I had intended to dial my dentist, Dr. Valentine, but in all the excitement I called Rodolpho Villafuerte by mistake. I should have hung up but I froze. Hanging up seemed rude, it seemed confusing. Rodolpho Villafuerte. How strange. We had been bunkmates at Camp Armstrong, estranged by decades but in constant proximity via modern technology. His number synced to my mobile via Facebook. Maybe it would be nice to check in? The phone rang on his end, summoning Rodolpho Villafuerte out of almost 20 years of unobjectionable silence.
Rodolpho was the kid who first introduced me to hand sanitizer. He carried a small bottle of the stuff on a string around his neck. He was constantly washing his hands. I remembered seeing him perched between two branches in a tree, sanitizing his hands before climbing back down, where he would re-sanitize them again. He squirted some onto my hands once before dinner in the mess hall. I remember the wave of cool that came over my hands as the stuff evaporated and moisturized my skin. That was Rodolpho. After two rings he picked up. I hastily recounted these memories, trying to speed the reminiscence along in light of all the bleeding.
"Yes." Rodolpho replied dryly, "I remember you." And he sighed heavily into the phone so that it sounded like an airplane landing in the earpiece, "But we both know that's not why you called." Then there was silence on the line. Maybe he expected my reply, but I was hypnotized by the molar in my blood-soaked hand.
"Because," he sighed again, "I've started getting calls from parasites like you on a daily basis. You people once ridiculed my sanitation preoccupation, but now that I've created the first moon powered cleansing magnet, you've come crawling from your caves to see if maybe I can send you a couple bars for free. You think that even though Pocket Dial retails for twelve hundred dollars a bar, Uncle Rodolpho probably has an entire pool house full of promos just waiting to be scattered among his flock of converted naysayers and name callers! Isn't that the idea? So go ahead, tell me what good pals we used to be!"
I'd never heard of Pocket Dial. I was getting dizzy. A crash and shattering glass could be heard in the living room. Sheila was still destroying things again. My mind was working at a panicked clip.
"Well, go on..." he continued, "you there old pal?" I tried to sort my words while he continued to prod me, "...You drunk or something?"
"I've just been clobbered with what I think was the handle of a plunger. It washed up in the Gowanus Canal and she knocked out a few of my teeth with it. I'm concerned there could be some horrible bacteria running around in my mouth. If I don't get it all cleaned up soon I could lose more teeth. My whole mouth might fall out. I'm reaching out to you as a friend, Rod, as an Armstrong Armadillo."
After arrangements had been made with Rodolpho I placed my molar in the toothbrush cup, removed my bloodstained clothes, and laid in the tub. I must have fallen asleep because when I opened my eyes Sheila was standing over me. Her eyes hollow and black, her hair wiry with tears in it. Her rage had subsided.
"What did Dr. Valentine say?"
"Dr. Valentine... Yea." It was hard to move my jaw. "Well... it's good news. He's sending me, um, magnets. It. Moon power. Kills bacteria."
Sheila tilted her head. It was so quiet in the bathroom. I glanced at the window. It was night time now. "You mean Pocket Dial? That breakthrough in sanitation technology from Johnson&Johnson? That's amazing stuff. You just keep it in your pocket and it kills unwelcome bacteria without needing water or anything."
I nodded. And she nodded.
"That's good news for your mouth." She spoke quietly, pushing my hair behind my ear with her pinky, "Too bad no amount of moon power can wash the blackness from your tired, feculent soul."
And she cried. And I cried. To this day I don't know why she was crying. But I know why I cried, I cried because the bitch was right.
Image: A Victim of Society by George Grosz