I haven’t managed to post for a couple of days because I have found a pain akin to childbirth. Dental pain. Good God, I ‘d rather cut my leg off below the knee with a rusty saw than endure another night of that. My teeth are in good condition, but I have two fillings in two lower molars on exactly opposite sides of my mouth because I have a thing for symmetry but also had a penchant in childhood for gobstoppers and toffees. Let me tell you sucking all day on a sweetie for years on end does not make for cavity free teeth.
Then there is the British dental system of the 1970s which followed the if-in-doubt-drill-it approach. But it is my dentist, a good old Aussie bloke who has caused the pain I find myself in today. A few years back he recommended root canal for my gobstopper filling even though it wasn’t causing me any problems at the time. Like a good dental patient I aquiesced. All in all the root canal was a relatively pain free procedure but it is the aftermath that has caused me to wish I had told my dentist at the time to Get behind me, Satan.
The tooth is now unstable and prone to inflammation. I have flare ups like this every now and then which are painful and debilitating and make me question the wisdom of a man who told me root canal was “best for the longevity of the tooth.” Right now I feel like ripping the bloomin’ thing out with a pair of pliers.
Anyhoo, I have missed reading everyone’s blogs and will catch up soon. I did feel well enough this evening, however to finish off my story for this week’s Search Engine Stories.
The prompt is It’s Good To See You.
My story is called Waiting For Snow.
I was waiting for so long after it was over for you to call and tell me you’d changed your mind, that you didn’t want to, couldn’t let me go. For years I waited – over seven million minutes – I figured it out once; but I never heard from you again.
Until today. Ten years later. Ten years after your mother said I was unacceptable wife material. I couldn’t believe how quickly you backed down once it became clear she would not give our engagement her approval. One minute I was the love of your life, the next minute I was persona non grata. I kept expecting you to collapse in a heap like a pile of old clothes because obviously your spine had been forcibly removed. But you remained upright, your mind so definitively changed it was like the past between us was non-existing.
There is something that feels like bleeding to be told you come from the wrong family, that you went to the wrong schools, that you are not quite right.
‘We don’t want their sort in the family,’ I heard your mother say at one of the luncheons she had when she was still tolerating me. By their sort she meant me and my mother.
My Mum is a little loopy, a little lop-sided, but she’s really not that bad. She has her ups and downs, it’s the depression, you see, but it’s not as if she’s going to take an axe to someone. It’s not as if she’s going to walk into a government building with live grenades in her pockets. She is as keen on keeping the status quo as the next person.
My mum is a survivor. ‘I’m like the tree growing from stone,’ she always says. It’s her favourite analogy. We saw it once – a tree growing right through stone. The tiniest crack in the footpath, right there in the middle of the city, and there it was – a real tree – thrusting up through stone and dust like a hand reaching for the light.
She refers to that tree every time I see her. My mother. She calls it the true green tree of hope. ‘To survive in such conditions gives hope to all of us,’ she says.
I couldn’t tell my mother you were gone for two years. Two whole years I lied to her. She would have blamed herself. She is depressed but she is not unaware of how others perceive her.
She loved you, you see. Really loved you. ‘The son I never had,’ she said. ‘The son you will never have again,’ I thought.
At night I used to dream of people crying, wailing for mercy. I didn’t know them but I recognised the colour of their tears. When I awoke I realised no one was crying but me.
And now you are here. Again.
It is a wedding. An old friend of both of us. You are sitting with a woman. She is your wife. She has an overly proprietary air when it comes to you, stemming from insecurity, I suspect. She sits there in her floral prints and sensible shoes, her lips pressed together as if she is trying to stop herself from calling out; while you lounge, long-limbed and lean, dressed in a well cut black suit that does little to disguise your natural ease and sensuality. Every woman in the room is watching you. We are all thinking the same thing :’ How did he end up with her?’ Our fascination with you and your wife draws us like a net.
Without even knowing her, I know who she is. Well bred, good family, excellent connections. No skeletons in her closet, no potential problems which could blow up in your family’s face except for her tendency to overeat when she is anxious and her regular interrogation of you regarding whether or not you are having an affair which arises from you coming home more than an hour after you’ve finished work. A lot can happen in an hour. She knows that as well as anybody.
Our eyes met across a crowded room. I’ve always wanted to say that. It is as corny an experience as you might think. Yet it is real. You came over to my table immediately where I was ensconced with all the maiden aunts, drowning in eau de toilette with a hint of lavender. You pulled me to my feet and kissed me just like it was yesterday. ‘It’s good to see you,’ you said with that knowing smile you have.
