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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Calm (emotionally) (09/13/07)

TITLE: I'm Not the Girl from Ipanema
By Betty Castleberry


The heavy glass door balked against my feeble push. I shoved harder, and it swung open into the frigid room. These places were always so cold. I shivered, but only partly from the arctic-like air.

I had been dreading this for a long time. The woman at the desk had tiny darting eyes and rough-looking reptilian skin. All she needed to be a perfect lizard was a tail. She flicked her tongue a few times and spoke. “Name?”

“Joni Hampton.”

“Have a seat. We’ll be with you in a while.”

I took a seat near the door so I could make an escape if necessary. My hands trembled when I reached for the two year old magazine. I wasn’t really in the mood to take a marriage quiz, so I put the magazine down, my hands still shaking.

“Just chill.” I spoke aloud, before I realized I had.

Ms. Lizard looked up from her writing. “Excuse me?”

I smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, nothing.”

She returned to her work.

“The Girl from Ipanema,” played softly through the sound system. I doubted Miss Ipanema ever had to face such a trial. She was lovely and close to perfect. If I could be as confident as she surely was, I would have no trouble staying calm for this ordeal.

A brownish ring stained the carpet under my chair. I hoped it wasn’t blood. I knew it was silly to think such things, but yet, I couldn’t help wondering. The last time I had had this done, it was unforgettable, and not in a good way. The bright lights, the stretching, the prodding, and the cold metal objects rendering me unable to speak had been torturous.

The door opened again and a heavy set man entered. The white stubble on his chin indicated he needed a shave, but the crease in his jeans looked sharp enough to cut paper. He nodded in my direction, and then spoke briefly to Ms. Lizard. She suggested that he sit down while he waited.

He selected the chair beside me. “Hot enough for ya?”

I didn’t really feel like visiting. My energy needed to be spent on relaxing, not chatting. I didn’t want to appear rude, though, so I gave him a half smile and a brief “Yes.” He must have sensed my reluctance to talk, because he reached for his cell phone and started punching numbers.

A perky girl poked her head out from somewhere in the back. “Joni?”

It took everything I had to pick my leaden feet up and drag myself over to her. She made a one-handed sweeping motion. “Right this way.”

I followed her numbly, trying to remember just why I had agreed to do this. Her bright smile didn’t really help matters when she invited me to sit in the cavernous black chair. Hesitantly, I sat down, the leather seat still warm from the last sufferer.

The perky girl turned her back to me and fiddled with something on the counter. “How are you today?”

“Fine.” My voice was a ridiculous, high pitched squeak.

She tilted the chair back, leaving me staring up at a large round light and perforated ceiling tiles. The tiles zoomed in and out of focus. This was it. I squeezed my eyes shut, then opened them again, only to find the ceiling tiles undulating. Beads of sweat popped out on my forehead.

Miss Perky touched my shoulder. “Are you okay?”

I nodded, not believing it for a minute.

“Do you know what we’re going to do today?”

I had a vague idea, but I wasn‘t sure I could relay my thoughts right at that moment. I opened and closed my mouth, guppy-like, but no words came out.

Miss Perky clipped a green paper bib around my neck. “It’s okay to be nervous. Root canals are really not much fun. Would you like Doctor Smith to give you some happy gas?”

She kept smiling pleasantly, but I wasn’t looking at her face. A gold cross hung around her neck. The bright overhead light caught the gleaming metal of the simple cross and sent sparks dancing from its center. I was mesmerized by it.

“Joni?” Miss Perky was looking at me quizzically. “Do you want some happy gas?”

I couldn’t take my eyes off the little cross and the truth it symbolized. “No thanks.” This time my voice sounded normal. “I don’t think I’ll need it. I feel perfectly calm.”

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This article has been read 1026 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lenda Blackmon09/20/07
You have such a talent for showing us what is there and not just telling it. Great detail about her surroudings and how she was feeling. I liked the ending too.
Lynda Schultz 09/20/07
Perfect. Great lesson. I wish my dentist wore a cross.
Laurie Walker09/21/07
I've been terrified of the dentist until I found the perfect one just this year! The horror stories I could tell (and just might)... Wonderful telling.
Dee Yoder 09/21/07
I love my dentist-he's the best one in ALL the world! He's a Christian man, too, and very caring. I hate dental stuff, though. I can relate to the fears in this story, and the calm at the end is a nice touch.
Joanne Sher 09/21/07
LOVE the lizard lady, and your excellent sense of place and atmosphere. You took me there. Didn't figure out why she was there till you said it out - I had all sorts of ideas, none of which were right! Enjoyed this read very much!
Sharlyn Guthrie09/22/07
It's interesting how everyone seems villainous when we're in an uncomfortable situation (lizard lady!) Your descriptions are perfect, with just the right amount of humor injected. And the ending is so good, with the change of focus to the cross.
Beth LaBuff 09/22/07
I've always liked the rhythm and melody of "The Girl from Ipanema", so I really appreciated how you used the song in your entry and title. Your description of the receptionist and her tongue movement when she talked was great! Really enjoyed this!
Kristen Hester09/22/07
Really great writing. You have much more faith than me...I alway say "yes" to the happy gas. I enjoyed this.
Gregory Kane09/24/07
I loved the attention to detail in this writing: from the brown stains on the carpet to the out of date magazines. Been there too many times – and still hate it!
Having had some root canal work done, the offer of laughing gas seemed a bit out of place to me. The dentist has to rip out the nerves of a tooth, so I have always been given a local anaesthetic in the tooth. Maybe your dentist has a different protocol. I certainly couldn’t see myself going through such an operation purely on the basis of being reminded about the cross. Hey, hurts even thinking about it.
Janice Cartwright09/24/07
I'm so glad I started at the top of the hint list. This is just super writing - clear and clean and crisp. Since I've worked for dentists I guessed pretty early on but your ending was a real surprise.
Joy Faire Stewart09/24/07
I enjoyed the detail of your writing. You can feel the MC's fear melting into calm. Excellent!
Loren T. Lowery09/24/07
A lot of great descriptive phrases in here beginning with opening the door...I really liked the calm that came over the MC by seeing the cross. I have done the very same thing, looked and found God's peace in the signs He and His deciples openly reveal to us.
Jan Ackerson 09/24/07
I love this--your voice always slays me--but I've got to say, I wouldn't care if my dentist had on three crosses and did his surgery in a baptistry, I want the gas.

Awesome writing!
Leigh MacKelvey09/25/07
Oh, this was sooo good! Your writing impresses me muchly. Is that a word? anyway, I loved the detail and the humor. Everything was written so that I could picture the MC, the Lizard lady, the Perky lady, the man with the cell and the atomosphere. Kudos!
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/28/07
Betty, this was outstanding writing. I loved it!
Lynda Lee Schab 03/25/08
LOL...Perfect story for me, Betty! Thanks for the link. Love it!