DR. MACK by K. Uffelman
by K. Uffelman
“Hi there, Owen. How are we doing today? Do you want to sit in the big
The three year-old crossed his arms and began to wail, shaking his head
violently back and forth. It appeared that he might give himself whiplash.
Dr. Mack looked at the child’s mother and laughed nervously.
“Nobody loves a dentist!”
The mother didn’t return Dr. Mack’s smile, but she did try to cajole the
sobbing Owen into the chair.
“C’mon, honey, remember I said we could go to the toy store if you can be
good for Dr. Mack. I promise I won’t let him hurt you.”
It was always like this. Every work day he had to face them…child after
child that cried in his presence, begging not to be left alone with him.
Even when he was a kid himself, Benny Mack had a hard time getting along
with other children. He was socially awkward, a little too smart,
desperate for acceptance. And now, that familiar dislike was coupled with
terror. It really was too much to bear.
When he returned from lunch later that day (the sandwich made by his wife
eaten as slowly as possible in the fourth floor lounge), his assistant,
Mandy, patted him on the shoulder and said, “Only a few more Dr. Mack.
We’re almost done for the day.” Benny was embarrassed by how visible his
fear and loathing must be. But also grateful for Mandy’s understanding.
They were almost done. And then he would be on the bus and then he would
be home. Safe, at home.
“Darling, who did you see today? Did the twins come?” Benny’s wife, Evelyn,
sat across the table, pouring wine into his glass. She was still so
beautiful after all of these years, he thought. She looked up at him and
his stomach twisted slightly.
“Well, I saw Owen this morning for a check-up. You, know, the Pickerel’s
three year-old. And then Bonnie Habney to fill two cavities. Josie and
Maisie were in before lunchtime…they’re getting very tall. Maisie’s still
sucking her thumb and her mother wants me to prescribe a palatal crib. I
told her I think those devices are barbaric, but she read about them on
the internet and was quite insistent.”
“How’s little Owen doing? I haven’t seen him since he was a baby. Was he
“Yeah…I mean, he’s at that cute age, right?”
“Did he cry?”
“You know, only a little.”
Evelyn reached across the table and refilled Benny’s wine glass. Then she
put her hand on his forearm.
“I love how you take care of all those little children. I know some days
it’s probably hard work, but it makes me so happy to think of you
reassuring them, patting their little hands, giving them treats for being
Benny smiled back at Evelyn.
“I know it makes you happy, I know.”
His stomach twisted a little more.
“How was Bonnie Habney? She’s what, six now?”
“Well, she wasn’t very excited about getting her cavities filled. She
needs better dental hygiene. I think her parents let her eat candy until
bedtime and then she falls asleep without brushing her teeth. She’s a
little wild, actually.” Benny didn’t mention that Bonnie Habney had bitten
him. Bitten him hard. He’d had to interrupt his drilling and have Mandy dress
the wound on his hand. He’d almost walked out of the office, never to
return, but you can’t really leave a six year-old in the dentist’s chair
with a half-drilled-out tooth. And so he gulped down his terror and
returned to finish the job. He slid his bandaged hand under the table.
“She’s got those crazy curls, doesn’t she?” Evelyn smoothed her own hair
behind an ear, “She’s such a beautiful child. I wonder if she’d like to
take piano lessons. I should talk to Mrs. Habney and see if they’ve
thought about it.”
Benny knew that Evelyn would never talk to Mrs. Habney about lessons for
Bonnie. Benny and Evenly had met when they were both music majors in
college. Evelyn was a piano performance major and Benny played French horn
and planned to be a professional musician, his career in pediatric
dentistry the result of an unlikely detour. Evelyn was a piano teacher now
–– but she only took adult students. She played music for the
both of them, and for the both of them he spent his days with children.
“I think that would be great if you gave lessons to little Bonnie. You’d
have a good time with her, and music study would probably be a helpful
discipline.” Benny drained his wine glass, wondering if Bonnie would hate
him less as the husband of her piano teacher. If she saw him outside of
the dentist office, maybe she would be less inclined to attack him. Maybe
she would treat him like any other adult, instead of an ogre.
“Yes, you’re right – I’ll talk to Mrs. Habney. It could be fun.”
To be cont’d…