I know how bodies work. I've read Fantastic Voyage and Fantastic Voyage II (biology text books by Isaac Asimov). I've seen the instructional video that was made from Asimov's books, and I pay close attention to the documentaries that screen on television in between the programmes. So I am completely familiar with the armed forces that trudge up and down the highways and byways of my body fighting off infectious invaders and keeping my bodily fluids pure and fresh. The minutiae of health care are as an open book to me. So I was somewhat annoyed when a recent rebellion in my mouth caused me a few problems.
It all started, as so many of these things do, with a slice of bread; an attractively brown slice of bread, nice and healthy, chock full of fibre, anti-cholesterol oats and lots of seeds. Some of the seeds appeared to have taken advantage of the cooking process to change their chemical composition slightly. They had undergone a rather arcane phase change, and now appeared to made of a specially hardened chrome-steel alloy. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Trust me I know these things; I've got a degree in chemistry. That's why I work with computers all day and every day.
I tried to avoid biting down on these devil seeds and I began to wonder if perhaps I should extract them from the bread and use them as reloads in my shotgun cartridges. They seemed almost to have been designed for the purpose. No sooner had I begun to consider this idea than I heard a great "Aha!" inside my mouth, closely followed by the ratcheting sound of a shotgun being made ready for use.
Lumps fell off my upper right molar and the armed rebels in my mouth began to cavort with glee.
"The revolution has started lads. Free vodka for the workers! Free white stick with every bottle!"
I rang my dentist and explained the problem.
"We can fit you in at 3.00pm."
"I'll be there."
The edges of my broken tooth were sharp and I had to be careful not to move my tongue across it in case I got cut. Volunteers from the rebel army tried valiantly to drag my tongue up and over to the tooth, but because it was right at the back of my mouth and was thus somewhat awkward to get to, they failed in their purpose. The revolutionary leaders had them shot, and I spat the bodies into the gutter.
The dentist sat me down in a comfortable chair and reclined me at a suitable angle. A wide screen LCD monitor on the wall was connected to his computer and on it was displayed my dental records and a diagram of my teeth. He probed my mouth with his instruments and compared what he found in there with the picture on the monitor. Suddenly the computer's screensaver kicked in, and lines of green symbols extracted from the movie The Matrix began to scroll down the screen.
"Wonderful," said the dentist. "It matches the inside of your mouth perfectly."
"i' 'a 'o," I said. "a's 'ood 'o 'ow!"
"Well," said the dentist, "actually it only matches for quite small values of perfectly. Your upper right molar appears to be on the point of disintegrating. Several large lumps have dropped off and there are cracks in the surface structure indicating that several more large lumps will drop off soon. I think I spotted a few armed rebels hiding in the cavities and they seem to be equipped with dynamite and detonators, so your tooth may not have long to live."
He swung me into an upright position and removed his instruments from my mouth. He put the instruments carefully on his tray. There was a saxophone, a cello, a flute and a violin. The violin was a Stradivarius. Nothing but the very best instruments for my dentist.
"I could fill the tooth," he said, "but it wouldn't be a satisfactory solution. It won't be very long before the rest of it falls apart. What you really need is a crown."
"What's a crown," I asked with vague black and white memories of Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953 floating through my head.
"One thousand two hundred and eight dollars and forty two cents," said the dentist. "And two more appointments."
"No, really. What's a crown?" I asked.
"Well," said the dentist, "we reduce your tooth to a stump using an angle grinder, a pneumatic jackhammer, two steamrollers and possibly an atomic bomb. Then we superglue a lump of gold to the tooth and cover the gold with porcelain."
"Why do you cover the gold with porcelain?"
"So that nobody knows you've got gold in your mouth. It's a safety precaution to stop you getting mugged when you go out on the razzle of an evening."
"That sounds wise," I agreed. "But I don't do much razzling these days, so I doubt that it will be a problem. How do you think the rebels in charge of the revolution in my mouth will cope?"
"I should imagine that they'll accept the de facto situation as de jure," he said, and I was forced to agree with that incisive insight. "But even if they don't," he continued thoughtfully, "they'll probably try to sell the gold on the black market to finance the purchase of more weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps I'll put two dabs of superglue on the crown so they won't be able to lever it off in the night when you're asleep."
The grinding proved to be less of a problem than I had anticipated. Atomic bombs were not needed; conventional explosives were all that were required. The pneumatic drill did spin out of control and emerge from the top of my head in a shower of brains, but no serious damage was done. I wasn't using those particular brain cells for anything important. At the end of the process, the rebels surrendered and were safely incarcerated in an antibiotic camp.
Currently I have a temporary, plastic crown stuck to the stump with library paste so that it can be easily removed when the time comes to fit the real crown, which is being transmuted by dark alchemical rites from a lump of lead even as we speak. Apparently this process takes at least two weeks. Since the temporary crown is designed for easy removal I have been forbidden to eat brown bread with shotgun-shell seeds and I have also been forbidden to floss. Both these actions, it seems, are likely to strip the temporary crown from the stump thus causing another, possibly very painful, revolution in my mouth.
But a crown, even a temporary one, is still a crown. I expect you to bow next time we meet.