Class Reunion

    Clara sat quietly with her legs crossed in a room that was not only grey in color, but in personality as well. The fluorescent light hummed above her as she disinterestedly flipped through a People magazine from two months ago. She realized she had been subconsciously licking her teeth with her tongue all morning, and scratched a small amount of white gleaming crud off her front teeth. She wrinkled her nostril up in minor disgust and then wiped it off on the seat next to her. Clara normally might have been self conscious about it, but she was the only one in the room, except for the receptionist was clicking away feverishly behind a half wall to which the border was decorated with smiling cartoon teeth. There was also a plastic plant in the corner and to its right was a poster of a police officer holding a toothbrush that said, “Protect Your Smile! Use Crest!”

“Excuse me, Mrs.Fleming?”

“Oh, Ms.Fleming,” Clara corrected.

“I’m sorry, Ms.Fleming, the doctor will see you in a minute,” the receptionist called from behind her wall.

“I hope he’s gentle with the cavity search,” joked Clara. The receptionist furrowed her brow in an effort to try and decipher its meaning, to which Clara just waved her hand as if to say “don’t worry about it.” Clara had gone to the same dentist her entire life, but now that she had moved across state, she wasn’t yet settled in with figuring out new doctors, and her own dentist was her first attempt since moving into her own apartment. She flipped through the pages of People again, already recognizing the same pages from minutes earlier before she put it down on the table next to her again and looked at her watch. A moment passed, and then she heard the door to the receptionist’s office open and an out of view voice mumble something, followed by the door closing again.

“Okay Ms.Fleming, they’re ready for you.”

Clara strolled down the hallway walking around more upright than usual, checking out the little side rooms as she passed. In one, she noticed a wall with a number of plaques and certificates posted up on the wall. She then turned the corner and entered the main room with a large peach toned chair and metal tray set up in the middle of the room. She put her purse down on the floor and sat down, laid back in the chair and let out a heave. A young man who looked a few years younger than her, perhaps just out of college, came in adorned in a white coat and sat down on a stool next to her while putting a couple of freshly sanitized dental tools on the tray between them.

“Hi there Ms.Fleming, my name is Doug and I am the assistant to Dr.Walsh. He’ll be in in a few, I’m just going to get you started with a basic cleaning and then he will come in and you are scheduled for a tooth extraction.”

“Okay I guess, that sounds right to me, I don’t know, I might have a cavity, I’m not sure, it was kind of sore, but I guess you can take a look at it.” Clara said.

“Don’t worry, Dr.Walsh, if you haven’t met him, he’s a bit off beat, but is an excellent dentist.”

“Good good,” Clara sighed, “I’m not really worried though, just not used to having to go to a new dentist, you know.”

Doug laughed and nodded, “You are in good hands, just lay back and relax, and we’ll get started with the cleaning, then we will set you up to fix that cavity.”

Clara slid her shoulders down in the chair and closed her eyes. Doug took only a few minutes to clean Clara’s relatively healthy teeth before letting her know that Dr.Walsh was on his way in to start with the tooth extraction.  

“Dr.Walsh, the patient is ready,” Doug said while poking his head into Dr.Walsh’s office.

“Okay,” Walsh said, staring blankly at the wall, “let’s go take a look.” Walsh got up from behind his desk and followed Doug back down the hall into the exam room where Clara lay peacefully asleep.

Walsh pulled a white sterile mask over his mouth and nose and adjusted his glasses. “We are doing a removal of the upper left bicuspid today, correct?”

“Yes sir, do you need me for anything at the moment, doctor?”

“No, Doug,” smiled Walsh, “I should be fine, I will call you in a little bit.”

Doug nodded as he turned to leave. Walsh sat down and slid the stool up next to the patient.

“Well hello there, how are we today?”

“Oh I’m fine,” Clara responded.

Walsh’s eyes locked onto the girl’s face. He recognized her instantly, and within another second he knew from where. Clara Fleming, Rainier Valley High School, class of 1995. She had been a year behind him, but they shared a couple classes together. She was beautiful, not the typical cheerleader princess, but she had a lot of friends and usually some guy was mentioned in rumors with her. Walsh, on the other hand, was never confused for recognizable, except maybe by his teachers as an excellent pupil with a quiet demeanor. That quietness was really misinterpreted social awkwardness; he had had a hard time interacting with kids his own age, and unfortunately this rang true still when Clara became the subject of his late blooming, pubescent lust. The minor yet lingering interactions between them stuck to his mind like forgotten and dried gum to a shoe. He would make an attempt at joking, to which she would quietly and politely dismiss herself. Undaunted, he pursued her as his escort to his senior prom, to which she answered a reluctant yes, before later canceling due to “a family reunion she had forgotten about.”

