"Oh! That Aching Tooth"

"Oh! That Aching Tooth"

by  Brenton Bauer

"That'll be 87 cents for two round-trip tickets from Toquerville to Cedar City, Gladys," stated Clara Kleinman as she tore two tickets from the Greyhound Bus voucher book.

Gladys unclipped her coin purse and upon opening it, deposited one quarter, two dimes, three nickels, and seventeen pennies on the counter. "There Clara! I think that's the right amount." She took the tickets and put them into her purse.

"Oh! Hurry up, Grandma!" Junie moaned as he held his hand on the side of his face. "When will the bus come? It better hurry. My tooth really hurts."

"Too bad we don't have a dentist closer than Cedar or St. George. Doc McIntire in Hurricane pulls 'em in an emergency, but he's away on the Arizona Strip doctorin' sheep herders," stated Clara.

"Kids always wait until an inopportune time for their emergencies," remarked Gladys. Taking Junie by his unoccupied hand, they went outside the small store and gas station to wait for the bus.

"Bus will be coming soon," said Clara as she hung the bright red flag in the post next to the pump-it-yourself gas pump.

As the morning breeze rippled the bright flag, Gladys thought out loud, "I hope Shirley will be all right until we return tonight. She's been awfully sick carrying that baby."

Junie was in too much pain to worry about his mother's condition. His dad was away driving his log truck to Los Angeles with lumber from Grandpa's sawmill this week. He had brought them to Toquerville to stay with Gladys and Andy while he was gone. It was Wednesday and he had developed a terrible toothache during the night. Nothing seemed to help. Hot water bottle. Nope! Aspirin. Nope! Hugs and kisses! Nope! Nothing helped. Having kept the family up most of the night, it was decided that Grandma would take him to Cedar to the family dentist.

Around eight o'clock in the morning Shirley called Dr. Graff. He said to bring in the little rascal as soon as she could and he would work him in his schedule.

Junie kept looking down the hill to the south end of town. All of a sudden he let out an enormous squeal. "It's here! It's here! I see it coming round the turn." They watched as the big blue and white bus make it's way past the old winery, the elementary school, and slowly stopped in front of the store.

The big swinging door opened and the bus driver said, "Welcome aboard. Do you have your tickets?"

Gladys handed the driver the tickets. He looked at them and then tore off part and returned the rest of the voucher stubs to her saying, "You'll need these to return tonight."

Junie had never before been on a bus. He had gone ahead of his grandmother sliding into the first empty seat. Scrambling across the seat he said, "I want the window, Grandma." Gladys sat down beside him.

The bus slowly started to pull back onto the road and stubbornly made its way past the old church, across the bridge, and on toward the big sand curve north of town that led to the main highway at Anderson's Ranch.

With the excitement wearing away, Junie remembered his tooth. Once again holding his face he began moaning as he placed his head on his grandmother's lap. The smooth rhythm and humming sound of the bus quickly put the small boy and his grandmother to sleep.

The bus made it's way through each small southern Utah town. Stopping to let passengers on and off. Pintura, Kanaraville, Hamiltons Fort and finally into Cedar City.

"Wake up Junie. We're here." Grandma gently nudged the small sleeping boy.

Opening his eyes slightly he exclaimed as he held his hand tightly against his face, "My tooth still hurts, Grandma."

"I know. It won't be long now, the dentist office is just up the street a block or so from the bus depot."

The bus stopped in front of the drug store and as the big door opened the driver announced, "Cedar City, twenty minute stop. Rest rooms through the door and to the left." A few people got off the bus besides Junie and his grandmother.

Walking to the corner they turned south along Main Street. A few doors from the corner was the Southwest Indian Souvenir Shop. Junie stopped to look at the wooden Indian standing by the door. He all but forgot about his hurting tooth as he looked into the big windows filled with bows and arrows, knives, Kachina dolls, and Indian headdresses made of brightly colored chicken and turkey feathers.

Grandma tugged at him until finally he followed her on up the street. Past Bullock's Drug, Cedar Hardware and Steven's Department Store. When they reached the Cedar Bank Building where Dr. Graff's office was located Gladys opened the doors. They stared into the darkness. Junie's eyes focused on the seemingly endless stairs that led up to the doctors' offices on the second floor. At first the steps were easy to climb, but each step became increasingly difficult for Gladys because of her heart condition.

They reached the landing and stopped to rest for a minute. The pair continued the climb. "Let's hurry, Grandma. My tooth really hurts now," said Junie as they reached the second floor landing.

Opening the office door, June saw the large waiting room filled with people. A lady at the desk asked, "May I help you? Do you have an appointment?" While grandma talked to the lady June found a chair and sat down.

Gladys sat next to the small boy saying, "It will be a few minutes before we can see the dentist." Finding a Saturday Evening Post magazine she began to read while waiting.

June watched the door that said Dr. Graff, Dentist on the glass window. The last time he had been in this office was when he and is dad had their tonsils out last spring. Dr. Broadbent had taken his out in his office and his dad had his out in the dentist chair. Boy, was his dad sick. Suddenly, The door opened and another lady dressed in white came out and called, "June, you're next. How is your dad? I suppose he's had no more trouble with his tonsils," she laughed.

