Sometime in the 5th grade, a series of dental X-Rays revealed a rarity. It seems that a tooth of mine had rebelled against biological authority - it had decided that the simple life of mastication was not what it wanted. The tooth had became nomadic. It traveled to about 3/4 of a centimeter behind my front teeth, and it was about to emerge out of the roof of my mouth. The tooth had to be removed. Surgery was scheduled.

The procedure would be conducted by one Dr. Dean Harrington. The mere mention, the slightest whisper of this name can bring me or my siblings to our knees. He terrified us. I think I had one nightmare with him in it; he definitely haunted my sister's dreams. His hands... his hands were not the slender hands of an artist. They were the thick, beefy hands of a blacksmith, all thick and callused. He worked exclusively on kids, which was a bad career decision for a mean man with fingers the size of polish sausages.

I was led into the back room. I still remember the room - it's where all the drilling and pain took place. A large picture of the space shuttle on the wall (I always thought of the Challenger when I saw this) and the sick smell of nitrous oxide. I sat in the dentist's chair. Dr. Harrington slapped the gas mask on me and injected some Novocaine into my gums (the wrong place, jackass!). He then began to cut into the roof of my mouth.

I don't remember much of the procedure. It lasted two hours. There was lots of crying and lots of screaming. I distinctly remember Dr. Harrington yelling at me for screaming so loud that I scared off the rest of the customers.

When all was said and done, I walked out with stitches on the roof of my mouth, very groggy, tears in my eyes, desperately needing pain medication. I saw my dad arguing with Dr. Harrington. I found out later that the rogue tooth was never removed. It had been pushed up, very close to a sinus cavity. Had the tooth been pushed into the cavity, an infection would have resulted. The infection would have likely spread to my brain, and the chance of survival would have been 50/50.

I spent the next week eating pudding and bread and other soft foods, trying my damnedest not to let anything touch the stitches, and constantly washing out my mouth with saltwater. The pain eventually dulled, and the flesh mended itself. I didn't know if the tooth still needed to come out, and I hoped it wouldn't. I was alive, my body was in good working order with the exception of my mouth... it ain't broke, why fix it, right? Wrong. I was sent back.

But my parents were now finally listening to our horror stories of Dr. Harrington, about how he would tug (lightly) on our incisors and claim that he'd give us 'a bit of a fang', about how he was lucky that one of his fingers could fit in out mouths, about how flat-out horrible he was. I was moved to an oral surgeon. I remember someone inserting an IV into my arm, then my senses tuned to a dead channel. I woke up with a plastic container next to me; nine teeth were in it, including one severely misshapen piece of enamel and bone. The Wild One, I presumed. The other eight were molars that needed to come out anyway. The pain wasn't too bad. I dealt with it relatively well, sucking on tea bags this time around - the tannic acid did wonders.

Ever since that time, I become nauseated every time I smell nitrous oxide. In fact, I started smelling it while I wrote this node - the memory triggering some very bad sensory connections.

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