Walsh, true to awkward form, still chose to go alone, only to find that Clara was now the date for another guy. He stood about ten yards from the entrance and watched Clara enter on her date’s arm and he felt the adrenaline begin to heighten as he anticipated a confrontation. Instead though, she simply walked by and shot him a momentary glare of disdain that may have been masking some guilt, and Walsh, struggling with a tearing feeling inside, couldn’t muster any audible words. After a moment, she was gone with her date, and his shoulders dropped to his side as his eyes went to the floor and he spent the rest of the dance on the side, staring at Clara as she seemingly oblivious to him went on to enjoy the prom.

“Something wrong, doctor?” Clara asked concerned.

“No…not at all…do I know you from somewhere?” Walsh faked wonderment.

Clara thought for a moment. “I don’t know…maybe? Haha, I’m not very good with names and faces. Have we met?”

“Oh…” Walsh trailed off, “I guess not.”

“Oh…okay.” Clara felt a little uncomfortable with the way Walsh was looking at her, so she diverted her eyes to the blank wall on the side of the room.

Walsh tried to shake off the memory as he refocused on the girl’s mouth, still slightly in shock of who this really was. He pulled the mask over her face, “Are you comfortable?” he mumbled.

“Yes, I am fine.”

“Okay,” he said, turning on the gas.

“Is this going to hurt? I’m not good with pain,” Clara winced.

Dr.Walsh stared at her for a moment motionless. “No…we try to keep pain…to a minimum.”

She smiled weakly as he turned on the gas. Waiting a moment, he watched as she peacefully relaxed and then fell asleep. Inside of him, he felt a pit growing. Trying to shake the feeling, he began scraping away at the enamel, pulling off bits of crud and wiping them on Clara’s bib, recleaning the tooth he was pulling. Subconsciously as he worked towards the gum he was pressing harder. He noticed his arm tense up as the image of Clara and her date walking by him resurfaced to the forefront of his memory, which was followed by a spasm in his wrist. He let out a giant sigh and stood up for a moment. He had cut her gums slightly with the hook, traces of blood now visible where the tooth met the pink. He wiped his forehead and took a deep breath, trying to push back the memories and see her as just a patient.

“Everything going okay Doctor?”

Doug’s inquiry broke Walsh’s concentration.

“Yes, um, of course Doug, thank you…I’ll call for you in a bit to help wrap things up.”

“You sure, Dr.Walsh? You look like your sweating a lot.”

“No…I mean, yes, it’s a little warm in here. Could you just lower the thermostat for me?”

Doug shrugged and walked over. It read 60. He raised his eyebrow and then just walked away, back down the hall.

Walsh turned back to the sedated patient while picking up a number 2 clamp and medium pliers to help him remove the tooth.

Walsh fastened the small clamp to her reddened gums right above the target tooth and shook his hand out to relax it. He latched the small pliers onto the bicuspid and started methodically twisting it back and forth in a circular motion. He felt the tooth begin to give, and then rocked it like a metronome motion to loosen it further. When a small breach of the tooth and gum was made, he took the hook and freed up a little more by poking away the nerves. He then began to tug a little harder on the tooth, taking a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow, and then began pulling downwards harder. Clara remained motionless and unfeeling. Dr.Walsh was having difficulty removing the tooth, but his eyes were now intensely locked on her face; it was driving him mad how unchanging it was, how little she felt. It had taken such a small amount of disregard for her to hurt him so deep, yet even now when the tables would look to be turned, her face was emotionless, almost seemingly holding the same disdain as it had years ago. With one final yank, the tooth popped out and he fluidly dropped it on the tray.

Dr.Walsh sat back and dabbed at his forehead with his sleeve. His arms and hands felt charged with dormant adrenaline, racing through his body to find an escape to no avail. He realized he was clutching the hook utensil tightly between his thumb and pointer finger intensely, and dropped it from his shaking hand on the tray. Finally, he took a couple deep breaths.

Doug reentered the room, “Dr.Walsh, are you okay? You look like you saw a ghost.”

“Yes Doug, I, I’m fine here, don’t worry about me.”

“Well you look like…”

“Doug, shut up…I’m fine…we, we’re all done here, in fact, if you want to just finish up with her, we should be all set and get her on her way,” Dr.Walsh stammered.

“Finish up? Don’t you usually do that?”


“Oh I almost forgot, she said before she thinks she has a cavity she wanted us to check out.”

Dr.Walsh glared at Doug for a moment dead-panned before removing his glasses and rubbing them with the bottom of his white overcoat.

“Dr.Walsh? Are you okay?”

“Yes…I’m fine. I’ll take a look.”

Doug wandered off again down the hall.

Walsh pulled up next to Clara again, still unconscious. He began to peer at her teeth, trying to detect which, if any, had a hole in it. He couldn’t understand why he was still shaking, why his nerves refused to relax. Her eyes were closed, but all Walsh saw was the searing blue cornias of neglect and disdain. He drew back for a moment and looked at her upper lip. It reminded him of Julia Mallon. Julia was the first girl Walsh had met at college. She came from a similar background and was kind and accepting of Walsh from the beginning. They would occasionally eat lunch together and talk about school and people in their dorm. She was pretty outgoing, the kind of girl who you could not imagine anyone getting mad at.

