/ audio play / short /
written by jack richardson

ARCHIE ATWOOD, an unsupportive husband

AMELIA ATWOOD, a kind housewife

NURSE TRIPS, a thorough dental nurse

DOCTOR MÜLLER, an enthusiastic dentist



AMELIA ATWOOD sits in the huge dentist’s chair, gripping the arms like an astronaut preparing for blastoff. Her fingers drum nervously on the plastic cover. Her husband, ARCHIE ATWOOD, sits in a chair by the door, flipping distractedly through a magazine.


AMELIA         Now isn’t that clever…


ARCHIE          What is?


AMELIA         The signs. “An Apple A Day Keeps The Dentist Away.” I said, isn’t that clever.


ARCHIE          If you say so, dear.


AMELIA         And so’s that one: “Treat Your Canines With Care And They’ll Double Incisor”.


ARCHIE          Instructional, like a phonebook.


AMELIA         “Sodium Acids Cause Cavities.” That isn’t quite so clever…


ARCHIE         (Curtly) Stop that please, dear.


AMELIA         What’s that, dear?


ARCHIE          The drumming. Stop it.


AMELIA         Yes dear. Of course. Just a little nervous.


ARCHIE         (Disinterested) That’s nice.


AMELIA         It’s the smell, I think…


ARCHIE         Mmm.


AMELIA         I never cared for mint.


The door opens abruptly and NURSE TRIPS enters. Her heels snap on the tiles like dried chicken bones.


NURSE          Good morning! How are we today, Mr. and Mrs. Atwood?


AMELIA         We’re fine, thank-you.


ARCHIE         Fine.


NURSE          We’ll soon see about that.


AMELIA         Beg pardon?

NURSE          Your teeth, Mrs. Atwood. We’ll see about your teeth. What appears to be the problem?


ARCHIE         She has a cavity, Nurse.


NURSE          Is that so, Mr. Atwood? When was your last check-up?


AMELIA         I think it was… Christmas of ’93?


ARCHIE         Year I burst my gallbladder.


NURSE          And when did you begin to experience the pain?


ARCHIE         Sunday last. She’s been in pain since Sunday last.


NURSE          I see. (Snapping on a pair of latex gloves) Lie back please, Mrs. Atwood. This won’t take a moment. Open wide now,

                      please. (She explores, reverberating echo) That’s right… So I see… Very good, Mrs. Atwood. You may sit up now.


ARCHIE         (Weary) What’s the damage, Nurse?


NURSE          (Snapping off her gloves) You do indeed have a cavity in your left upper molar.


AMELIA         (Hesitant) Will it need… extracting?


NURSE          That’s for the Doctor to decide.


AMELIA         Thank-you, Nurse.


NURSE TRIPS exits with the clip of her retreating heels. AMELIA and ARCHIE sit in silence for a good while.


AMELIA         Did you hear that, Archie?


ARCHIE         I did, thank-you, Amelia.


AMELIA         I may have a cavity.


ARCHIE         (Distracted) Kill or cure.


The door opens again suddenly and DOCTOR MULLER enters. His shoes are flat-soled loafers.


MÜLLER        Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Atwood! So sorry to keep you waiting, been up to my overalls in overbites. Ha ha! How are we /



ARCHIE         We’re fine thank-you, Doctor.


MÜLLER        Wonderful, wonderful… Now, I understand you’ve been having some discomfort, Mrs. / Atwood?


ARCHIE         She has a cavity.


MÜLLER        Does she now? Well, not to worry, Mrs. Atwood, we’ll soon come to the root of the problem. Ha! Dental humor, forgive me.

                      Now, let’s inspect the damage, shall we? Mr. Atwood, if you’d please?


ARCHIE         Excuse me?


MÜLLER        Take a seat and we’ll begin.


ARCHIE         There’s some mistake -----


MÜLLER        Not at all, your wife has a minor cavity in her left upper molar. Perfectly treatable and totally tolerable. You, however, are a

                      horse of a different color entirely. In the chair please. Excuse us, Mrs. Atwood…


AMELIA         (Rising) Oh, of course…


ARCHIE         What do you mean, a horse? Hello, let go of me!


MÜLLER        (Into the intercom) Nurse Trips? Code Six Sixty-Seven to Consult One, please.


NURSE          (Over the intercom) Right away, Doctor.


ARCHIE         You’ve got to be / joking…


MÜLLER        Dental hygiene is no laughing matter, Mr. Atwood, I can assure you. In the chair now, there’s a good man.




