This dentist was so vile and repulsive that everyone left his practice reeling, with a sense of having been violated in some unnameable way. You could never put your finger on why this was so. His hands were clean, the receptionist was polite. The whole place was painted antiseptic green, and the windows were painted septic yellow. There was no reason to suspect that this was anything other than an ordinary outlet of NHS dentistry.
But his fingers were huge, and they dug around with no respect for large teeth or small mouths or delicate palates. He twisted and tugged where he should have been careful, and he stuck needles and drills in as though they were quills and his patients were quivering, charging bulls. This dentist was a monster, but nobody had enough evidence to say so. They could only nurse their brutal extractions at home, and take painkillers by the dozen.
This dentist had inherited his profession from his father, who was a small, gentle man. He knew his son was not meant to be a dentist, but he had hoped he might grow into it. Teeth were deceptive; they might seem hard but inside they were very soft and sensitive. ‘Teeth are like daleks,’ he told his son, who liked Dr Who. His son nodded, but he could tell he hadn’t really taken it in. Some people instinctively understood teeth, and his son would never be one of those people, which was a pity.
Because the dentist didn’t really enjoy his work, he trailed a sense of gloom around him which was often mistaken for brute moodiness and was actually sadness. The day he simply put his drill down halfway through a very painful root canal and walked out of the practice was one of the happiest days that either he, or the root canal patient, had ever experienced.
Where did he go? To his father’s retirement bungalow, of course; there he asked him what he should do with his life. His father said he had no idea, no idea at all. He could do whatever he wanted. He said he wished he had said this earlier, before his son had gone to very expensive schools to become a dentist, like him.
The big man started to cry. He still had his dentist’s apron on, which had blood on it, and this he took off so he could dash it onto the floor with his over-sized hands.
Now he runs a flower shop. A florist is not what he thought he would be, but it turned out his hands liked to be on the outside of beautiful plants, not inside mouths, and his fingers fluttered over the petals like butterflies.
‘The thing is,’ he explained to his father, ‘flowers might look very soft and sensitive, but they are actually very strong.’ He paused, thinking. ‘Like Dr Who,’ he added. The old man nodded. He understood.