Plain China

The Dentist

by Drew Ohringer · Grinnell College
Tall Man, Douglas Angulo · University of Notre Dame

He was: five feet nine inches tall, of northern European ancestry, a dental student. He had hazel eyes, like my mother.

I mean: he is five feet nine inches tall and of northern European ancestry. He has hazel eyes, just like my mother.

He was a dental student sometime before March 1991.

He is probably still five feet nine inches tall, he is of northern European ancestry, he has hazel eyes—just like my mother—and he was a dental student sometime before March 1991, when he walked into a room in Tufts Medical Center and jerked off into a cup.

He stood five feet nine inches tall as, with his hazel eyes, he examined the medical office’s magazine collection: Hustler, Penthouse, Playboy.

He was probably still a dental student when, in early March 1991, his semen was thawed and injected into my mother.

He is a practicing dentist.

He stared into the plastic cup: all that generational teeming. He stared into the plastic cup and saw: five feet nine inches, northern European ancestry, hazel eyes (like my mother, except he didn’t know that).

He had been a dentist for almost ten years when my friend told me, during recess, “He probably did it for beer money.”

He descends from Vikings.

He looked at the Hustler for a few minutes. Then he thought about a girl from a few weekends before. A girl who had shiny teeth.

He was in his third year of dental school as he twisted shut the lid of the cup.

“What color are your eyes?” asked the girl with shiny teeth, in early March 1991, as she drank a beer he’d bought her. He tried not to stare at her teeth. His sperm swam inside my mother.

He was 24, 26, 29, 32.

He had two children of his own by the time I told a friend that my father was in jail. I was eleven. My friend’s father offered my mother his sympathies.

He quit dental school. He is not a practicing dentist.

He was practicing dentistry in Burlington, Vermont, when my mother said: five feet nine inches, northern European, dental student, hazel eyes (like me).

Although he tried to think of her breasts, he could only think of her shiny teeth. He wanted to touch them, lick them. He wanted to polish them.

He looked into the cup: milky viscosity.

His children are named Dan and Emily. They don’t have hazel eyes.

In 835 CE his ancestors pillaged the Isle of Sheppey. In 1991 he jerked off into a cup.

He was taking a piss at dawn when my mother went into labor.

He suffers from panic attacks.

Two of his children are named Ned and Drew.

He practices dentistry. He practices golf.

“You actually did that?” she said, naked, her teeth shining. In 1993 he married her. She never asks him why.

He takes Zoloft. He practices yoga.

He has never traveled to northern Europe.

He was sitting bored in a lecture on odontoblasts when a woman at the sperm bank called my mother to tell her it had worked. “You’re lucky—he’s a smart one,” she said.

He is 48, 56, 41, 39.

In 836 CE the women of the Isle of Sheppey gave birth to hazel-eyed children.

He gets seasick.

“I hope our children get your eyes,” his wife said. Her teeth were yellowing.

Penthouse, Juggs.

“He died of altitude sickness climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro,” I told my fifth-grade class.

He flosses three times a day.

He was driving west on Route 2 the afternoon I first ejaculated.

He descends from berserkers, from Beowulf.

He saw them swimming: Dan, Emily, Christopher, Pierre, Nicole.

He died of seasickness sailing the mandibular canal.

He flossed his wife’s teeth before they got divorced.

Asian FeverFinally Legal.

He chews sugar-free gum.

Five feet nine inches.

He is a hypochondriac.

Northern European.

Right now he’s sneezing in Burlington, Vermont.

I have brown eyes and don’t brush my teeth enough.

About the Author

Drew Ohringer · Grinnell College

Boston native Drew Ohringer graduated last spring from Grinnell, where he majored in English and co-edited The Grinnell Review, in which this story first appeared. He currently lives in France and works as an English teacher.

About the Artist

Douglas Angulo · University of Notre Dame

Douglas Angulo studied finance and studio art at Notre Dame. Finance is what he was passionate about, studio art is what his parents made him study. Nonetheless, he is currently pursuing an MA in painting. His work is a critique of the pursuit and display of of status in contemporary American culture. Tall Manfirst appeared in Notre Dame’s journal,Re-Visions.