Poetry: Fear of Flossing by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write on the theme “trying something new.” This week’s poem comes to us from Val Muller, author of the kidlit mystery series Corgi Capers. This poem may or may not have been written in the dentists’ waiting room.

Fear of Flossing

By Val Muller

It started with a play,
A simple one-act she read during grad school:
A full-grown woman, the anti-hero,
Seated in a dentist’s chair,
Revealing deep fears of mortality
Through a discussion of teeth.

The notable imagery:
Protagonist’s teeth disintegrating into powder,
The sands of time,
And some bizarre music.
“Oversimplified,” she decided, an astute grad student,
Well-qualified to criticize the play.
“Obtuse.
“I could write it better.
“No one in real life is that crazy,” she thought–
Smugly, smug like the young;
Life had not yet knocked her down a peg
Or seven.

Then:
Two babies who never slept.
Entire months–years?–of her life
Lost to the fog of sleep deprivation.
And clenching teeth.

The moment surreal, more so than the play.
No, not more so.
Just like in the play.
Flossing one night,
A *clink* in the sink.
A chip of a tooth.
Hysterical laughter.
Maniacal, almost.
“I thought I was awake,”
She mumbled to her husband.
“Turns out this is one of those dreams,
The ones where your teeth fall out. A lucid one.”

Her husband did not laugh.
He was not asleep.
Neither was she.
Life had knocked her down a peg.
She called the dentist.

Skip ahead: two kids later,
Three chipped teeth (mostly fillings, but still).
Sitting in the dentist chair
Like a middle-aged female protagonist,
Trying to explain her fear of flossing
To a bright-eyed hygienist.

“I associate flossing
With my teeth coming out,” she said.
“Doesn’t everyone have dreams
Where their teeth fall out,
Dreams that represent our
Powerlessness against time,
That sort of thing?”

“I don’t,” the hygienist said.
Then he called in the dentist
For a lesson on flossing
And its importance
And the fact that flossing
Had nothing to do
With the teeth that the babies cracked,
The teeth that would have plunked
Onto a plate, or into a pool,
Or down a shower drain,
If they hadn’t clinked in the sink.

“You need to floss,” the dentist said,
Sending her out the door
With threats of gum disease
And crowns
(But not diamonds or royalty).

So she programmed her alarm.
Every night it would ring,
And she would face her fear
And floss–
That was the plan.

The time came.
The alarm rang.
Two children inquired.
They wanted to floss, too,
Just like Mommy.

So up they went,
To the bathroom,
Past the clink sink.
The minty thread
passed between teeth–

Uneventfully.

She studied her eyes in the mirror,
Eyes wide with fear,
Fingers careful not to pull too hard,
But these teeth were not going anywhere.

“Lookameflossing,” a child crowed.
“Am I doing a good job?”

The woman maintained eye contact
With her own self in the mirror
As she replied.
“You are, my dear,” she said,
Proud of the start of her new habit,
Her new self.
“You’re doing a fantastic job.”

 

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

 

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