Fun With My New Head
Once upon a time I had a tooth ache. When I went to my dentist he gave me a prescription for antibiotics, another for pain meds. My tooth ache got no better, so I got a renewal on my prescriptions. The pain steadily worsened to the point where all I could do was lie in bed and suffer. I had been in equal pain only once before, with an earache. Then I was given opium which didn’t eliminate the pain, but put it at a distance, on the other side of the room. No such luck this time.
It was Saturday so I had to call my dentist at home. He met me at his office. He said he wasn’t going to give me another prescription, because I was likely to stay in bed until I died. He said I had an abscess, the leading cause of dental death during the last century. He said he would drive me to the hospital once I had dropped my car off home. On our way to University Hospital he stopped at a McDonald’s and bought me a vanilla milkshake. It was so good.
They took me in immediately at the E.R. I was on the table for over an hour and a half. When I came to in my room I discovered that I had left half of my teeth behind. They explained that they couldn’t tell for sure which were the source of the infection so they’d played it safe. Later, my dentist said he wished they had left more to attach my new dentures to.
My bad sister was visiting my good sister in town at the time and they came together to visit me. I was groggy, heavily medicated, but still in considerable pain. It was hard to talk, but I tried. I don’t know why it came to mind, but I told them a true story in which a very large woman who was helping me on a commission once told me that if I ever tried chocolate, I would never go back to vanilla again. To which, I just hemmed and hawed. She then asked what kind of woman I preferred. She was about the size of a Volkswagen. I said, “Skinny ones,” risking my life. We all laughed. My bad sister got a serious pucker on her face and asked, “How can you laugh when you’re in so much pain?”
“Because I have a choice, “I said.
Besides pulling teeth and feeding me antibiotics and pain killers, the doctors had run a tube from inside my upper right cheek up between my scalp and my skull through to a hole in the skin close to the top of my head. They had stitched it in place at both ends. They said this was to drain what was left of the abscess. My idea of an abscess from between what they described and the way it felt to me is that it was something like a five pound pimple inside my head. The idea persists to this day. I have never felt worse pain since.
I had a day’s bed rest before becoming antsy and feeling like doing a little moving around. My driving force was that I wanted a cigarette; that urge was getting stronger. On the second day I put on two gowns to cover myself and a pair of slippers. I made my way down to the Greene Street entrance and walked the half block to Fayette Street. There I sat on the edge of a lower flower planter and lit up.
What happened was a little unexpected, but not surprising. If I inhaled and then exhaled with my mouth and nose mostly closed, the smoke would go out through the tube near the top of my head. I have excellent peripheral vision and quickly learned to play my new little game. If I ignored the passers-by it was easy enough to witness the reactions of some when they noticed that there was smoke coming out of my head. I caught some double-takes and many outright stares. A few stopped to comment and I joined right into the playful spirit of the thing- straight-faced, of course.
If only my bad sister could have seen me then.
®Copyright 2014 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.