MÜLLER        Nurse, the restraints, if you please?


NURSE          Of course, Doctor.


NURSE TRIPS begins to strap ARCHIE'S arms to the arms of the dentist’s chair with synthetic seatbelt cords, held by Tupperware clip-lock cuffs.


ARCHIE         What are those? What are you doing!


MÜLLER        A system of my own invention, Mr. Atwood, designed with just such singular pains as you in mind. Now then… (He drops

                      the dentist’s chair straight back like a hangman’s trapdoor) … let’s take a look at these, shall we? Open wide please, Mr.

                      Atwood, and say ahhhh…


ARCHIE         Ahhhh – ARGH! (He sits up suddenly, spluttering and gagging) What the devil are you trying to do, man, pinch my tooth



MÜLLER        Of course I am, Mr. Atwood! You have a septic ingrown wisdom tooth. I’m afraid she’s got to go.


ARCHIE         I have a what?


MÜLLER        It’s deadly serious, I’m afraid – must be pulled, straight away.


ARCHIE         The hell it does!


NURSE           I think he’s nervous, Doctor…


MÜLLER        A man of your constitution? Posh!


ARCHIE         I’m not nervous, I’m / furious!


AMELIA         Quiet down please, Archie, and let the Doctor work.


ARCHIE         Amelia, now you just ----- Ooof! (Amelia shoves a handful of cotton wadding into Archie’s open mouth)


MÜLLER        That’s the spirit, Mrs. Atwood! Keep it wide now, Mr. Atwood…


ARCHIE         Ahhhh -----


MÜLLER        Wider please -----


ARCHIE         AHHHHHH ----- AARGH!!!


There’s an exquisitely protracted ripping noise, followed by a thud of sharp release. Archie flops back into the dentist chair, gasping.


MÜLLER        Ah ha, that’s the ticket! (Drops the tooth into a little metal tray) Thank-you Nurse. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?


ARCHIE         Jumping Jehovah…


NURSE          A moment please, Doctor…? (She whispers conspiratorially to Doctor Müller)


MÜLLER        Oh dear, Mr. Atwood… it appears I have some bad news.


AMELIA         “Bad news”, Doctor?


MÜLLER        Indeed, Mrs. Atwood. See how the root is worn away there, like a little rosy pencil stub?


AMELIA         It is quite bloody, I agree…


MÜLLER        Yes, a sure sign of compound compaction, very common among distended glandular pallets.


AMELIA         Oh my…


ARCHIE         What!?


MÜLLER        No need to fret, Mr. Atwood, I’m a professional! (Rummaging in Archie’s mouth, a slight echo) Oh dear, it’s worse than I

                      thought – extensive aggressive gum disease! What have we been up to, Mr. Atwood?


AMELIA         Gum disease, Doctor?


MÜLLER        Oh yes, Mrs. Atwood, rampant. You can see it quite clearly, there and there.


AMELIA         Oh my, so you can…


ARCHIE         (Sitting up, spluttering) You’re insane!


MÜLLER        A layman’s assessment, Mr. Atwood, but since you’re not a dentist, you’re to be forgiven. I’m afraid they’ll have to go.


ARCHIE         What will?


MÜLLER        The teeth, all of them. Nurse Trips, the Electric Extraction Evacuator!


NURSE          Right away, Doctor. (Sounds of assembly with the aid of a rivet gun)


ARCHIE         Now this is going too far -----


NURSE          The nine-gauge enamel extractor, Doctor?


MÜLLER        Make it the double barrel injector: he’s quite a mouthful.


AMELIA         Will he suffer greatly, Doctor?


MÜLLER        He may.


AMELIA         Shame.


NURSE          Extractor drill, Doctor, double-barrel injector.


DOCTOR MULLER revs the twenty-four double-barrel injector. It makes a sound like a common carpentry drill, huge and full of weight.


MÜLLER        Excellent, Nurse, wonderful work…


ARCHIE         Amelia, dear, you can’t let them do this!


AMELIA         I’m sorry, Archie dear. Kill or cure…


MÜLLER        Now you may feel a slight sting, Mr. Atwood. Ready now? Here we go…


DOCTOR MULLER applies the drill. It has a horrifically electric, jangling quality, as if a pocketful of spare change were put into a blender and turned on High. It scrapes against ARCHIE'S teeth with the high, blackboard screech of an angle-grinder.


