Carol Smallwood

A Delayed Appointment

The cleaning, overdue because of Covid-19, began with a mouth rinse “to kill the germs” from a paper cup with drawings of the steps in teeth cleaning—the progression circling the cup ending with polishing. The cartoons were smiling tooth faces with roots except one under a water spray with a mouth like the painting, “The Scream”, and equally frightening jack-o’-lantern eyes. 

The hygienist sudden blocking the bright overhead lamp dazed my eyes and the darkness startled—black, inky, bottomless blackness—with a sinking sensation of Dorothy’s tornado ride I was being shook, shoved off steps to the sidewalk. Since the bruises were mostly not visible when dressed, I’d dismissed such falls because a husband’s words were worse.

No, best not to go back—I was free now, and must just concentrate on the conversation down the hall: soothing after sheltering in place, the ping pong of voices made things the way they should be, back to what was being coined, “the new normal”.

The trees tossing outside didn’t help settle my stomach as the television reported domestic abuse cases were spiking during the pandemic. For an hour it was scraping, rinsing: the hygienist had a fragile Dresden china look but her pick brought the taste of blood. My light coat felt good even if it was hot outside. I tried to imagine where I could go after the dentist took a look—of walking to my car parked in the sun where an assistant had come to take my temperature. Everything would be fine once I left.

Carol Smallwood, MLS, MA, Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, is a literary reader, judge, interviewer; her 13th poetry collection is Thread, Form, and Other Enclosures (Main Street Rag, 2020)