Memories of Russia with a Dentist in Frogtown

Illustration: Kirk Anderson

Dr. Sobkoviak of Frogtown, our dentist, stood looking out the window of his office at Western and University and saw Russia. As he changed the point of the drill, looking straight through Old Home Dairy across the street into the Kremlin, he warned me about Nikita Krushchev.

He was slow and thorough, stopping to polish his glasses in front of that window. In his starched white tunic, he was a true professional. He did me, a school girl, the honor of thinking out loud about the world, not with the passion of my father at the dinner table, but with the cool reason of fine instruments arranged on a tray. He was the first polite society I knew. The crease in his trousers was enough to break my heart.

The dentist chair itself faced the large front window. The corner was cut away as if to make a stage of the world beyond. To the right, sat a large glass box in which were stacked hundreds of white filters, a few of which he delicately inserted in my mouth. False teeth set in a deathly grimace warned me of what lay ahead, if I was not careful—what my mother was holding off with these punctual visits.

There was no receptionist. When the telephone rang, Dr. Sobkoviak left his work to answer: “Sobkoviak speaking.” When he returned, he took up the pick and continued his political ruminations.

These were not conversations. I never got a turn. As soon as I wanted to say something, he unhooked the drill, and I lay back with the pearly orange light in my eyes and thought of Russia. I never knew there was such a thing as Novocain until I left home. He never offered it. We took pain straight in Frogtown.

 

Previously published in Sidewalks literary magazine.

Norita Dittberner-Jax is a poet whose work has been widely published. She has an abiding love for Saint Paul, having been raised in Frogtown, taught English in its schools, and continues to live in this lovely city. Her books of poems include The Watch and What They Always Were.

 

Kirk Anderson grew up in a loving, stable, small-town Midwestern middle-class family, a difficult start for a professional cynic. Over time and with great determination, he was able to nurture his underdeveloped angst and rage through his parents’ controlled exposure of him to the real world. From these ubonlikely beginnings, Kirk turned himself around and flowered into the fully maladjusted, paranoid professional pessimist that he is today.

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