© 2012 Aaron Atkinson

Off Cue

Early last year, Laura cracked a molar chewing a Gardetto’s rye chip. The damage was so severe that she had to have her second root canal in as many years. This reminds me of the only tooth I’ve ever had the misfortune of breaking. I was in second grade and thanks to my newly grown two front teeth I was now gleefully whistling then I could wish you Merry Christmas. But this all changed one evening while playing pool in the neighbor girl’s basement. As misfortune would have it, I was just the wrong height, standing in just the wrong place, at just the wrong moment. Her errand cue ball jumped the lip of the table and ricocheted toward my head.

Time slowed as I flinched to dodge the hurdling projectile. And while I knew it hit me, I didn’t feel any pain so I breathed a sigh of relief that I’d suffered merely a glancing blow. But something was wrong. When I exhaled, a chalky white powder sailed passed my lips. I grabbed the ball, naively suspecting that it had chipped, but it was still solid and covered with the same powdering grit.

At that moment my tongue drifted to the front of my mouth to the place where moments before I’d felt the freshly formed tooth. I also happened to look up to see the horror in the face of my opponent. The mixture of shock and dread confirmed the worst. The bottom two thirds of my new front tooth had been pulverized.

I’ll never forget Mom’s reaction when I returned home. Her shoulders slumped and she sighed as she lamented the fact that the tooth had only been in place for a few weeks and that if only my accident had happened earlier it would have simply knocked out a disposable baby tooth. I shared her remorse but clearly recall thinking that this reaction was odd. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why she said it should have been a few weeks earlier instead of wishing, as I did, that it had never happened at all.

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