I have rotten teeth. Which is nothing new. I remember being about ten-years-old when I returned home from the dentist, who worked out of his home just a few blocks away from my house.
“I have seven cavities,” I told my mom.
“What?” My mother placed both hands on her hips. “That’s from all that candy you eat!”
She was right, at least partially.
The next time I had a checkup, I needed even more fillings, which left my mother exasperated. “Well then, I’m not paying for any more Novocain! It’s seven dollars a shot! If you’re going to keep ruining your teeth, you can have those fillings drilled without it.”
Now you might think my mother was bluffing, but she wasn’t. Never again did she fork over money for anesthesia.
Today, I realize my terrible teeth aren’t all my fault.
“I just lost another tooth,” my 97-year-old mother complained recently. “I only have six left. These damned Irish teeth!”
Yep, it seems my ancestors from the Emerald Isle are noted for their bad teeth, since they are some of the least likely people in Europe to brush and floss and visit the dentist on a regular basis. Whether there’s a genetic component involved, I have no idea. But I feel I can at least partially blame my ancestry for the fact that I’ve put many dentists children through college and probably helped pay for a few vacation homes, as well.
All these years later, my teeth still suck. Just last week, I was sitting in a dentist’s chair, one half of my jaw propped open with a rubber brick while he excavated a 35-year-old root canal that had abscessed and needed to be gouged out of my jaw. Afterward, the dentist smiled and said, “This will hurt more than a regular root canal.”
I assured him that I’d be fine. But then the Novocain wore off and I started howling like a five-year-old with my hair on fire. If you’d walked up to my door and handed me some fentanyl you just bought in the street, I would have taken it instantly.
I stayed in bed, trying not to move, and kept thinking about other times my teeth were problematic. I admitted to myself that I once dated a guy because his brother was a dentist who treated me for free. (Try not to judge.) Another miserable time, I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled in one sitting. Then there was the time in Rochester, New York where I worked as a sportscaster for WROC-TV. I had just left the dentist’s office where I’d undergone an apico. If you’ve never experienced that sade-esq procedure, let me explain. It’s called a root-end resection, because instead of drilling through the top of one’s tooth, the dentist cuts back the gums, drills a hole in the jaw, and digs out the infection. Trust me, it’s as awful as it sounds.
Afterward, I went to the local pharmacy, mouth all pumped up with Novocain. Back then, dentists doled out pain pills like they were M&Ms, so I was waiting for my prescription when I realized I’d had no breakfast. I purchased a container of yogurt and went out on the grassy hillside next door to wait for my medication.
As I was eating, a woman walked by and did a doubletake. I smiled. She paused and nodded, but quickly departed. Then, it happened again. People would stare at me. Some smiled. Some didn’t. But, as I ate my yogurt, I was surprised that all these folks seemed to recognize me. It’s because I’m famous, I told myself. They see me on the news every night. As you can imagine, I was feeling rather jazzed. I hadn’t been in town that long and already the locals knew who I was.
But, when I approached the drugstore door, I realized I was wrong. I stood there, staring at my reflection in the glass. The lower half of my face was covered with yogurt. It dripped from my numbed-up jaw onto my shirt. I looked like a rabid animal, frothing at the mouth. Later that night, I anchored the news, even though I was on pain pills and appeared to have a golf ball lodged in my cheek.
All my life, perhaps understandably, I’ve been drawn to people who have perfect, straight white teeth, those who don’t need to have a dentist on speed dial or a trust fund to pay the subsequent bills.
Now, if you’re wondering if I still eat sweets, well, of course I do. Every day! All I can say is you pick your poison and I’ll pick mine.
The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.
February 2, 2022
In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
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