Rosalyn hated the dentist. Although, that having been said, she had yet to meet someone who loved the dentist. Because of this, she hadn’t been to the dentist in a while. Actually, it had more to do with the fact that she didn’t have a proper job that provided things like dental benefits. But she hadn’t been in a long time and her parents had decreed that she needed to go at least once in two years. They offered to pay. So Rosalyn made a dentist appointment.
The receptionist at her dentist’s office was extremely enthusiastic. She was way too happy about dentistry. She was way too happy for eight o’clock in the morning. She was way too happy to see Rosalyn. She was happier to see Rosalyn than anyone had ever been in the entirety of Rosalyn’s life, with the possible exception of her birth. The receptionist was named Martha and she offered coffee to Rosalyn three separate times.
“Aren’t you not supposed to drink coffee?” Rosalyn returned. “Don’t four out of five dentists recommend that you don’t drink coffee?”
Martha didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Would you like some coffee?” She asked for a fourth time.
Rosalyn’s dental hygienist was a very kind woman named Amelia. She was just as nice as Martha. Rosalyn couldn’t even begin to fathom how these women were managing to be so happy at work so early in the morning. She couldn’t even muster a smile at the beginning of her noon shifts at the sports store. Then again, maybe it was down to the fact that these women had careers and she worked retail shifts at a place that sold snowshoes and nipple guards alike. Although, Amelia spent her work days with her hands in other people’s mouths and her face really close to the faces of strangers and Rosalyn wasn’t sure that was much better.
Amelia was chatty. Fortunately, she wasn’t the kind of dental hygienist that asked long and involved questions while your mouth was wide open and she was scraping plaque off your molars. She just talked a lot. She never stopped. The entire appointment became a running diatribe of Amelia’s life. She talked about her husband, her husband’s job as an engineer, their two children, and their pet dog Marley. She was a golden retriever. Amelia needn’t have bothered telling Rosalyn that since there had been about a fifty per cent chance that her golden retriever was named Marley.
At one point, Amelia began talking about her brother-in-law Dave. She thought he and Rosalyn would make a nice couple. Rosalyn wondered what precisely she was basing this conclusion on since Rosalyn hadn’t contributed to the conversation in roughly thirty minutes. According to Amelia, Dave was a great guy. He was an actuary and he had a motorcycle, all the qualities Rosalyn looked for in a life partner. Amelia literally said the words “what else could you want?” The answer to that was a resounding much, much more. She managed to keep that to herself, though it was difficult, even with four of Amelia’s finger in her mouth.
Eventually Rosalyn’s actual dentist came to see her. His named was genuinely Dr. Teeth and he was barmy as hell. He was roughly a billion years old, he always looked just a little bit rumpled, like he’d just been gently roused from bed and reminded to take his pills, and he sincerely didn’t understand any of the jokes people made about the Muppets. He had once told Rosalyn that he had become a dentist because his name didn’t give him a choice in the matter and when Rosalyn had responded by saying that he could’ve been the keyboard-playing band leader of The Electric Mayhem, he’d had no idea what she was talking about.
Dr. Teeth poked at some of her teeth, felt her glands, which was her very least favourite part of any dental appointment, and then pronounced that she would need to return to get two cavities filled. It made sense; she hadn’t been to the dentist in forever. At the same time however, she couldn’t help but feel that he would do well to work on his bedside manner. Then he left and Amelia immediately returned to talking about her brother-in-law Dave and his motorcycle. Rosalyn had the words “if you like him so much, why don’t you marry him?” on the tip of her tongue, but Amelia literally had most of her hand at the tip of Rosalyn’s tongue so she didn’t say anything at all.
When Rosalyn returned two weeks later, Martha was just as excited to see her as she had been the first time.
“Would you like some coffee?” Martha offered, grinning at Rosalyn like a lunatic. It took great restraint for Rosalyn to decline politely.
After sitting in the waiting room for about ten minutes and being offered coffee another three times, Rosalyn was ushered into one of the rooms by a dental assistant. Her name was Jennifer and she was just as delighted about Rosalyn’s general existence as both Amelia and Martha were. The dentist doing Rosalyn’s fillings was not Dr. Teeth, but rather Dr. Teeth’s son, who had joined the clinic with the intention to take it over when his father retired. Rosalyn assumed that would happen at literally any second, given Dr. Teeth’s extreme age. He was basically older than time itself.
Dr. Teeth’s son, Baby Teeth as Rosalyn liked to think of him, was very handsome. Rosalyn noticed he didn’t have a wedding ring and wondered why Amelia hadn’t tried to set her up with him instead. He was clearly much better than Dave, the motorcycle-riding actuarial. Baby Teeth was a handsome doctor. In her mind, Rosalyn was envisioning Dave as the human representation of an ogre on a motorcycle, doing complex math about car insurance rates.
Baby Teeth tipped her back in the chair and then applied the numbing gel to the back of her cheeks before he put in the needle to freeze her entire lower jaw. Jennifer rambled the entire time to Baby Teeth about Christmas and how she was going to buy her husband some slippers and an electric blanket. Jennifer was a young woman. Rosalyn wondered if she had married an elderly invalid. But then, as she was thinking about that, she felt the need to swallow. And then she panicked that she wouldn’t be able to breathe if she accidentally swallowed some of the numbing gel. Then she had an entire inner monologue about it.
“Don’t panic, Rosalyn,” she said to herself in her mind. “Your esophagus and trachea are two separate things. You’ll still be able to breathe even if your esophagus collapses on itself and you can never eat again. You’ll just have to get a feeding tube put in for the rest of your life. No, it’ll probably wear off. Baby Teeth would’ve mentioned otherwise. Baby Teeth would never do that to you. Baby Teeth is a doctor.”
Baby Teeth stuck Rosalyn’s cheek with what felt like forty-five needles. Then Jennifer unceremoniously shoved a dental dam in Rosalyn’s mouth and Baby Teeth went to town. Jennifer continued to talk about her husband’s Christmas gift, but then she also added that she was concerned he was going to get her something ugly again. Last year, he had bought her a white vase with a red glass pattern that looked like blood splatter. Jennifer had given it away and pretended she’d lost it when they moved to their new townhouse in the spring. Rosalyn listened to the whole conversation as Baby Teeth drilled at her molars, all the time wondering if it was normal to know so much about the people who worked at your dental clinic. She knew more about Jennifer and Amelia at this point than she knew about some of her friends.
When Baby Teeth finished, he hung back to talk to her about not eating right away and the importance of flossing. He even went so far as to ask her about her life. It was unfortunate timing because Rosalyn’s entire bottom jaw and tongue were frozen and she was having trouble speaking. She was also pretty sure that she was drooling.
When she got home, Tallulah was sitting on the couch in the living room, drinking tea from a mug that declared her “too tired for your shit” and watching K-Pop music videos.
“How was Dr. Teeth and the rest of the Electric Mayhems?” Tallulah asked as Rosalyn sat down to join her.
“Well, I had his son Baby Teeth today,” Rosalyn replied. “He’s very good-looking, but unless he happened to find the inside of my mouth particularly alluring, I’m not sure we quite managed to have a love connection.”
“Well, you never know,” Tallulah returned. “Maybe you’ll end up Mrs. Baby Teeth.”
There was a slight pause in the conversation.
“Janice,” Rosalyn said at the same time Tallulah said “Animal”.
“You know, both are fairly accurate,” Rosalyn conceded, thinking it over for a moment.
“So Floyd then,” Tallulah said and Rosalyn wasn’t sure she was as upset about that as she should’ve been.