In stitches

By Daniel Dunkle | Oct 18, 2012

It's almost Halloween, so I think I can get away with telling you a kind of scary story. But be warned, those who venture beyond this hackneyed introductory sentence, there will be blood! Ooh ah ah!

'Twas a brilliantly sunny summer Friday when I found myself reclined in a chair in a white room and a man with a scalpel was moving toward me.

He was an oral surgeon and it was his job to cut this thing off my tongue. My wife was sitting in the waiting room down the hall reading old magazines.

The spot on my tongue had caused me some concern because I had read an article warning about such things. Then I went online and saw unspeakable horrors that shook me to the core. My dentist and the doctor think it might have been a spot where my tongue rubs up against my snaggled teeth. For the low introductory rate of an arm and a leg I could get braces and caps and all kinds of hardware to make my mouth as pearly and pristine as that of Tom Cruise.

As construction sites go, I have found my mouth to be one of my least favorite.

I watched the doctor put a chunk of my tongue in a jar of liquid to go off to the lab. He proceeded to stitch my tongue hole back together. I was awake for this and in a white-knuckle state of full fight-or-flight adrenaline rush. However, I tried to appear brave by maintaining consciousness and only moaning piteously on every other stitch. The doctor and nurse pretended not to notice the cold sweat on my brow or the fact that my eyes were five times as wide as normal, and babbled on about God knows what in the way of small talk. I believe at some point we were having a conversation about digital cameras as fingers, needle and thread worked in my mouth.

Eventually, it was over and we were headed back to Rockland, my wife behind the wheel.

“So,” Christine said. “Where should we go for lunch?”

I was riding shotgun in a state of depression with a mouth full of blood-soaked gauze.

“Luch?” I asked. “Wha oo oo mee luch?”

“C'mon,” she said. “We're out of work. We're out of town.”

I looked out the window. Tourists streamed down the main streets of quaint little townships in search of lunch and good deals on “I heart Me” T-shirts. Somehow Christine had got it into her head that we could kill two birds with one stone — fun summer outing playing hooky and oral surgery. They go together like chocolate and pickled herring.

“Are oo kih-ing?” I asked her.

She actually pulls into the parking lot at a nice little restaurant overlooking a river.

Inside, I find myself staring at a menu while normal people sit at other tables enjoying their summer day.

“Oo you 'ave milkshate?” I asked the waitress, working around the words with care.

Never heard of such a thing. My wife found the only restaurant in Maine that doesn't have ice cream. I settle on a tuna sandwich with soft bread. That should be fine, right?

The first bite was terrible. When I pulled the sandwich back, the bread was crimson, having sponged up the blood.

“Oh, Danny!” Christine said.

“Ih it badth?”

“You should go to the bathroom,” she said.

Of course this is one of those restaurants that has a tiny bathroom and I had to wait for Howard Hughes to boil his hands for half an hour before vacating. I went to the little mirror in there, thinking, “How bad can it be? It'll be a little spot of red, like when I cut myself shaving.”

Instead, it's a total gore fest. Worse than you're picturing. You could have used my mouth to cover Carrie in blood at the prom. It was “Silence of the Lambs” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” all in one.

My reaction? Embarrassment mostly. It seemed rude to be in a restaurant while bleeding profusely at the mouth. I was raised better than that.

What could I do? I went out and sat in the car. Christine came a while later. “I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!” she said. “We'll get you some gauze.”

She drove in search of a drug store. This was the only town in Maine without a pharmacy on every other block. Where do these people get Cadbury Easter eggs, I wondered. Who do their junkies rob?

Meanwhile, I'm on the cell phone calling the doctor back to see if I need to get stitched back together.

“Dr. Tongue-cutter's office is closed,” the lady on the phone told me.

“I was just there half an hour ago!”

“It's Friday sir.”

Apparently the man had washed his hands and stepped out the back door directly onto a golf course. I was on the phone with the answering service.

“He's on call for emergencies,” she said.

“I'm bleeding all over the place.”

Big sigh from her end. Where do they find these people? “I was too cranky to work as a flight attendant so they have me taking messages for a doctor's office.”

The doctor called me back while Christine was in a discount superstore looking for gauze. “All the stitches are out? Already?”


“Well, they tend to work themselves out. The tongue is just so active,” he said. “It should be fine.”

I used the mirror on the back of the car's sun visor to look at my tongue. Still a bloody, gory mess. When I flipped the visor back up, I saw a woman who had been yammering on her cell phone in front of the store a second ago. Now she stopped cold, just staring at me, her mouth open. “What the heck happened to you?” her expression seemed to say.

“I got shot in the mouth!” I wanted to say out the window, but Christine was coming back.

“No gauze,” she said.

The store had throwing stars and gorilla T-shirts, but no first aid supplies.

Somehow, we got back to Rockland and the comfort of my couch and a cool drink. I was able to milk Christine's sympathies for a few days, then it was back to helping with the dishes and mowing the lawn.

Now I'm just biding my time, waiting or her next dentist appointment, something where they numb half her face and she's drooling on herself on the way out to the car. Then I'll pounce.

“So,” I'll ask. “Where should we get lunch?”

But of course I already know. I've got just the spot picked out...

A place with a view and absolutely no ice cream.

Daniel Dunkle is news editor for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife and two children. Email him at or follow him on twitter at @DanDunkle.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Valerie Wass | Oct 20, 2012 14:22

OH my!  Totally funny and so enjoyed your story, Dan!  Thanks for sharing!  Glad your OK, though.

Posted by: DA Taylor | Oct 20, 2012 08:34

Laugh Out Loud!!  Glad it all worked out okay though:)


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