"You never use that name!" he said, sotto voce.
"Of course, of course," I apologized. "I'll be sure to use your fake name from here on out."
He told us that the place in which he was living was a particular type of hell. He had rented a 6 x 10 room in his friend's apartment and she kept the heat at 90 degrees. He boiled his dinner on the radiator. His landlady forbade him from walking about the apartment in his underwear and so he'd had to purchase a pair of pajamas, which was irritating to him. His landlady also didn't allow him to cook (his one true passion!) and so he was spending bundles of money on takeout meals. He was really sad.
So when he called not long thereafter, sounding sober and cheerful, we were pleased. He announced that he was headed back home, to us, but only briefly. He needed to stop in and fiddle with his possessions. Then he was off to California for a week.
He showed up. He'd gotten a haircut! He looked like a changed man. He launched into cooking with a new fervor. He was overjoyed to see the boys.
"So why are you off to California?" I asked.
"I need to see this dentist," he said. "This criminal dentist who needs to fix my tooth. He's a criminal! He's a Mexican! He's a criminal!"
Manny had visited a crooked dentist while he still lived in CA, and when he woke up from the ether with an aching jaw it was revealed that the dentist had pulled the wrong tooth. The dentist had pulled a perfectly healthy tooth and left the rotten one sitting there.
|Evil Dentist Quiz! Which one is the rotten tooth?|
Without tooth insurance, returning to Dr. Nasty-Pliers was the most affordable option. Because the man had pulled the wrong tooth, he'd make good by charging Manny only, say, $350 for pulling the correct tooth. And maybe a bunch more for the implant and a new tooth. So it was cheaper to fly to CA then to see a reliable dentist here in NY.
But Manny was all in a sweat and a dither about the dentist. He couldn't stop talking about him. Every time I came down for a glass of water he'd spring out, perseverating about the "evil dentist," who would surely devise something painful and criminal while he was under the gas.
"Dentists can cause people pain...on purpose!" he said. "Why, this man might do me real harm! Miss Jennifer! Miss Jennifer, do you hear what I am saying? This could be very bad. He might try to kill me."
"Don't go to him!" I counseled. "It's not worth the money saved. He sounds like a terrible man and a worse dentist. I know a nice dentist right here who could help you."
But his ticket was purchased and the hotel booked; no turning back. He asked me to show him how to record a voice memo on his iPhone so he could go into the dentist's office "wired" and record the evil criminal while he (Manny) was out cold. I squawked, "Testing, testing, I am an evil shady dentist!" into his phone and demonstrated how he might stuff it inside his shirt when inside the man's office. I'm sure this was ill-advised and would have gotten him whacked if discovered but I was trying to be helpful.
Then he packed a bag and headed out. He was planning to stay in NYC for the night and would board the plane the next day.
He never made that plane flight.