Friday, February 19, 2010

The Day of the Iguana

The Day of the Iguana

Earlier in the month during my regular check up Dr. Harry had discovered a tiny
cavity. For most people a tiny cavity is no big deal. However, when I am faced with dental work, any dental work, I become a blubbering baby. When the dentist points the needle toward my quivering mouth, I am reduced to mush, the result of a childhood dental nightmare. I will never forget my first trip to a dentist. He was a giant hovering over me with a foot long needle in his hand. “This won’t hurt a bit,” he said as he gave me a shot of Novocain. It hurt like hell. He had lied to me. He immediately began drilling my tooth, probably with a rusty drill, without waiting for the shot to take effect. This was agony. Trying to stop the drilling, I grabbed his arm. He hit me. He was furious. He screamed at me. I was sobbing. As I remember it, he strapped me into the chair and resumed drilling. I have never recovered from this experience.

I am not a coward. In fact, I would describe myself as brave. I have descended into a cave near Belt on a ramshackle homemade ladder and crawled on my belly through a narrow opening and along a ledge to reach a dome room back in the bowels of the mountain. Without a qualm, I have ascended high into the sky above the ocean with a rope umbilical cord loosely tied between my parasail and the powerboat sputtering along the coast of Mazatlan . I have even driven in downtown Chicago during rush hour.

Several years ago a dentist introduced me to the miracle of nitrous oxide. A whiff of the gas and I was taken to a land of no fear and no pain. I called it happy gas. On the basis of my trip home that day, I learned that I should not drive a car after nitrous oxide. Since then I always have a driver with me whenever I visit a dentist so I can inhale a hefty shot of nitrous and not have to negotiate the highways home. This time was to be no exception, I thought, so I asked a friend to drive me.

At eight o’clock in the morning I was leaning back in the dentist chair. With a smile on my face, I requested the good ol’ gas. “Oh, we don’t use that anymore. It is dangerous for the staff to be around nitrous all day, every day,” Dr. Harry said.

I was horrified. My mouth dried up. I could not speak. My eyes were huge with dismay. “There is an alternative,” he said. “Have you ever taken a sedative?” He explained that the sedative would relax me, but that I would not be able to drive home or operate any machinery for twenty four hours, not even my sewing machine.

I was relieved. I was ready. I had a driver. “Please,” I said. I swallowed the tiny pill. Oh, my. Almost immediately my arms and legs relaxed into a rubbery gumby-like state. I didn’t care what the dentist did next. Needless to say, I floated through the ordeal. Dr. Harry is my new hero. He even walked me out to the parking lot to counsel my driver about my care. My friend drove me home, walked me to my bedroom, pulled back the covers, ordered me into bed, placed a glass of water and the phone nearby, told me to call if I needed anything and left.

At four o’clock in the afternoon, I woke up. The phone rang several times while I slept. Mores the pity, I think that I answered it. But I have no idea who called. I have no idea what they said. And worse, I have no idea what I said.

I was hungry, and since I had been cautioned to eat only soft foods, I decided to eat a bowl of ice cream to keep up my strength. As I sat in my living room, eating the ice cream, I watched the trains roar by, east and west. I also saw an iguana go galumphing past my window. It was a quite large iguana, about the size of a Volkswagen bus, gray-green in color with largish eyes and a smile. I wondered what an iguana was doing in Harlem , Montana . When I returned the empty bowl to the kitchen, the iguana galumphed past the dining room windows. We smiled at one another. I was quite entranced.

I was still a little hungry. Nothing in the refrigerator appealed to me. I checked the freezer. Ah, rhubarb pie. That’s a soft food, isn’t it? I popped the pie into the oven and while it baked, I read two short stories and watched two eastbound freights and three westbound freights rumble past my house. And the iguana continued to pass my window, like the trains, east and west. I ate a slice of pie, definitely a soft food, with another scoop of ice cream. It occurred to me the iguana might also like rhubarb pie so I took the rest of the pie outside to give to the iguana. He was nowhere to be seen. I waited. I left the pie on the step.

I yawned and decided to go back to bed. As I turned, I saw the iguana once more. With a gleam in his eye, he winked at me and made a sort of bow in my direction. I waved, thinking he was quite charming. I climbed in bed, eased into sleep and dreamed that I was Elizabeth Taylor in Puerto Vallarta , playing the role of Alice in Wonderland, directed by a galumphing iguana. When I woke up in the morning the pie was gone, the plate licked clean, leaving only the reflection of a smile.

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