#AtoZChallenge April 27, 2018, X-ray, Please Pray
In X-ray, Please Pray, Xavier’s phobia of dentists isn’t the problem when a toothache forces him to visit the dentist office.
26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.
Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.
X-Ray, Please Pray
Xavier Alvarez sat in the dentist chair, sweating proverbial buckets. Or rather, he occupied the chair, because sitting implied relaxation, and he was as far away from relaxing as he was from Jupiter.
He’d been stupid to avoid scheduling an appointment, stupid to think his toothache would go away. Instead, he’d woken yesterday with his jaw so swollen he looked like a basset hound. Panicked, he’d solicited advice from Mickey Meadows, his golf buddy and Twilight, Arizona’s number one volunteer. He’d been lucky enough to get an appointment with Dr. Krassenstein for the following day.
“Now, Xavier,” the hygienist said, not asking permission to use his first name, “It says here you haven’t had a check-up in a year?”
Two years, but to admit the lapse would brand him as someone who didn’t care about oral hygiene, which he did. He just didn’t care about dentists.
“We’ll just take an x-ray before we start.” She patted him on the shoulder as if he’d sinned and she went through the motions of absolving him.
Xavier peeled his fingers from the chair arms and flexed the muscles.
Relax. Breathe. Yeah, right. He’d breathe the minute he stepped out of the door.
Was it his fault his dental insurance died when he’d retired two years earlier? Was it his fault his investments hadn’t performed the way he’d expected, and food and electricity trumped dental and medical fees?
He flexed his neck muscles on the pillow they’d put behind it, trying to find a more comfortable position.
“Here we are,” the hygienist said in a too cheery voice, like she presented him with a Publisher’s Clearing House check. “Now just open wide and we’ll have these X-rays over in no time.”
What was her idea of no time? Xavier counted thirty, one for each remaining tooth. Couldn’t they combine the X-rays? Two-for-one? The inside of his mouth hurt, not only from the infection but from Heidi the Hygienist shoving bits of film against his inner cheek.
“There we go, last one,” she chirped as she once again took refuge from the deadly rays. Did anyone care he’d been exposed? Sure, they covered his chest with a lead apron, but what about his brain?
Heidi patted him again and left, probably to build drama for when Dr. Krassenstein arrived, waving dental pics and performing miracles to justify exorbitant fees.
Why did I come? They’ll fix my tooth then they’ll want me back for cleanings, cavities, bridge work, extractions and thousands of dollars of work. That’s how they operate.
An eternity passed. He imagined Dr. Krassenstein sitting with his feet up, a coffee cup in one hand as he held up an X-Ray, pointed and laughed with his staff. They’d elect Xavier into the Bad Oral Hygiene Hall of Fame.
His chart scraped as someone lifted it from the holder on the back of the door. A moment later it opened and Dr. Krassenstein appeared looking like Tom Bosley from Happy Days, only bald.
“Good morning, Xavier. How are you today?”
Again with the over familiarity. Did no one have respect for their elders anymore?
“Bit of a sore jaw,” he said, his tongue probing the spot.
“Let’s have a look.”
Xavier opened his mouth wide and let a complete stranger paw through it.
“Hmm,” the doctor said, clicking his tools against his patient’s teeth. “Hmm.” He called out a bunch of incomprehensible numbers to Heidi, who scratched them onto his chart. “Good, now we’re done.”
This is it. He’ll tell me I have seventeen cavities and need six root canals.
“Well, Xavier, it looks like you have a nasty infection around your wisdom tooth. We can pull it and treat the sight with antibiotics.”
“A wisdom tooth at my age?” Hadn’t he had them pulled when he was younger?
“I’m surprised you still have it. We’ll pull the bad one today and make an appointment to remove the other one.” Dr. Krassenstein looked pleased as if someone had handed him a puppy.
Xavier waited for the other shoe to drop. “No cavities?”
“Just the one. Of course, we’ll have to schedule you for a cleaning, but your teeth are in good shape.”
Huh? He’d expected much worse—agony, a second mortgage, a part-time job bagging groceries. One less tooth was a fair trade-off.
“Let’s do it.”
* * *
The numbness wore off in a few hours, but Xavier played it safe and ate cottage cheese for his dinner. He’d tackle regular food the next day.
Sleep came slowly, his mind swirling with his idiocy. He’d delayed treatment. He’d blow his diagnosis out of proportion. For what? He’d trade one tooth and a heap of worry for thirty X-rays any day.
In the middle of the night he woke. Nothing had crashed to wake him. He didn’t have to go to the bathroom. . .
Damn, he’d forgotten to turn off the light over the stove.
Xavier swung his legs over the side of the bed and shrieked as he looked down at his feet.
He ran into the bathroom to look in the mirror and tore off his shirt.
His bones showed through his skin.
Xavier glowed in the dark.
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Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge, April 28, 2018 Your Card, Please
The Twilight Residents’ Association takes its exclusive privilege one step too far.
Until then, blessings,
p.s. Mickey Meadows appears in Meals on Wheelsby
Yikes … that is so creepy! Freaked out by this one. A beautifully written story … love how it weaves in the worry over lack of health care insurance, the fear of being sucked into a medial quick sand, and ends on a flourish.
Idling at Jawahar Kala Kendra
Glad you approve. I was going for the creepy element-glowing in the dark. Trope turned upside down.
Xavier sounds like a great character. Enjoyed the story.
If a trip to the dentist hadn’t already been scary…this story will make people boycott them altogether! 🙂 Great story!
Ashwini, thank you! I had fun writing this one!
I wish I could have explored more of Xavier, but that’s one of the drawbacks of writing such a short story.
Thanks for dropping by!
What a great story! It reminded me of my painful dental visits.
Oh, no! You need a new dentist. Just make sure he/she doesn’t take too many x-rays!