Cleaning, Part 3

“I sth-see it all the time, bright-faced boys and girls devolving into sth-sullen young teens-th.” Dr. Jasper sounded more concerned than annoyed. “But those teens, I can tell by their body language — ” he pointed with his left index finger at the corner of his left eye — “the look in their eyes-sth — that they don’t want to talk. They feel they have nothing to sth-say, or if they do, they have no de-sth-sire to tell their dentis-sth.”

He leaned over The Bird and lowered his left hand, the fingers tapping her right shoulder. “But your eyes-sth — there is life in them. They are looking for someone who can be trusted, a pers-sth-on who will lis-sth-en to the words of her mouth.” He stood upright, his head deftly missing contact with the overhead lamp. “Sth-o, tell me — issth there something you want to tell me?”

I guess so, said The Bird, hesitating like a child about to dive into a cold pool.

“Isth something wrong with you?” The Bird shook her head. “Your mother?” Another shake. Dr. Jasper widened his eyes. “Would it be sth-omething that I already know?”

The Bird opened her mouth, but caught the words before she could speak them. Dr. Jasper blinked, then glanced quickly over to the peroxide hygienist, who promptly excused herself and left the room. As the door closed behind her, Dr. Jasper turned, leaned his rear against the side of the dental chair on which The Bird reclined, and turned to look down at her.

His smile seemed paternal, it seemed to The Bird, which, as the thought came to her, seemed somewhat odd, seeing as how she had never been the recipient of a truly paternal smile, having never met her nameless father. She wondered whether she could instinctively trust such a look. Dr. Jasper had always been nice to her, of course — but she was about to stop being his patient.


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