“Rinse and Spit”

I like dealing with the older ones, she thought to herself. Those kids can be such a pain – constantly squirming in the chair, never staying still. Cleaning their teeth is a real nightmare. Still, it’s a good job, and I’m glad to have it. Dental hygiene was proving to be a real growth industry: it took very little to keep your teeth decent, but it seemed people had lost interest in even the smallest tasks. Well, go ahead, let ‘em rot – job security never looked so good.

“Say Martha, could you check on Mrs. Manning? Number ten, distal – crown strength.”

“Right away, doctor.”

The day usually moved by fairly quickly. Dr. Snyder had a large, thriving practice: four hygienists, two lab technicians, and forty-three clients, most of whom were his patients for at least ten years. All kinds, all ages, all sizes, and patients who practiced various degrees of home care. Mrs. Manning was one of the more diligent ones: other than the root canal on the upper right, she had excellent dental health. My teeth should look so good, Martha thought – more out of pride than envy, of course.

“Hi Celeste, long time no see. Guess your brushing and flossing is keeping us apart.”

“Huh? Oh, hi Martha – yes, I suppose so.”

Hmm. Seems Mrs. M. is a little off her game today.

“Are you okay, dear? You seem a little distracted.”

“Well . . . I’ve been thinking about what needs to be arranged for this year’s Fourth of July celebration. Ever since the Donovans moved to Pittsburgh, I’ve been at a loss of who else the town council might call on to organize the parade.”

Please don’t ask me – please, please, please, please, please . . .

“Any ideas? We’re a little more desperate this year: we need all the help we can get.”

“Have you ever met Tom and Jenny Wilkins? Young couple, came here about six months ago?”

“Wilkins, Wilkins . . . Geez, I thought I knew everyone in town.”

“They’re an amazing couple. He volunteers at the food pantry twice a week, and she’s a part-time nurses’ aide at the hospital. They might be overextended already, though …”


I was born on a Friday at 4:35 PM in Detroit, Michigan.  My mom seemed to know more of the details and circumstances of some of the other kids’ births.    I do remember asking Mom what if anything she remembered about the day I was born.  Nothing really came to mind.  “What about the time of day?  Was I born in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening?”  “I don’t really remember.”  Even seeing the time stated on the birth certificate, she said she still never would have even guessed it was at that time of day.

One of my earliest memories was brushing and combing Mom’s hair.  I guess I might have been four or five years old.  After the other kids had gone to school, she’d sit on the couch and had me sit on the top of the couch just behind her with a hairbrush.  She had some pretty thick black hair then – I think all I did was brush her hair from the front to the back of her head.  I don’t really remember talking with her at all – we might have, but I don’t remember.  I don’t know that I had any special feeling being with her brushing her hair then – but it was definitely one of the few times I ever had her all to myself, even if all I could do was stare at the back of her head.

Our house wasn’t all that big, especially with fourteen people living there.  The kitchen was maybe fifteen feet square (225 sq. ft.) – a good-sized kitchen.  The older brothers did a fairly extensive rehab of the joint in the mid 70’s or so – a nice update.  New cabinets, new sink, refrigerator moved from a corner to a wall.  If you pull up the house on Google Earth now, it’s just sad to see.  Maybe the pear and cherry trees are still in the back yard – it’s hard to tell.  Seven houses are left on the block – maybe half as many as there used to be.