There was a sparkle in my smile so I went to my friend Derrick's to get it looked at. I didn't want cancer.
Derrick asked questions about the sparkle. How long had I experienced the sparkle? Did the sparkle hurt? If I had to guess, what did I think the cause of the sparkle was?
I thought he was jotting notes down in his notebook, but when he leaned over I could see it was only a crossword he'd cut out from the Sunday paper.
He asked if it was possible the sparkle was in my head.
I said, Yes, in a manner of speaking, it is in my head.
We laughed about this for a while.
Now let's see those pearly whites, Derrick said, cranking back the lever on the La-Z-Boy. You know baring one's teeth is a sign of submission in certain primates. Did you know that? You probably did.
He wasn't a licensed doctor, no diplomas on the walls. Medicine was more of a hobby for him. I invited him to play disc golf once, but he didn't understand the point. Some Saturdays, after shooting hoops in the park I'd stop in for a Snapple (his apartment was closer to the courts than mine), and he'd be finishing up with a patient, a mole removal or hysterectomy. I figured skin, uterus, kidneys, heart, teeth... it all falls under the same umbrella.
Derrick put on a pair of sunglasses. He pulled a pair of chopsticks out from a box of vegetarian noodles on the coffee table, swabbed them down with his shirttail, and clamped them around the tooth in question.
Open wide, he said, having already stuck the chopsticks in my mouth.
It's like a camera flash or beacon or something, he said.
I've never seen anything like it.
What am I supposed to do?
You could stop smiling, until it goes away.
How long will that take?
I don't know. I'm an accountant.
Derrick said he had some work to do. He wrote me a prescription for antibiotics and asked if I could let in his housekeeper next week. He was going out of town and he didn't trust her with the key. I told him I doubted I'd be in town, but I think he already knew this. The deep jungle beckoned... simian limbs raised high into the air, awaiting the return of their king.