Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)
TITLE: Always Pack Your Toothbrush
By Betty Castleberry
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“Of course not.” I pointed to an empty holder. “Use that one.”
“Might as well be on the moon. It’s hard to reach from here.”
I rearranged my things. “There. Now you have the holder closest to you.”
Mildred has been my best friend for fifty years, but she can be difficult. I’m still not sure why I agreed to go on a road trip with her. We both lost our husbands several years ago, and I guess I just let her talk me into it.
“It will give us something to do,“ she reasoned. “Let’s go to the Grand Canyon. We’ll drive across New Mexico and stop at Carlsbad Caverns on the way.”
So there we were in Mildred’s Lincoln, crossing the state line from Texas into New Mexico.
I frowned out the window on the passenger’s side. “I forgot to bring my hair dryer.”
“Too late to go back for it now. Besides, most motels have hair dryers these days.”
“Oh, that’s right.”
A look of near panic crossed Mildred’s face. “I didn’t bring my toothbrush.”
“That’s an easy fix. I always travel with an extra brand new one.”
“I bet it doesn’t have hard bristles.”
“No. It’s got soft bristles.”
“I can’t possibly use a soft toothbrush. I don’t feel like my teeth are clean if I do.”
“Now isn’t the time to be picky. I like my soft one. It’s gentle on my gums.”
“I have to stop and buy a hard bristle toothbrush.”
Sandy hills and cacti sailed past my window. “I don’t see any stores here, and we’re sixty miles from Carlsbad.”
“We’ll stop in Carlsbad and find a store.”
While that sounded reasonable enough, I knew it wasn’t. We were already running behind schedule. Mildred was notorious for spending hours trying to find the perfect item to purchase. I assumed she would have to have the perfect toothbrush, too.
Looking back, the plan I devised wasn’t too bright, but at the time it seemed workable. “You know Mildred, my extra toothbrush may have hard bristles. I just grabbed it without really looking when I bought it. Let me see.”
I reached for my bag in the back seat and rummaged around until I found the new toothbrush. It was indeed a soft bristle brush, but I wasn’t admitting defeat. More digging in the bag yielded a tube of super glue. A couple of drops of glue on the brush would quickly turn it into a hard bristle model. Discreetly, I turned toward the window and twisted off the top of the glue noting the “Instantly bonds skin” warning. I had just squeezed a drop on the toothbrush when Mildred hit a big pothole. The car bounced wildly and the toothbrush flew out of my hand. It landed bristle-side down on Mildred’s bare knee. Her mouth opened like a hungry guppy as she gawked at the toothbrush stuck to her skin. “What…”
I slapped my hand to my chest. “I’m sorry. Here, let me get it off.”
It didn’t budge. She drove to Carlsbad in tears with a neon pink toothbrush glued to her knee. I apologized between fits of giggles.
The emergency room nurses were kind, but I could see the laughter in their eyes. One asked if she could take a photo of Mildred’s knee for their “Most Unusual Cases” scrapbook.
The doctor turned out to be a distinguished looking widower. Although Mildred was pretty mad at me, she smiled sweetly at him and told him what had happened.
He talked while he worked with a tiny scalpel. “They say that the soft bristle toothbrushes are best. Easier on the gums. I always get the soft bristle toothbrushes myself. Tell me again, did you say you prefer the hard bristle variety?”
Honest to goodness, Mildred batted her eyelashes and replied, “I prefer them sort of…medium.”
I rolled my eyes, but neither of them saw me. They had moved on to the finer points of flossing. The doctor liked waxed floss. Mildred pretended to agree. Her purse happened to be gaping open and her unwaxed floss was about to spill out. I snapped her bag shut. It was the least I could do.
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