A Rotten Tooth


The Toothpuller by Jan Steen (www.mauritshuis.nl [Wikimedia Commons])

My tooth hurts, but I’m not going to be the first to step forward. I want to see if he knows what he’s doing first. If Vrouw van Rhyn wants to push her boy to the front, I’m not going to argue with her.

The butcher got the boy tied down quickly enough, but he’s taking his damn time over it. I’m not sure if he’s clumsy or drunk or if he’s just drawing it out for the sake of everyone watching. The brat’s wails have already drawn every child for miles around to gawp. They love the tears running down his cheeks. Now there’s blood running down his chin and their eyes are popping out of their heads.

Come on, you oaf, just get it out.

I feel sick.

Now he’s got the tooth out and he’s waving the tooth around as if it’s a trophy. Has the man no pity?

I should have just used a door and a string.

The boy’s hunched forward with his hand pressed to his mouth and his hose around his knees from all his flailing around. It was impressive, I’ll give him that. Especially the way he held the boy’s head still while he was flapping like a landed trout.

Now he’s asking who’s next. I really need this tooth out. I haven’t slept for three nights, but that boy’s cries have turned my tongue to wood and my feet into millstones.

Oh no, he’s seen the look on my face. He can tell at a glance when someone’s teeth hurt.

I try to back away but there are so many children behind me that I nearly fall over one of the little demons pushing me forward. They want to see my pain so they can laugh about it for the next week. The Toothpuller welcomes me like an inquisitor about to light the fire beneath my reformed feet.

I’m in the chair. I can still run.

No I can’t, my wrists are strapped down. He asks me to open my mouth with courtesy that is part of the performance. His fingers are prying my mouth open, pressing against that God-cursed tooth. I’m spasming with the pain but he’s got my head like a blacksmith holding a red-hot ploughshare he’s hammering. How can he be so strong?

Am I making a noise? I don’t even know.

Toothpulling hurts.

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Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

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