I can’t say it was good on my part. Seeing you again was like lodging a fish hook in my heart and using it to slowly rip out my aorta. What might have been and all that. How did you manage to capture my heart and hold on to it even when you left me? It is a sombre skill to have.
When you returned to your table your wife regarded me with suspicion. You took off your jacket and I saw the tattoo on your wrist – the one with my name on it. I wondered how you explained that one to her. I wondered why you had kept it.
For the rest of the evening I sat, listening to Aunt Maude complain about the fish course and the fact that the salad was wilted, bathed in the blue white glow from the ice sculpture. “Swans Entwined” it was called. I laughed when I found out. So did you. Our eyes met, slipping back into the secret way we used to have so easily it took me by surprise. For the rest of the evening we looked everywhere but at each other. I felt like a high school girl playing that hard to get game.
There was a sense of awareness between us. Of each other. Of the situation. I wondered how much I would have to push for you to cross the line. Or how little.
I thought about it. Pulling you into the rest room like some kind of pathetic, lovelorn wretch, but it was only appealing for a second.
One of the swan’s wings on the ice sculpture was melting. A chunk fell off and landed in the crystal basin the sculpture was sitting in. It was the size of a fist, the shape of a real heart, just lying there turning to cloudy water.
All of a sudden I had to leave. People were dancing. I could hear their heels tapping on the dancefloor like knuckles on windows. Waiting to see someone again can be like sitting at a window waiting for snow – the heaped snowflakes turn so quickly to water you might as well have been waiting for rain.
I held my breath as I walked into the dusk, clutching the handrail that led to the street like I was trembling and brittle. It was warm without the swans on ice and the look in your wife’s eyes. I walked along the darkened streets, suddenly sure-footed, abandoning traces of the past like footprints on grass, knowing I could tell my mother the truth immediately – that this time you were gone.
Sorry for that suffering! I’ve read that root canals can be very problematic. I haven’t had to face one yet, but I figure my day will come. And I’m not looking forward to it.
I’ve had more than my share of root canals, and when they go wrong, they REALLY go wrong. You have my total sympathy.
Waiting for Snow is MARVELOUS! How freeing it felt at the end when she left…closure can be so good.
Congrats on another fine piece. Hm, I guess I’d better finish mine now…
AHHH! Tooth pain! Oh I’m so sorry… I finally had one pulled in Dec due to a root canal gone bad. Hope you get it rectified soon!
I LOVE your piece – I’m going to have to use that prompt for odds and ends tonight… 😀
I’ve had several root canals, and knock on wood, I’ve never had a problem. Hope the pain goes away soon.
I absolutely love reading what you write. Why you not have a book of short stories published is beyond me.
I hope you have a fantastic weekend. My grandkids are visiting this weekend and I can’t wait.
When the man had an abscess and they recommended a root canal. He tried to talk them into pull it outright. They said it was “better” if he a tooth there. So he did it. Then the crown fell out, and it cracked and had all sorts of funkythings happen to it.
This time he made them pull it. Best decision ever.
argh!! I hate, hate, hate dental issues. My poor dear, how dreadful. It is so true that aching teeth are miserable like nothing else. Sending you lots of get well energy.
O.K. you’ve totally knocked my socks off with ‘Waiting for Snow’. This is stellar! I love the pacing, tone, language, phrasing, title, ending – all just perfect. There are too many wonderful lines to list them all, my top five are:
“…seven million minutes – I figured it out once…”
“I kept expecting you to collapse in a heap like a pile of old clothes because obviously your spine had been forcibly removed.”
“…thrusting up through stone and dust like a hand reaching for the light.”
“…the size of a fist, the shape of a real heart, just lying there turning to cloudy water.”
and of course “Waiting to see someone again can be like sitting at a window waiting for snow…”
and there are so many more…
Just brilliant – thanks for the great read!
Ahhh geez Selma, tooth trouble THE WORST!!! 😦
I am feeling your pain dear friend. So sorry to read this. I am about 3 years due for a dental appt. but after the last 3 ‘butchers’ I visited the fear is still too much to face.
Your story blew me away….it is fantastic. I’ve actually lived out this scene many years ago, with a man I loved with all my heart and soul. He ended up living out his life with Ms. Frumpy and oh soooo correct!!! I hope he’s dreaming of our times together…..I’m not, finally put that sadness behind me. You captured the emotions and tension perfectly. Well done S!!!
