Cleaning, Part 1

“Dr. Jasper will be in in a moment.” The elderly woman with the peroxide hair and surgical gown the color of robin’s eggs waved her right hand at The Bird. The slender teen nodded silently in response as she sat in the dentist’s chair, an unlit lamp hovering above her head. A second later the hygienist left the room, leaving The Bird alone.

She was in the same room as usual — the anthropomorphic cartoons of animals having their teeth worked on were different (rabbits this time), as were the potted plants, but the cabinets and equipment were as familiar to her as her aunt’s bedroom. She had been coming to Dr. Jasper’s office at least twice a year since the age of six (Bark Bay not being a town large enough to support a pediatric dentist), and had walked past and at times accidentally into the two other examining rooms. Whether Dr. Jasper always saw children in this room (no, she had seen and heard children in other rooms), or was such a creature of habit that he always saw each patient in one room, or sensed that his patients (especially The Bird) would be put more at ease by familiar surroundings — or if what she was experiencing now was an unusual coincidence, or perhaps a faulty memory — The Bird did not know. But considering these possibilities was a form of entertainment for her.

As was the new word game she had invented. Her eyes scanned the room, searching for words. A sign, about the size of a bumper sticker, attached to a cabinet — Good TEETH Means Good HEALTH! She decided to play the game with the word teeth. Last letter h, eight. Two doubles, t and e, divide each pair to get two ones. Five letters in the word, five and one and one — that won’t work. Works with four letters, add the ones to get b, multiply by d, that gets you to h. To make the game fair she knew she’d have to decide on a rule and stick to it, it was either all the letters in the word or all letters except the end result, can’t change the rules at her convenience. E, that’s five, divide into t, gives you d. Two d‘s, and an e, could she make this work into h
The door opened, and Dr. Jasper stepped into the room, followed by the peroxide hygienist.

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