Dentist’s Appointment

William Wright

     
   

Three aspects of his appearance Henry noted as being unattractive while getting ready for work on Wednesday morning.

  1. The worry lines on his forehead, which were slowly developing from small creases into canyons deserving of their own national park.
  2. His love handles, which were becoming more pronounced since he stopped going to the gym.
  3. The small bald patch about one inch in diameter just above his left ear he had had since he was a child, which he had forgotten to tell his new hairdresser about the evening before, when she gave him the shortest haircut he had ever had.  

 

Four songs from his morning-mixtape he listened to on his way to work.

  1. Willie Nelson, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”
  2. Lou Reed, “Hangin’ Round.”
  3. The Manic Street Preachers, “Motorcycle Emptiness.”
  4. ABBA, “Take a Chance on Me.”

 

The four kinds of jobs Henry envisioned he would be doing once he graduated with his degree in communications.

  1. Publicity Manager.
  2. Accounts Executive.
  3. Marketing Specialist.
  4. Technical Writer (A last resort).

 

The job he accepted nine months after graduating.

  1. “Customer Service Accounts Executive” at a utility company.

 

The four things he claimed would bring about the fall of civilisation, while Christine, the woman who sat at the desk next to him, his closest friend, pretended to listen.

  1. Unfettered capitalism, including monopolies; specifically those held by utility companies like the one they worked for.
  2. The lack of communication skills that will be held by the generation currently being born as a result of a frighteningly high dependence upon technology.
  3. The reluctance of a certain section of society to accept scientific facts (such as those surrounding evolution, climate change, etc.) and the general anti-intellectualism that will dumb everybody down to the point where they can barely function.
  4. “Listicles,” and other substance-less forms of “entertainment.”

 

Three things Henry knew about Christine’s personal life.

  1. She and her husband had sex once every two weeks, and fought at least four times a week.
  2. When she was twelve, her father knocked her off her bicycle as he was driving to a bar on a Sunday afternoon. He had already finished a six pack at home. After he hit her, he got out of the car and checked it for dents and scratches before he acknowledged her, lying with a broken leg in the middle of the road. The car needed a new bumper.
  3. She didn’t feel love for her son until he was one year, six weeks, and fifteen days old. Every time her husband brought up the subject of their having more children, she said “maybe.” After eight years of hearing “maybe,” he had stopped asking.

 

Four things Christine knew about Henry’s personal life.

  1. He lived in a one bedroom apartment in the suburbs.
  2. He visited the care home his father lived in four times a week.
  3. The care home was just a mile from his apartment.
  4. He was thinking about trading in his car.

 

Six things Henry asked his father on his Wednesday night visit.

  1. How he was feeling.
  2. Whether he had eaten that day.
  3. What was happening on General Hospital.
  4. Whether the nurse had taken him for a walk today.
  5. Why he had refused to go on his walk.
  6. How he managed to get cigarettes.

 

Three items Henry had insisted his father use to personalise his room when he moved into the care home.

  1. A photo of Henry, his father, and his mother, a year before she died. She’s thirty-three in the photo, her hair is shoulder length, and she’s smiling at the camera. Henry’s Father is smiling too. Henry is only a year old and is staring at his mother while his father holds him in his arms.
  2. A painting his father had done shortly before Henry was born, of a vivid, abstract seascape, swirling and colourful. Upon close inspection, one could see the inexact brushstrokes that betrayed the uncertain hand of a man who was beginning to lose dexterity, the whole painting looked as though it was trembling, and Henry thought that was what made it truly magnificent. He hung it up in his father’s room to ward of despair and remind him of the beauty he spent his life creating. Even if it was as a hobby.
  3. The red chequered armchair, which, along with its long-gone matching sofa, was the first piece of furniture he and Henry’s mother had bought after they married. It was the chair in which Henry had been nursed, and in which his father sat every night after work, and all day during the retirement his condition forced him into.

 

Four things Henry discussed with his father that night.

  1. His fear that after four and a half years at his job, he was stuck.
  2. The way his body felt like it weighed a thousand tons, and he might crash through the floor to the basement below, every night when he walked through his apartment door and was greeted with silence.
  3. That, despite this heaviness, he couldn’t bring himself to open up to, or even call back the two girls he had brought back to his apartment in the last year.
  4. Whether it was a possibility this was a result of his father’s own inability to connect with others after mother’s death.

 

What his father had to say in reply to each subject.

  1. “I doubt it.”

 

The number of women within twenty five miles of his location Henry “Liked” on Tinder that night: 19

 

The number of people who liked him back: 2

 

The number of people he messaged: 0

 

The reason Henry didn’t go into work the following Wednesday: Attended his father’s funeral.

 

The reason he gave his boss for needing the day off: Dentist’s appointment.

 

The reason he gave Christine for needing the day off: Dentist’s appointment.

 

The Message he sent to Heather, who lived eight miles away from him, after getting home from the crematorium: “Hey.”

 

     
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William Wright was born in Leeds, England. His work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Printers Row, The Delmarva Review, The Rathalla Review and the Bangalore Review, among others, and he is a regular contributor at The Chicago Book Review. He currently lives in Chicago, Illinois.