Old Whitworth, a seventy-year-old dentist who should have retired a decade ago, endured in the practiced removal of ailing choppers. Yet his fees were a pittance in post-war years, offering irresistible rates – if you weren’t too particular about the origin of his dubious credentials.

Whitworth, white-haired, save for rounded bald spot, reddened by anger from a patient who didn’t pay! Since then, everyone paid before they graced his torturing chair?

“Two shillings for an extraction.” He would say, in a tone that defied his ethical teachings, “but only one shilling and sixpence … without anesthetic?” Some took the cheaper route, surviving to warn others of the ordeal, amongst sympathetic pub ears.

Whitworth, tamer of pain, with rusted pliers on calcium bite. He heaves upon uncared wisdom teeth, their term welcoming a sorry end. Grip rigid, clamp bending soft gums, as cursing yelps pierce the cold damp room. A single light bulb the only heat, except patient’s hot-bloodied anxiety. He yanks back and forth, the grip betraying his years, as another fractured precipice splinters from contaminated crags of white and brown. Decay is another battle.

A rinsed reprieve. Calming moments, before the onslaught continues. Whitworth composed, displaying his treasury of gold fillings to the bearer of pain. Vice-gripped, he scrapes a craggy wisdom tooth, and surreptitiously dabs medicinal swabs to spare agony. Not many taste the brandy – for one and six.

Whitworth lunges, pliers re-clamped. To and fro, up and down, aligning with victim’s high-pitch shrieks! Nerve tissues severed, gum walls oozing, blood spilling, victim coughing, and Whitworth must withdraw to permit another rinse. Pity, when he was close to seizing his volatile prey.

“It’s all in the wrist,” he explains to numb, self-invited guest, as they all are. Whitworth has no favorites, only deeds for payment.

The victim slouches deeper into the flattened leather chair, eying pliers that glisten from his own slime and spit. Crack …! Blood gushes, and Whitworth is quick to sense the moment, yanking to and fro, back and forth. Until finally, he holds the prize to relief-strewn eyes.

A wisdom tooth taken, no more to trouble, torment or chew, by old Whitworth.



John Barrett    

Educated in England, John is an immigrant to Canada. John has non-fiction articles, travel articles, fiction and poetry published in several local newspapers and anthologies. His short fiction has appeared in the Poetry Institute of Canada, Polar Expressions and Sentinel.

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