“Why are you pulling faces?” Stella asked her husband.  “This tea’s too hot, it’s making my teeth hurt.”  “Well, it shouldn’t,” she replied, “it’s perfectly normal-temperature tea.”  Fred took a bite of toast and marmalade.  He winced as some of the sugary marmalade found sensitive spots in his mouth.  “If you’re going to poke at your teeth, couldn’t you go into the bathroom and do it there?  I want to finish breakfast and then I have to go out,” said Stella.  “One of your positive thinking thingies, I suppose,” said Fred.  “I’m in pain but you don’t care.”  “Not pain,” she replied, “just discomfort.”

“Have you looked in the mirror this morning?” asked Stella a few days later.  “Not specially,” said Fred.  “Well, if you do – when you do – you’ll see that one side of your face is fatter than the other.” “Do you think I’ve got mumps?” asked Fred.  “No, I think you need to see the dentist.”  “Well, make me an appointment, then.”  “Here’s your phone, Fred, you make the appointment.”  “I don’t know the number.”  Stella wrote on a piece of paper.  “There, you ring the dentist.”

“The dentist is fully booked for a fortnight,” said Fred later.  “I’m in agony.  Why didn’t you book me an appointment sooner?”  “Why didn’t you book an appointment sooner?  You’ll just have to hope things don’t get worse in the next two weeks,” said Stella.  “Well in the meantime we’ll have to have soft food, which I hate, and tepid tea, which I hate.”  Stella sighed inwardly knowing her husband would enjoy all the discomfort and inconvenience until he had had his teeth seen to, not to mention the complaints and suffering afterwards.

(A fortnight later).  “Good morning,” Eight Pentacles greeted Fred.  “Are you a new patient?”.  “No.”  “Name?”  “Fred” “Is that your given name or your family name?”  “The name is Fred.”  “Well, I don’t have a ‘Fred’ on the computer.  There’s a Fred de Vil.  Is that you?”  “Yes,” replied Fred tersely.  “Please fill in this form.”  “Why?”  “You haven’t been here for several years, and we need to know your current medical status.”  “Toothache.”  “And what else?  If you fill in the form it will help us give you the right treatment,” “No,” said Fred, folding his arms.

“Are you the dentist?” Fred asked the tall woman with the glasses when he was called in to a treatment room.  “Yes,” replied the Queen of Swords.  “You’re wearing pyjamas.  Dentists wear white coats.”  “We stopped wearing white coats quite a long time ago,” said the Queen.  “Now please sit here and I’ll tilt the chair backwards.  Why are you here?”  “To see the dentist,” said Fred.  “Yes, I know, but any particular reason?”  “Toothache.”  “Where?” “In my teeth,” accompanied by a look which added “you silly woman.”  “Open, please,” said the Queen.  “Hmmm, it’s a long time since you’ve seen a dentist.  I will check all your teeth and then we’ll see what needs to be done.”  Fred opened his mouth to protest but the Queen slipped the small mirror and a probe in and started her rounds.  The Queen tapped, prodded, probed and dictated strange words that sounded like “buckle” or “occlusal” (or was it “occluded”, or even “occult”??) to her assistant.

“Now we’ll do some X-rays.  I need to see your roots.”  “When are you going to stop the toothache?”  “When I’ve checked everything so I can see why you have toothache.  Open, please.”

“You can sit up now and rinse,” said the Queen “err, no you can’t leave yet.  Now, Mr de Vil, you need several fillings,” she tapped on each tooth in turn, “and the tooth that aches will probably have to come out.  You also seem to have quite bad gum disease.  What’s your cleaning routine?”  “My wife does the cleaning, and what has our household cleaning routine have to do with my teeth and my TOOTHACHE?”  “I mean your routine for cleaning your teeth.”  “Oh.  I don’t clean my teeth.  I don’t like the taste of mint.”  “Not all toothpaste tastes of mint.  We have some sample tubes in reception, and you can take a couple of those and see what suits.”  “I don’t clean my teeth.”  “Well then you will continue to have toothache and all your teeth will eventually fall out.  Book appointments for the treatment on the way out and you must also book an appointment with the hygienist.”  The Queen shooed her patient out and rolled her eyes at her dental assistant.  Then they both burst out laughing.

For the next several weeks Stella more or less frog-marched her husband to the dentist.  She sometimes waited for him and listened to his complaints on the way home.  “Don’t know why we’re bothering,” he said one day.  “She said all my teeth will fall out anyway.”  “Only if you don’t look after them,” replied Stella.  “Don’t you think it would be nice not to have sore gums and teeth?”  “No,” said Fred.  “I know where I am if my teeth hurt.  If I don’t have toothache any more there’ll be nothing to complain about.”  “I’m sure you’ll find something else,” thought Stella to herself.

(A few weeks later) “Good morning, Mr de Vil.  Or can I call you Fred?  I’m Five Swords and I’m the hygienist” She settled him into the chair, produced a probe and proceeded to poke the ends up into his gums.  At the same time, she called out numbers to the dental nurse.  “That’s a very deep pocket?” said Five Swords.  “o-a o-i?”  “An opening between the tooth and the gum.  If it gets any deper your tooth will fall out.  Do you use tepe’s?”  “o ah ee-ee’s?”  “These,” she replied.  “You put them heeeere and heeeere and heeere? and so on.  Clear out the gunk.”

Five Swords then came at Fred with a fearsome machine which made a horrible noise, spread water everywhere, and seemed to reach into parts of his teeth and mouth that he had been, up to now, unaware of.  “Now Fred:  I’m sure this is all very uncomfortable and nobody’s blaming you for not looking after your teeth.  But you’ve had lot of treatment recently and it would be a pity to let it all go. By not looking after your teeth.  Now, I’m just going to polish your …..”  Fred breathed in and swallowed water the wrong way.  He sat up abruptly then coughed and spluttered for several minutes. Then he left the chair and stumped out into Reception.  “Finished?” asked Stella.  “Fred, come back!  I haven’t polished your teeth,” came the sing-song voice from the treatment room.

Fred planted his feet and folded his arms across his chest.  He addressed his wife, the Receptionist and everyone else.  “I’m tired of you patronising me, Miss Hygienist.  I’m not five years old you know.  And you are not going to polish anything.  I like my yellow teeth.  Other people may have blindingly white teeth but not me.”  He turned and glared at the Hygienist and then turned back to the people in Reception.  “Pay the bill, Stella, and let’s get out of here.  I wouldn’t know myself if I had white teeth.We de Vils have always had square yellow teeth.”

(c)  Lucy Voss

January 2022

Categories: Tarot Tales


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