Big Billy – Say cheese

The way it usually works when I got somethin’ wrong with me is, I pretend everything’s fine, and Minnie gets on my case and hounds me about whatever’s wrong until I finally give up and see a doctor.

Like that time I zipped the top of my thumb off with the table saw. It’s just a little Big BIllyscratch, I said, while the blood shot out all over the curtains. It’s Minnie who found the chunk of skin and drove me, kickin’ and screamin’, to the hospital.

But what happened this time is, Minnie didn’t want to admit she mighta been part of the reason I hurt myself. She made lasagna, usin’ some recipe she got from Joan that she never used before, and anyway, when she put it out on the table for supper she said – Some of them noodles on top are right hard, so be careful chewin’.

Now, what she meant was, don’t choke on a hard piece of noodle. But what happened was, I shoved the lasagna into my face like I was Garfield and when I chomped down on it, one of my back teeth hit a hard piece of noodle. You’d never say it was possible, but I heard a thunk in my mouth and then a big jolt of pain up my jaw and I realized I cracked my back tooth right in half. I could feel a big chunk of my tooth sittin’ on my tongue.

Aaaarrrghhhhh! I said, Yellin’ and cursin’ through a mumbly mouth still full of food. I got to the sink and coughed over it for a while until the chunk of tooth I broke off clinked on a dirty plate.

I held it up and looked at it.

Are ya all right? Minnie said, rushin’ over, thinkin’ I choked. I told ya to watch the hard pieces!

I cracked my tooth right in half! I said to her, holdin’ up the rotten chunk.

Now here’s the moment of truth. For some reason, probably because she didn’t want to admit her cookin’ broke my tooth, Minnie decided right then and there – that’s not what happened.

No, she said, takin’ my tooth from me and throwin’ it in the garbage without lookin’ at it. That’s just a piece of hard noodle.

I could tell by the look on her face it was one of them things where she took her stance and decided to stick with it, even though she knew she was wrong. It’s a look I more or less mastered over the course of many arguments over the years.

Now, at the same time, I realized if I actually did split my tooth (which I definitely did), Minnie would be on me to get to a dentist and get it fixed. And let me tell you, buddy, the last place in the world I wanna go is to the dentist.

Yer right, I said. I musta just bit down on it funny.

And so began a whole week of constant, throbbing toothache pain that I pretended very hard not to have. Every time I opened my mouth for anything, the air would get in my mouth and hit the exposed nerves in my teeth and make me want to do a jig.

Because Minnie decided there was nothin’ wrong with my teeth and didn’t want to admit she was wrong, she didn’t find it unusual in the least that I stopped drinkin’ tea and eatin’ sandwiches, even though I usually turn sandwich-eatin’ into an Olympic sport.

Now before ya start feelin’ too bad for me, I should tell yis – my teeth ain’t exactly a pearly white row of baby grand piano keys. The truth is, if a toothbrush even touches my tongue, I start to kind of choke a bit, since I guess I got no gag reflex. So at some point, probably when I was growin’ up, I decided that since toothpaste usually tasted minty, instead of brushin’ my teeth I just had to make my breath smell minty. So for years, I’d eat a big chocolate peppermint patty every chance I got, all in the name of dental hygiene.

You can probably imagine, eatin’ chocolate instead of brushin’ your teeth probably doesn’t leave your mouth in the best shape. Instead of a row of pearly whites, my teeth look more like a row of headstones from a Halloween movie – juttin’ every which way and old and decayed-lookin’.

And you know one of the most annoying things about breakin’ off a chunk of your tooth like that? Sure, the pain hittin’ the nerve drives you crazy, but the other thing is, the sharp edge of what’s left of your tooth starts rubbin’ up against your tongue, so by the time a couple of days passed, I had this big canker on my tongue that hurt almost as much as the tooth itself did.

After about four days of me not eatin’ anything (and pretendin’ everything was fine) Minnie finally gave in and asked if somethin’ was botherin’ me. Maybe ya really did hurt a tooth the other day?

Of course I denied it up and down because I’d rather pull it out with plyers than go to a dentist. But when Minnie made me open my mouth so she could have a look, it was all over.

It looks like a bomb went off in there, she said. Which would have hurt my feelings on a normal day, but it also felt like a bomb went off in there. We gotta get you to a dentist, she said, and two days later I was sittin’ in the chair.

The dentist came at me with a big needle, and let me tell ya, the last thing you want to hear before you pass out is – “You’re going to feel a small prick in your mouth.”

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