Yes, high school in the 70s.

Okay, let me tell you a god-awful story about keeping your wisdom teeth. My parents were divorced and my mom was on welfare so I was directed to a clinic to have the procedure done. I took a bus to the clinic in Chicago to have them extracted after having taken antibiotics to reduce the swelling as one of them had been impacted. To save the effort and cost of further procedures they elected to remove all four at once. I told them that I wanted to keep them, to which they said, “fine.” They put a line in my arm and told me to count down from 100 and I think I got to 99. I woke up being rushed out of the chair, still groggy and barely comprehending that I was done. They piled literature, a prescription for pain medication and a little plastic box with a clear top with my four teeth in it. I saw, with no little horror, that there was still meat attached to the teeth. They packed me in a taxi; I slept through most of the ride. When we got to my house I said, “I have no money to pay you – I was planning on walking home.” The cabby looked at me with my cotton-packed mouth and the box of teeth and said, “Buddy, this one’s on me.”

I went into the basement apartment under my grandmother’s house and was not yet in pain as the anesthetic had not worn off. I took a small pot, filled it with water, dumped my teeth into it and set it to boil in hopes that the meat on the teeth would come off. I sat down of the fold-away bed that I was using for a living room sofa and fell asleep. I awoke some time later to a horrible smell! The water had all boiled away and my teeth had become a black and charred ruin at the bottom of the pot. In my anesthetized state of mind I picked out what I could, replaced the teeth in the jewelry case and deposited the treasure in the drawer of a small valet that I bought myself at a railroad auction store.

The smell lingered in the valet for years.


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