Do stop by when you can, you’ve been missed, hugs, G 🙂
Whisky works for me … it’s the only time apart from New Years Eve and Burns Night that I drink the stuff. You might say:
‘A Grouse a day keeps the dentist away’
I like your story, it’s easily relatable and I like that she decide to leave him behind, some things and people are best forgotten
good luck with your dental problem, Selma
Ouch! This story may just be as painful as your toothache!
And same with you, when I have a toothache, I just want to be shot in the head. And believe it or not, I have stuck a pair of pliers in my mouth before.
So sorry to hear of your dental pains. I agree – they are the worst, not quite as bad as having a baby but they do last longer.
Your story was fabulous! I think most of us have a lost love that we come in contact with from time to time. You expressed our feeling so well!
OH feel better!!!! I know all about dental pain. I have five crowns and I am white knuckling it through the cold sensitivity until the last possible second before ever undergoing root canal surgery. Hang in there!!!!! Ibuprofen!!!!
JASON – I hope that day won’t come for you any time soon. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Thanks so much for visiting.
KAREN – when root canals do go wrong it’s in a rather spectacular fashion, isn’t it? Can’t wait to read your story. I always look forward to your work!
TEXASBLU- it sounds like a TV reality show, doesn’t it? ‘When Root Canal Goes Bad.’ Sorry you had to go through that.
LINDA – I am so glad you haven’t had a bad experience with it. Gives me hope that maybe the dentist can sort this out for me. I really appreciate your positive feedback. Thank you so much!
KAYT – I am so glad you liked the story. In fact, I am delighted. It has made the misery of the last few days worthwhile. I really appreciate everything you have said!
GERALDINE – so sorry you had to go through a bit of a dental butchering. It really is the worst. I truly sympathise. I am blown away by the fact that this story is your story. I am sure he has never forgotten you. How could he? Wow. Talk about coincidence!
TRAVELRAT – you are a total character. I am laughing right now, mainly because I know it’s true and because my Mum often has a ‘wee dram’ purely for medicinal purposes. 😉
LISSA – thank you so much. You are a sweetie!
CHRIS – I thought about those pliers. I really did. Hahaha. You crack me up!
CRICKET – so nice to hear from you. I am so glad you liked the story.
PWADJ – I know all about the white knuckling.Not good. Oh yeah, thank god for Ibuprofen. A miracle drug!
Hi Selma, I’m sorry to hear about your pain and that’s the tooth
But it looks like once again great art has come from great pain because your story is fab. Literary fiction is what it is- with great characters, images, and emotional and psychosexual undercurrents. The ice sculptor swan scene was sensational – it was as if Somerset Maughm and Capote had collaborated with Flannery O’Connor and Katherine Mansfield -but with (a )contemporary voices.
first off just came from a bout of tooth pain myself,, so my dear i can totally relate…
and now on to that gorgeous story!!! selma my darling you have outdone yourself… a full range of emotion and told in such a way i could not tear my eyes away……
Ahhh.. I have written my response to your prompt.
And thank you for contacting Cricket for me – it seems I am not the only one, since she’s only had two responses all week? Weird, huh?
DAVID – ‘that’s the tooth.’ Boom boom. Love it. You know David, I have to tell you that I enjoy reading your reviews of my work and others so much. You often add an entirely new perspective to the pieces and your allusion to noted, published authors is not only complimentary but totally apt. I wanted to thank you for the obvious effort you put in. It means a lot!
PAISLEY – I am sorry you have had to endure tooth pain. In my case, Chinese water torture would have been preferable. LOL. Thank you for your kind critique. I vaue your opinion very highly.
TEXASBLU – I don’t know what’s happened. Maybe WordPress has gremlins in the system. I am going to paste your link over to Search Engine Stories if that’s OK. I am thrilled you are joining in.
OW! I hope the pain has gone and gone for good.
DAOINE – almost gone. Almost gone. Thank goodness for penicillin!
I am so behind on reading everyone’s stuff- prize giving and a wedding and next week looks no better.
So sorry about your tooth. God! It sounds horrible- I’ve never had a cavity but I believe I would opt for pulling, I mean how many teeth do we really need? Humans are so greedy. 🙂 Hope you’re better or on good drugs.
Your story is lovely. I second David’s assessment. Where is your short story collection? it’s all this damn talk about how they don’t sell- it’s a conspiracy. Yours would sell. In the meanwhile SEND THESE OUT!
I love the way the tension builds at the end. I felt it building fearing she would do the wrong thing, that he would say something to suck her back in. The end was such a relief. Very very nice.
LAURI – thank you so much for your support. It means the world to me. I really appreciate it!