out of it - once again (sort of) coherent.

Surprisingly enough, I was still in that chair. No dumpsters in sight. I was, however, extremely annoyed to find myself strapped down, and to discover that the unrelentingly cruel nurse-lady wouldn't let me get up until I was "conscious," whatever that was supposed to mean. Was it my fault they'd slathered my eyelids with concrete whilst I was out? Besides, every time I closed my eyes, I had the most wonderful dreams.

I was really starting to panic and flail about when, at long last, they deemed me fit to travel. So the nurse and my father shouldered me out of the chair and back to the car, where I insisted on getting in all by myself. On the way home, I tried repeatedly to get my dad to pull over to let me puke, but he kept assuring me that since I hadn't eaten for twelve hours beforehand - and since I had apparently vomited all over the nurse while under the influence (so that's why she was being so vindictive about those arm-straps) - then it just wasn't possible for me to throw up. I suggested he would perhaps like to try me on that. I guess that reminded him of previous such threats I had made and carried out when I was a precocious little boy, because he at last pulled over so I could spend a few moments leaning on him and the car, dry-heaving.

When we got home, I remembered that I had promised to write something about the experience while still under the influence of narcotics, but the problem was that I couldn't keep my eyes open. My dad kept insisting I wasn't allowed to go to bed until after I woke up, so every couple of minutes for the next five hours, he and my little brother kept interrupting my phantasmagorical dream sequences to ask rude and intrusive questions about my state of consciousness. All this time - mouth full of bloody gauze - I was communicating requests to my dad via pen and paper, and it was driving me batty how he couldn't read something as simple as "blkfbrries with yhargt, plllls,"  so a blog post seemed unlikely.

This was, of course, immensely annoying. My friend Austin had been picking on me the night before about how un-funny and incoherent my blog posts have (apparently) been becoming, so I'd had every intention of getting on here and writing the funniest, most incoherent thing he'd ever read. Instead, I sat still and focused on my bleeding.

This morning I feel a lot better, but the drugs are gone and I'm so tired, the fight's gone out of me. I'll get you next time, Austin, next time...


*Not his real name. Although, as this story indicates, I'm not even sure his real name is his real name.


  1. Auht A says: Hilarious in a downer kind of way. You did a good job of describing the incoherence of gobbledegook. Nice. Cute, and other non-threatening words that my creative writing prof would X out and put, "Never use 'nice' and 'cute' in creative writing: sounds like drivel!"
    You, however, did well under the circumstances (most of which are pill-induced.)


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