MÜLLER        You’re doing wonderfully, Mr. Atwood, a proper upright champ!


The drill revs high and low, and each cycle is accompanied by a dainty “KA-PLINK” sound as DOCTOR MULLER drops ARCHIE'S teeth into the little metal tray, one at a time.


AMELIA         It’s all rather… thrilling, isn’t it, Nurse?


NURSE          Oh yes. The Doctor is a genius with an alternating current.


MÜLLER        I say, ladies, here’s a thing to pass the time: I’ll hum a tune, and you try to guess it. Ready? Three guesses now, here we

                      go… (Doctor Müller hums cheerfully over the sound of the drill) Got it? Suction please, Nurse. (Moist suction noises up the

                      hose) What’s that, Mr. Atwood? No, I’m afraid that’s not quite it…


NURSE          Well Doctor, it’s quite clearly -----


MÜLLER        Steady now, Nurse, give the man a chance. (Drill buzzes like a drop-saw, suction Hoovering wetly) Another go, Mr. Atwood?

                      I’ll give you a clue: it’s three verses and a bridge, with a signature of five-four.


AMELIA         Was it popular in its time?


MÜLLER        Made the Top Forty countdown.


NURSE          Singer or band?


MÜLLER        I’m offended you have to ask! Once more with feeling: it goes hmm hm hmm HMMM… Honestly Mr. Atwood, it’s

                      exceedingly famous.


AMELIA         It’s “I’m Your Man,” by the British band Wham!


MÜLLER        Very good, Mrs. Atwood! You can have a mint.


DOCTOR MULLER'S drill suddenly staggers, coming up against a particularly stubborn tooth. He revs it once, twice, applying it each time with the same slack result. He powers it down.


MÜLLER        Hmm, seems we have an insurrectionist, Mr. Atwood. Nurse: the Jaw Splitter, if you please.


ARCHIE         (Seizing the lucid moment) “Jwaw Spwitter”!?


MÜLLER        I assure you, Mr. Atwood, it’s not as fierce as it sounds. Ready Nurse? Engage.


NURSE TRIPS places a wiry steel cage over ARCHIE'S head and mouth, a homemade contraption not dissimilar to the head-opener from the delightful Saw franchise. DOCTOR MULLER shoves the mouth prongs between ARCHIE'S lips and begins to ratchet his jaws apart like a car jack.


AMELIA         (Breathless) You’re very good, Doctor.


MÜLLER        Thank-you, Mrs. Atwood. Hold his legs still, please.


AMELIA         My pleasure.


MÜLLER        You’re a peach. Deep breath, Mr. Atwood, and…


Little gears and cogs whirl into motion, accompanying the sound of an even more degenerate drill as DOCTOR MULLER attacks the stubborn toothicle. The sound is nerve shattering in a Cronenberg/Looney Tunes kind of way, and reaches a climax accompanied by a meaty “Shhh-RIP”.


MÜLLER        And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a horse of a different color!


DOCTOR MULLER drops the last of ARCHIE'S teeth into the metal tray – “Ka-PLINK!” – and tears off his gloves.


MÜLLER        Thank-you, Nurse, that will be all for now.


NURSE           But we’ve made such a mess…


MÜLLER        I dare say we’ll manage. (Unstrapping Archie with a series of medieval manacle clinks and Velcro tearings) How are we

                      feeling, Mr. Atwood?


ARCHIE         (Semi-conscious moan through a mouth full of cotton wool)


MÜLLER        Beyond words. Capital! (Lifting Archie up and depositing him on the floor with a THUMP) There we go, trooper. Now, Mrs.

                      Atwood, be sure to keep that cotton in there for at least a calendar month, or dear Archie may be tempted to exert himself.


AMELIA         Of course, Doctor, just as you say.


MÜLLER        Naturally! Now, my dear, to the business: I believe you have a… cavity?


AMELIA         Oh yes, Doctor. Such a cavity…


MÜLLER        A compacted… brittle… septic… cavity?


AMELIA         So septic, Doctor…


MÜLLER        It… weeps?


AMELIA         Terribly…


MÜLLER        (With echo) If you don’t mind me saying, you have an exquisitely formed underbite…


AMELIA         Oh Doctor… Might I suggest the thirty-nine gauge… triple barrel?


MÜLLER        My dear Mrs. Atwood… I thought you’d never ask. (Doctor Müller applies the rattling drill)


AMELIA         Oh Doctor…


ARCHIE         (From the floor) Urrgh…