When my wife tells people I write books for children, two things happen. One, they look at me with an “Isn’t that cute?” look in their eyes. Two, my wife grips my hand because she knows what their follow-up question will be and she doesn’t want me running away.
But you can’t run away from a dentist’s chair.
I hate pain. More specifically, I hate the thought of pain. And that fear is what kept me away from dentists for longer than I’m willing to admit. But after years of badgering, I finally gave in to my wife and made an appointment. At the bottom of the paperwork was the question “How apprehensive are you about dental visits?” and I circled “Extremely” because they didn’t offer anything beyond that. After calling me in and sitting me down, the dentist picked up a sharp metal object, aimed it at my mouth, and started small talking to put me at ease. “So, what do you do for fun?”
“I write children’s books,” I said. D’oh!
He lowered the spear into my mouth. Poke! “Do you do your own illustrations?”
I shook my head as little as possible.
The assistant chimed in. “Do you have any children?”
“Uh-uh,” I said, my mouth wide open.
“What? You write books for children but you don’t have any children?”
“You know, I wrote a children’s book once,” the dentist said. Poke!
I tried my best to smile, but with a mouth full of rubber gloves, sharp metal, and a mini-dust buster, I’m sure the smile looked about as authentic as when I normally hear those words.
“It’s a cute little story about dental equipment,” he said.
“Ow,” I said. But he must’ve thought I said, “Oh?”
“Yep. The tools could talk to each other,” he continued.
“And it rhymed.”
“And my friend illustrated it.”
Tears formed at my eyes, which they obviously expected because I’d circled “Extremely” on my paperwork.
“If you want,” he said, jabbing the metal stick back and forth against my gums, “I can give you his e-mail. Maybe he can illustrate your book.”
“My book is for teens!” I wanted to yell. “It’s about suicide. How would he feel about illustrating that!” But I just sat there and listened and tried not to make him angry.
When I got home, my wife was so proud of me for going through with the check-up. “See,” she said, “I didn’t even need to hold your hand.”