The pair quickly got up and followed the nurse into a small white room. The room was filled with an odd array of strange objects June had never seen before. When his other tooth hurt his dad just tied a string around it and pulled it out. But it didn't hurt like this tooth.

A large weird looking chair stood in the middle of the room with arms extending high above toward the ceiling. Each arm had a strange apparatus attached making it look like a giant spider's leg. Next to the chair was a white porcelain sink with a small tube spouting water which circled the bowl until it exited through the small drain in the bottom. The whirling sound of the water made June extremely nervous.

Along the wall was a counter with bottles of different shapes and filled with several colors of liquid. One bottle caught his attention. The one filled with syringes and needles. The woman in white said, "June, get up into the chair." Junie quickly obeyed. "The doctor will be with you in a minute." She fastened a small gray bib around the boy's neck and then left them alone in the room.

Junie sat wondering what all of this strange looking stuff was used for. His sharp eyes moved from one object to another and then finally landed on the bottle. Just the sight of those piercing instruments flashed memories through his small mind. The hospital where Dr. Broadbent gave him shots of vitamin k to stop his nose bleeds. The window in the basement of Old Main where someone stored syringes. The second floor of the Police Station last summer where all the children who were entering kindergarten went to get their mumps, measles and small pox vaccinations. He remembered that small boy the nurse had held by the arm as she kept jabbing him over and over with one of those terrible things.

Just then, Junie was awakened from his thoughts by Dr. Graff's voice saying, "Well, lets see. What seems to be the trouble?" Before anyone could answer he continued, "What a fine looking boy we have here. Let's see how wide you can open your mouth." The doctor slid open one of those drawers shuffled, clinked, and moved around some metal instruments. Finding the right one with the long pointed prong, he turned once again to his young patient. "Which tooth hurts, Junie?"

Junie pointed his finger to the hurting tooth saying, "This one!"

Taking the instrument, the doctor probed the tooth in front, the tooth behind, and finally the aching tooth.

"Ah!!!!" That's the one," yelled Junie as he bit down on the instrument.

"Stop that, Junie," exclaimed Gladys. "Open your mouth!"

"That's OK. Kids do that all of the time," replied the dentist. "Now open wide again."

After examining the tooth he turned and said, "Mrs. Olds, it looks like your grandson has a big cavity. I'll have to take it out. It's in a baby molar and the roots are shallow. I think I had better deaden it first just to be safe."

Reaching into the cabinet he retrieved a small vile. Next, he went to that bottle and pulled out a needle and syringe. He screwed the two objects together. Sticking the needle into the vile he filled the chamber with a clear liquid.

"That should do!" he said out loud. "Open wide, again." Junie opened his mouth. The dentist then stuck some rolled white cotton under his tongue and along the outside of his teeth. He started to jab the gum with the sharp needle.

Junie flinched, holding tight to the arms of the chair. All of a sudden, the needle struck a nerve. Junie closed his mouth, biting as hard as he could.

The dentist screamed. Junie had bitten his finger.

Junie jumped down from the chair and ran toward the door screaming, "He's killing me! He's killing me! Help!" Escaping from the screaming mad man was the only thing on his mind.

Through the reception area, out the door, and down the stairs. He could hear Grandma yelling for him to stop and come back. Faster and faster the screaming boy ran. Down the steps, through the door, and out onto Main Street he ran.

"Junie! Ah, Junie! Come back here!" shouted Gladys as she navigated the steep stairs. She had to stop and take deep breaths for all this excitement was not good for her heart condition.

Upon reaching the sidewalk she looked up and down the street. Not seeing her young grandson anywhere she started walking toward Woolworth's. Not finding him in any of the stores she returned to the doctors' clinic door. She started walking back toward the bus station. Looking in the doorways of Stevens Department Store, Cedar Hardware, Bullocks Drug, and Sonoma's Dress Shop with no results. She had an idea. Quickly she started walking toward the one place he might be. As she got closer to the Indian Trading Company she heard soft sobbings. Seeing one shoe sticking out from behind the wooden Indian she found her tear-stained grandson.

She walked slowly toward him. "Junie." She said as she stopped and touched him on the head. He looked up at her with his tear stained face. "That wasn't a very nice thing you did to Dr. Graff, Junie."

"He wasn't very nice either. He was hurting me," responded the small boy.

"He was only trying to help your aching tooth quit hurting."

"But it still hurts grandma," replied the boy.

"I think we had better go back and see if he will fix your tooth. Don't you think so?"


Taking Junie by the hand she helped him to his feet. Together they started walking back toward the dentist office.

Pulling on his grandmothers arm Junie asked, "Grandma, if I'm good this time could I have a bow and arrow and a double decker strawberry and chocolate ice cream cone from the drug store?"

Grandma answered, "Maybe, an ice cream cone."


This history is copyrighted and is offered for personal use and research only.
It is not to be reprinted or used for commercial purposes without written permission.

Copyright 2000 by Brenton Bauer

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