Root Canal

Martha sits in a cold room and thinks about the future. She stares at the floor, imploring its speckled tiles to tell her where she should end up, where she will go and how she will get there. She rubs her forefinger against her thumb, rests her hand on the back of her neck, nibbles at the inside of her lips until the flesh is rippled.

The door to the waiting room flings open, and Martha blinks, once. A man walks by, holding his jeans up by the belt buckle, and demands to see Dr. Nirakhov immediately.

“I demand to see Dr. Nirakhov immediately,” he says. “I demand a root canal right this moment.”

It occurs to Martha, who has been listening to this one-sided conversation, waiting for the man to quiet down so she can return to her thoughts, that few people actually know the purpose of and procedure for a root canal. She thinks about how she could have been the dental hygienist helping him ease into the banana-shaped chairs if she’d gone through with the plan she’d repeated, like it was her mantra, throughout high school. She remembers sneaking in to community college libraries after school to read textbooks on pharmacology and oral pathology and local anesthesia, and telling her mother she was at the outlet mall with her friends.

“Sir, if you could fill out this questionnaire and have a seat, we’ll be with you in just a moment,” the receptionist says. She hands him a clipboard and turns to her computer. He isn’t screaming, Martha thinks.

Martha’s been waiting in her seat with an issue of Home & Garden on her lap for fifteen minutes. She begins wiggling her right foot around, trying to see how far she can get it to twist without touching it. About halfway, she concludes. She looks at the speckles on the tile again, chartreuse and robin’s egg blue, and remembers to remember the issue at hand. She thanks her foot for the respite from the exhaustion all of this thinking is bringing her, and leans forward in her chair.

Published at Goon and Darling Do Flash Fiction on June 19, 2012.

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