One night, Julia and Walsh went to a party in one of the neighboring dorms. When they arrived, there was a cooler full of blood red liquid sitting out on a table with cups next to it.

“What’s that?” Julia asked one of the boys standing next to it.

“Jungle juice…it’s a bunch of strong liquors mixed with water and kool-aid…you can’t even taste the alcohol, try it.”

Julia and Walsh both grabbed cups and decided to be adventurous. The boy was right, they couldn’t taste anything but a bounty of fruit and sweetness. Six cups later, both of them were inebriated and stumbled back across the courtyard to their hallway.

“That stuff was delicious,” slurred Julia, “Look at my teeth; they’re all red.”

Walsh laughed as he observed her tainted mouth. His attention was then drawn to her upper lip. It arched upward slightly and looked happy, inviting. He stepped forward, hesitated a moment, and then kissed her. She took a half step back, but received it. He waited a moment, then released and stepped back, looking for a sign of approval. Julia laughed politely, then there was silence for a few seconds before she sliced through it with, “I think I should go back to my room…I’ll see you around, Will.”

The next day, Julia called Will and said the kiss was just a mistake, and they should just be friends.

Walsh moved the hook up towards her nose. This lip was too familiar, too painful. The only girl he had ever kissed had rejected him with that very lip it seemed. And now it manifested itself on Clara’s face, mocking him. Walsh’s hands were trembling again as he looked up and around the room.

“Doug?” he called. “Doug, are you there?”

No answer. He must be at the other end of the office.

Walsh sat perfectly upright on the stool, his body calm except for the violent tremors in his hands, his right one clutching the silver hook. The lip was curved up slightly, calmly teasing at him still. Without thinking, his hand, the hook, advanced on her mouth as he made a quick tapping motion just below the middle of her nose, puncturing the skin and embedding the hook. For a split moment, he asked himself what he was doing, but the thought was quickly replaced by a sick joy of control he wasn’t used to which spurred a downward jerking motion with the hook, creating a red fissure that oozed blood between her nose and mouth, clean though to her bottom lip. Still, Clara laid motionless, unfazed. William felt his blood begin to boil and excitement at the same time, he was strangely comfortable with the medical procedures he was doing. I guess being a dentist is the life for me after all he thought. He then thought back to who this girl was, what evil she was capable of possessing; of Julia, and the pain she wittingly released upon him, pain that stayed buried in the recesses of his mind until this breaking point.

“Dr.Walsh,” Doug called from just around the corner. Walsh shot up and moved between the doorway and Clara’s face.

“What is it Doug? I’m trying to fix this.”

“Oh…I’m sorry,” he said poking his head around the corner. “Do you still want me to help you finish?”

“No, that’s not necessary. But if you could help me by going to get some of the plaster enamel from the storage closet, it’d be a great help,” Dr.Walsh requested.

Doug cocked his head, puzzled. “But I…I brought a whole thing of it up a few hours ago for Mrs.Brady?”

“No, I need the extra strong kind, make sure it has tetrahydroxide.”

“Oh…okay…yeah, I’ll be back in a couple minutes, I’m not sure exactly where it is in that mess,” laughed Doug.

Dr.Walsh smiled back half-heartedly at Doug as he turned and walked back down the hallway, whistling.

Walsh stared down at Clara’s face blankly. A small creek of blood was beginning to overflow its banks between her nose and lip. They had met face to face, talked, and still she had no idea who he was. He rolled the silver hook between his thumb and forefinger as his eyes welled up slightly. Slowly, he slid the side of the hook gracefully down her cheek, caressing it, then flipped it so the point faced the other way and did it again. She was beautiful, but it was a beauty he despised and couldn’t look at it anymore. Even with the cut, she was unmoved, almost unscathed, as if nothing he could do could hurt her. A tear started winding down his cheek as he lifted the hook up towards her eyelid, still dormant. He touched the point to her skin, just above the eyelashes so slightly the skin barely made an indent. Walsh’s hand was steady, but the rest of his body now was thriving with adrenaline; he could make her feel this pit he had forever with one flex of his wrist, a power he had never experienced. He could hear Doug closing the door down the hall; he would be coming back soon. Walsh looked back down at Clara, he could see her eyes moving behind the lids; she would be awake soon. His breathing had changed, it was now much more rapid and short.

Suddenly, his wrist jerked and he flung the hook over Clara to the floor on the other side of the room. No matter how much power he thought he had, he still felt helpless deep inside. He had never left the dance, all he could do was sit and stare.

Doug turned the corner, cans of enamel in hand, to see Dr.Walsh slumped on his stool, facing away from the patient, steadily bawling into his cupped hands.

View strumbles06's Full Portfolio