This is a short excerpt from the first middle grade novel I ever wrote.
Most people don't enjoy going to see the dentist, me included. Hence, this mystery's "spooky" setting at a dentist's office.
Bad for Your Teeth still remains to be the longest piece of writing I have ever produced.
In blood red letters, the door said, Dr. Xander Sharp, D.D.S. I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. Most people probably didn’t see it, but I saw what those three letters really stood for. It was a taunt, a dare to the unsuspecting.
D.D.S. Deadly Dr. Sharp.
It was out there in the open. So clear. So obvious.
The back of my right hand itched like crazy, like it always did when I got nervous. I scratched and scratched.
“Jase, stop that.”
I turned to Mom’s voice. She and Grandpa stood behind me in the hallway outside the dentist’s office. They didn’t really expect me to open that door and step inside, did they?
Mom said, “It’s only a check-up, honey. Dr. Sharp just needs to see how your teeth are. If you’ve been brushing and flossing your teeth as often as I tell you to, the appointment should be nothing but smiles.”
“Dana, if he brushed and flossed as often as you tell him to,” said Grandpa, “he wouldn’t have any time to breathe.”
Mom ran her fingers through her thick, black hair. “I just don’t want his teeth to end up like yours.”
Grandpa has got to hate going to the dentist more than anyone I know, because he let his real teeth fall out of his head a long time ago, and now he has to wear fake teeth called dentures all the time. Well, he doesn’t wear them when he sleeps, I guess. At night, he keeps his slimy, little smile in a glass of water by his alarm clock.
Grandpa rolled his wise, gray eyes. “Oh, dentures aren’t anything to be ashamed of at my age.”
“But Jase is eleven,” argued Mom.
“You have a point there.” Grandpa stared at me. “Have you been brushing and flossing as often as your mother tells you to?”
“No. I like to breathe.” Grandpa smiled. “Atta boy.”
Mom sighed. “Well, I’m sure you do all that’s necessary.”
I looked away from her and scratched the nervous itch again. Maybe she was sure I did all that was necessary, but I definitely wasn’t. I brushed my teeth—most of the time. I flossed my teeth—a grand total of three times…I think. Maybe it was four times—no, definitely only three. Teeth take a lot of work. I’m a naturally lazy kid.
“You’ve made it this far, honey. Either you open the door, or Grandpa or I will do it.” “I won’t open it,” Grandpa said. He knew what the letters stood for, too, I bet.
“Fine,” said Mom. “I’ll open it.”
She didn’t have to. The door creaked open. A woman about Mom’s age stood inside the doorway next to a blonde girl who looked a little bit older than me.
“Oh, excuse us,” the woman said to Mom. “Come on, Julie,” she said to the girl. “Dr. Sharp suggested we run right out and get you one of those electric toothbrushes, and I need to put the pork chops in the oven if they’re going to be ready by the time your father gets home for dinner.”
“Pork chops? Really?” said Julie. She sounded excited. Weird. She licked her lips.
“I didn’t know you liked pork chops that much.” The woman walked past us, and her daughter followed close behind.
Mom watched them as they went down the hall toward the elevator. She held the door open for Grandpa and me, but neither of us dared to look into the dentist’s office just yet. We instead followed Mom’s gaze to the mother and daughter. The girl pushed the elevator call button.
That’s when Mom carefully re-shut the door and took a couple steps toward Julie and her mother. “Excuse me?” said my mother.
The woman turned back just outside the closed elevator doors. “Yes?” she said. “Julie, is it?” Mom asked the girl who had turned around also.
The girl nodded. “Yeah. Hi.”
“Julie, this is my son’s first day seeing Dr. Sharp. Would you say he’s a good dentist? Is there any reason to be afraid of him?”
“Mom,” I said through gritted teeth.
Julie looked at me and giggled. “You’re afraid of Dr. Sharp?”
I could feel my face growing red. I almost hid behind Grandpa. “Dr. Sharp is so cool,” said Julie. “You’ll like him.”
“He seems to be great with kids,” said Julie’s mom. “Other parents tell me nothing but good things.”
“That’s just wonderful to hear. Isn’t it, Jase?” “Whatever,” I said.
The elevator chimed an arrival and its doors slid open. Julie’s mom said to me, “Good luck. You’ll do just fine.”
Mom said to the woman, “Thank you very much,” and Julie disappeared with her mother inside the elevator. Its doors closed, and the hall was quiet once again.
Then Grandpa said to Mom, “I think you embarrassed your son a little bit there.” “With that woman and her daughter? No, I didn’t.”
Grandpa nodded. “I think you did. Jase here turned about as red as Adonis’s roses.” “Who’s Adonis?” I asked.
“In Greek mythology, Adonis was—”
“Dad, please, you know how I feel about that Greek garbage.”
Grandpa held his fingers together on top of his wrinkled, bald head. “Come on, they’re interesting stories,” he said.
Mom always made the same argument: “They’re too violent.”
“This one isn’t.” Grandpa looked at me. “Adonis was a boy who went out hunting one day, and he was gored to death by a wild boar. Skewered by the pig’s giant tusks, if you will. Anyway, beautiful red roses grew out of the pools of Adonis’s blood.”
“Dad!” Mom hit him playfully on the shoulder. “You said it wasn’t violent!” “I said it wasn’t too violent. It wasn’t too violent, was it, Jase?”
I grinned. “Nope.”
“Whatever. Did I embarrass you?” Mom asked me. “Was it that girl? She was pretty, wasn’t she? But aren’t you too young to have crushes on girls?”
“Dana, I met your mother when I was ten years old. The boy is not too young to have a crush on a girl.”
“I don’t have a crush on any girl!” I screamed. My face felt redder than ever. “I just don’t need other people knowing how I feel, is all."
“Really?” said Mom. “Then why have I heard so much complaining from you about coming here?”
“We’re family,” said Grandpa. “If you can’t annoy your family, who can you annoy?” “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you,” said Mom. “I just wanted you to see if there was any
reason to be afraid. It doesn’t look like there is.” “What if the guy’s got a hook?” said Grandpa. “What?” Mom and I said in unison.
“What if the guy’s got a hook for a hand? Now that would be something to be scared of.” Mom said, “Why would the dentist have a hook for a hand?”
“His name is Sharp, isn’t it? Hooks are sharp. It’s just a thought.”
“I really doubt the man’s name has anything to do with his physical appearance.” Mom looked at me. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t have a hook for a hand. He wouldn’t be able to hold any tools if he did. It’s ridiculous. It’s kind of funny, not scary, if you think about it.”
I didn’t think it was funny. As Mom went back to the D.D.S. door, all I could think about was a shadowy figure hovering over me in a dark room, the only light around glinting off the tip of a steel hook where a hand should have been.