A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Death And Dentists

Originally published: 10 July 2003

I have the world's most problem-free teeth - I've never had a filling, never had a cap, never had braces or plates or related dental accoutrement.

I've been to the dentist no more than five or six times in my life, and my teeth are strong enough to pull a 747 to Knysna and back.

You can understand, therefore, my trepidation whenever a visit to the dentist becomes a necessity, as it was for me on Tuesday.

I am firmly of the belief that the more dental work you have had on your teeth, the worse they become, as can be witnessed by the numerous people I know who have regular dental trauma and are in and out of the dentist chair more often than I have hot breakfasts.

No, hang on, that analogy doesn't work, since I've never had a hot breakfast in my life. But you catch the general drift.

An occupational hazard of smoking well over a thousand cigarettes a month is the coating of filthy tar it leaves on your teeth, and mine are no exception.

At the height of my dentist avoidance pattern my teeth look more frightening than those of an 18th century beggar, slumming it with stray cats, pestilence and plague in Paris in the winter.

In fact - you could use the tar scraped from my incisors alone to double-pave all the way to Beaufort West, and we haven't even started on my lungs yet.

My lungs are actually a national treasure - shortly to be listed on the JSE - being worth a small fortune to the Department of Roads, who are eagerly awaiting my demise.

But let's not get carried away. The point of all that was to illustrate the need to visit the dentist to have my teeth cleaned, having been defeated by the inefficiencies of Colgate Regular.

Since I very rarely visit the dentist I don't have one, and my sweet wife booked an appointment for me with a chappie who works just up the way, at a medical clinic.

As I climbed the stairs to Reception people coming down the stairs recoiled in horror at the black, nicotine-coated gash that was my mouth, and one small child - age unknown - tripped while looking at me, rolled down the stairs head first and broke her golden little neck.

It's not pretty folks, and it doesn't get any prettier.

Sitting waiting, flipping idly through a National Geographic dating back to 1983, I suddenly became aware that a small, balding, sprightly-looking chap with glasses perched on the end of his nose was fussing about near the counter, and then he called: "Hey, Mr T! This way please".

The Mr T bit instantly put me on guard - it's the sort of abbreviation you get from devil-may-care, affable, yet no-nonsense types, and those are the ones you have to be most careful of. But the horror was only beginning.

The inevitable dental assistant with warm, large bosoms was there, smiling sympathetically, as if I was a lamb to the slaughter, which I was.

Doc (as I called him, by way of insidious protest over the shortening of my name), peered into my mouth and actually sat back so fast he almost fell over, at the same time emitting a despairing, "it's all over" moan.

That's it - no sarky comment, no beating of the brow, no donning of the sackcloth or flaying of the back - just a long, hollow moan of despair, to accompany his rapidly-whitening face.

He turned around behind him and hit the Play button on a tape recorder, and the sweet strains of a series of Chopin Nocturnes filled the room.

You know you're in trouble when an obviously disturbed, unhappy-with-the-wife, middle-aged, short dentist, wearing a bowtie and playing Chopin and moaning long and low, leans towards you with blades spinning, smiles a strained smile, and tells you this is going to - in the proverbial sense of the word - hurt you a lot more than it is him.

Which is what the bastard actually told me. He hurriedly assured me that although that was true, he'd do his best to minimise the damage.

Then he forced open my mouth, plunged the instrument in and simultaneously hummed away to the Preludes which were just starting, while savaging my gums into submission.

He was actually going under the gums and scraping away at the supposed tartar build-up between the gum and the base of each tooth, and when he stuck his hook too far under one of them and my tongue leaped involuntarily to stop him, he switch off the cleaner and sat back, taking his glasses off.


Then he delivered a lecture on how the tongue is the most inquisitive organ of the body - the naughtiest, if you like - and impressed upon me the need to keep it under control.

I assured him that the tongue reflex was completely involuntary and he shook his head sadly at hearing that one for the millionth time, before handing me a mirror and telling me to keep a watch on my tongue with it.

I was so engrossed in concentration, trying to keep my unruly tongue out of the way, that my mouth began imperceptibly closing and the waves of disapproval swept over me again, not only from the dentist this time, but from the assistant as well, whose job it was to suction out the excess bone shards and blood from my mouth with a vacuum-like tube.

Her breasts were monuments in my mirror, expanding and contracting with ever-increasing magnificence as she got into her job.

They're a ploy, are the breasts of nubile young dental assistants - a ploy to take your mind off the carnage currently being wrought upon your mouth. And they were working fine, with a nip just about to escape the confines of an already-straining brassiere, until the hook spiked into the gap between my pre-molars, causing a squirt of blood to spray five feet into the air, soaking the now-heaving breasts of the assistant.

The Chopin was reaching a crescendo, the Doc was humming with Machiavellian Madness (seemingly unaffected by the rapidly-darkening floor, slippery with the blood of his victim), and the assistant was slowly and obscenely licking the sweat off her upper lip, as the sheer excitement of it all forced her to orgasm and the walls came down and all three of us were consumed in the fires of hell, with savage hounds ripping at our rotting, burnt flesh.

And the swines charged me 203 bucks for it. All I wanted was a fucking tooth clean.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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