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I've written humor columns for a variety of magazines and once won a Florida Magazine Association award for them
It Was On Fire When He Capped It

by Stephen Morrill

"Here," Doc Skreecher said. "Look in this mirror."

I turned the hand-mirror until I could see myself. The bright bar of light from above the chair lit my mouth like there was a grand opening in progress.

" Nice visage," I said, although it came out more like "haah hihage," on account of all the heavy machinery Doc Skreecher had parked in my mouth. I held the mirror slightly to one side, trying to see my right profile. Who is this handsome devil, I thought to myself.

" Stop that," the dentist barked. "Look into your mouth. Look at that tooth."


I tore my eyes away from the gorgeous spectacle and peered into my mouth, an act I instantly regretted. Far in the back, looking more like Mount St. Helens after she blew her top, lay the remains of one of my molars. It, too, had blown a top.

" Waa hooh?" I was amazed. That looked like it should hurt. Then I noticed my tongue. Neither the doc, nor Nurse Ratchet had bothered to take their boots off before climbing in to reach the job site. My tongue was grey.

" Ahhhh," I cried. "Hung ih hrey!"

Skreecher took the mirror and put it behind him. "Now what we're going to do," he said, "is grind away some of this that's still broken. Then we'll build up what's left, using brass rods, and fit you for a crown."

Brass rods? I rolled my eyes to the right. Skreecher smiled. He had good teeth. Maybe I could just buy one of his.

I rolled left. Nurse Ratchet smiled happily. She had good teeth, too. They probably get dental benefits when they work here, I thought.

Doc and Nurse climbed back in, whistling while they worked, which I couldn't hear over the bone-splintering squeal of the drill. Dental drills must be specially tuned. Or maybe the new ones are almost silent, but dentists play tapes of old drills, just so you'll feel like you're getting your money's worth. I clenched my hands together and practiced isometric exercises.

After a while Doc Skreecher started mumbling under his breath. It seemed to be some primitive form of communication.

" Thamaturge extractor," he said. Nurse Ratchet handed him a tool.

" Ambivalence processor." Another tool.

" Semaphore variagator." This one looked like a tiny saber mounted sideways on a steel rod. I noticed that all the tools were stainless steel, had sharp edges or points, and had the oddly-curved shapes you see in movies about the Spanish Inquisition. My eyeballs were about out on stalks, trying to see what was going on.

Then Nurse Ratchet handed Doc Skreecher a tool. He took it without comment, banged away with it, and handed it back. She handed him another one. And another one.

Wait a minute here, I thought. Either she knows ahead of time what he's going to ask for, or he just uses whichever tool she gives him. I clenched my hands tighter and tried to turn one eyeball each way to watch both of them.

Doc Skreecher had his drill—obviously his personal favorite tool—going again. That was when I discovered an odd biological fact. Doctors and college professors would complicate this, so I'll make it simple.

You see, your nose-hole connects to your mouth-hole somewhere out of sight down your throat. I can prove this: once when I was younger and drank too much of the fruit of the cactus in a Mexican restaurant, I threw up and had a refried bean lodged in my sinuses for a week. At times like that, you grow to hate the smell of refried beans.

What I smelled now was smoke. The building's on fire, I thought. No, Doc Skreecher's drill is on fire. Then it hit me. My teeth were on fire. Right on cue, wisps of smoke began to drift out of my mouth and form a sort of halo around Doc Skreecher's head. This maniac and his sadistic sidekick were burning my mouth down and whistling while they worked.

" Har!" I shouted. "Hooh on har!"

Skreecher glanced up in annoyance. "Try to relax your tongue," he said.

Why should my tongue be relaxed, I thought; I mean, my entire body is only touching the chair at the top of my head and my heels.

" Har," I whimpered.

" Fire extinguisher," Skreecher snapped. Nurse Ratchet unfastened one from the wall, stuck the big plastic cone into my mouth, and hosed my tooth down with a long burst of carbon dioxide.

Later, she insisted that it wasn't smoke I was smelling.

" Teeth only smoke when we don't use this irrigator," she said, holding up a small garden hose. It was the only tool in the room that hadn't been in my mouth.

" Oh," I said. "That's good to know."

— end —



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