This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Friday, 12 October 2012


Bella had a toothache.

It was a wisdom tooth, sunk in the gum and trying its damnedest to burrow its way out through her cheek, and she had to have it taken out.

This, you understand, was a fearsome ordeal.

Now Bella wasn’t scared of dentists. That is to say, she wasn’t scared of the dentist who had treated her since she was a child, who had given her bubble gum after painting her teeth with fluoride gel and filling her teeth with white grainy cement. But that dentist had grown old, sold his practice and retired to a house by the sea. She’d only once met the new one, the one who had taken over the practice; he’d not been too frightening while he’d taken her X rays and discussed her treatment, but he had the reputation of being a butcher...

“I’ll go along with you,” her boyfriend said, kissing her. “You’ll be all right.”

The problem began in the waiting room. Until then Bella had been more or less calm and collected. But there, in the waiting room, she was sitting right opposite a man with an enormously swollen face. Worse, the man kept moaning constantly in a low monotone and kept one hand clapped to his cheek, while squinting at Bella furiously from the eye on the unswollen side. She wondered what she had done to him, and his moaning made something twist up tighter and tighter until she thought it would break.

“I’m sorry,” the receptionist announced brightly. “The doctor’s running about an hour late.”

“Let’s go for a drink,” said Bella’s boyfriend. “You’ll feel better. Conveniently, there was a bar in the same building as the dentist, so they went there and had a strong beer each. Bella was so nervous by then that she gulped hers right down, hardly tasting it at all.

“Let’s have one more,” Rick said. “We have time.”

Bella swallowed her second drink more slowly. The alcohol began working its way into her blood. “Let’s have a third,” she said recklessly. “Hell, let’s have a fourth. And a vodka to wash it down.”

“You sure?” asked her boyfriend.

“Lishen to you.” Bella tried to make her voice husky and succeeded not at all. “Yesh, I’m sure.” She finished her fourth beer, tipped the vodka down her throat, and meandered gently down the stairs and back to the dental clinic. The receptionist smiled brightly at them. 

“You’re next,” she said. “Just as soon as the gentleman comes out.” A moment later, the man with the swollen cheek emerged. He was moaning more than ever and both eyes were now glaring at Bella, but she was already being ushered inside.

“Right,” said the dentist, “we’ll soon have that tooth out.” He grinned reassuringly at Bella, somewhat in the manner of a lion tamer approaching a beast of uncertain temperament, and motioned her towards the dental chair. Both he and the assistant looked slightly baffled when she slid into the chair without a moment’s hesitation. The assistant put the apron on her and adjusted the chair. Bella smiled, the assistant smiled, the dentist smiled. Everything was going to be all right.

The dentist was so busy smiling reassuringly that the syringe of anaesthetic slipped from his fingers and impaled his leg.

“Ouch,” said the dentist, clapping his hand on the syringe, so that it was driven in to the needle boss, and lurching sideways into the assistant, who promptly dropped the tray of instruments she was carrying with a tremendous crash. She made a desperate reflexive effort to grab the tray on the way down and managed instead to knock the X-ray unit away. The unit went wheeling on its castors across the tiled floor and caromed into the sink, ricocheted off the angle of the wall and hit the dentist in the small of the back. He went sprawling, the X ray unit standing over him like a victorious hunter.

The assistant had fallen to her knees to gather up the instruments. She tried to raise her head too fast as the X-ray unit came zooming back, hit it on the bottom of the instrument console, and knocked herself cold. The suction apparatus came dislodged and fell on her, sucking at her neck like a toothless vampire.

The dentist began flopping around, trying to get up. He grabbed, without looking, the base of his operator’s stool, which was also on castors and much lighter than the X-ray unit. The stool spun round like a girl whose bottom has been pinched. The edge of the backrest knocked against the chair, pushing some unspecified button. With a soft, barely audible hum, the chair descended to floor level.

“Ish it over already?” asked Bella. Belching gently, she got off the chair and walked unsteadily to the waiting room.

“I had no problem,” she said to Rick, belching again and smiling beatifically. “No problem at all.” 

Copyright B Purkayastha 2009

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