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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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Return to lately 2009.

out into the birds and heat and insect noise
october 1, 2009

My dentist had a heart attack.

I saw him just a few weeks ago, when I went in for a cleaning. At the end, as she always does, the hygienist went to get the dentist, so he could review her cleaning, as a sort of quality control thing. While I waited, I ran the tip of my tongue across the backs of my lower right teeth, pleased at the cleanness and distinct separateness of them, while in another room I heard the whirring of a dental drill stop.

I thought, She's just whispered into his ear that I'm ready to be inspected.

Mary and I were in a hurry that day, a lot of things to do while we were in Dallas, and in fact we had to be across town in a half hour for another doctor appointment, this time for Mary, so unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to talk to the dentist, although he did tell me a funny joke about a man who dies and goes to Heaven.

One of my lower incisors had a pinpoint of darkness in a composite filling he had put on the incisor's face near the gum line a few years ago, so I made an appointment to get the filling redone (where they drill out the old filling, put in new composite, then use that hot laser beam to harden the filling, the dentist's assistant reminding him (as she always does) not to look directly at the bright light.)

About two weeks ago, I got a call from his office. I was distracted at the time I took the call-we had a plumber in our home, to install a new garbage disposal, and I was watching him out of the corner of my eye to see how conscientious he was, since we need a reliable plumber-so at first it didn't really register with me that his receptionist was calling.

"Oh! Okay. Yeah, I'm fine." I thought, the receptionist usually calls the day before an appointment. Why is she calling me a week before my visit?

"Can we reschedule your appointment? For an indefinite time in the near future? The doctor had some surgery, and he needs to recuperate."

Well, I'm as nosy as a next door neighbor, plus I'm a writer. It's my professional duty to be nosy. But how to phrase my question, so it doesn't sound like I'm prying?

"No problem. Was it a scheduled surgery?"

(I admit, that does sound like I'm prying. If I had had more advance notice, I probably would have said something like, "Oh, is he okay? I hope it wasn't anything serious." Although actually, now that I type it, that sounds kind of prying too.)

She spilled the beans. Pinto, fava and French haricot. He went in for a routine annual stress test, failed it. They did some other heart-related test (the plumber was running the tap water in the kitchen sink, checking for leaks, part of my attention was there, so I missed hearing what the other test was), he then had his heart attack, right in the cardiologist's office (which, really, is the best place to have a heart attack. If I ever have a heart attack, I hope it's in a cardiologist's office, in a tall professional building that is right next door to a major metroplex hospital. As opposed, for example, to having a heart attack in a post office, where the help disappears into the back between each customer for some mysterious reason, and a sign at each window says, "Do not approach an open window until the clerk beckons to you." Gotta love the "beckons.")

They rushed him by ambulance to the hospital, where he had bypass surgery.

A few days ago, I got a call rescheduling the appointment. He's coming in for an hour or so during the morning, then an hour or two in the afternoon. So I guess he's recovering. I hope so. He's a great dentist, and a great guy. Subsequent to rescheduling the appointment for the filling, I somehow managed to break the porcelain siding on one of my back crowns in my upper left quadrant. So I called the receptionist back, to ask if the dentist could not only replace my filling during my appointment, but also use his drill to smooth the jagged edges where the side of the crown's facing broke off. I felt a little guilty asking that he do both things in the same appointment. I hope it's not too much for him. What if I develop a third dental problem before my appointment? Would that be too much for one session? Should I pretend the third dental problem doesn't exist? I don't know.

Mary and I give to a number of local charities each year.

This is the type of giving that doesn't involve writing a check, but instead is about donating clothes you no longer use, appliances, furniture, etc. Rather than reselling old items ourselves, we turn them over to the different charities. We've given away all my business suits, about two dozen of them, TVs, DVDs, computers, satellite receivers, etc.

The charities in turn sell the items to raise money for their cause.

So we're kind of on a charity hit list.

About once a month, we get a call from one charity or another, asking if we have anything more to give.

To be honest, we didn't consciously select the charities to which we would donate our goods. It was whatever charities contacted us. One charity we give to regularly is the National Kidney Foundation, although frankly, I don't really think a lot about people who need new kidneys, or dialysis. It's just that they're the ones who got in touch with us.

So we received an over-sized postcard in the mail the other day from one of these charities we've donated to in the past. I'm not going to identify which one it is (It's not the National Kidney Foundation.)

The way the charity works (like all these charities) is that their truck goes to known neighborhoods where people donate. If you have a donation, you leave it out on your front porch or top of your driveway, bagged if it's clothes, with a card attached to the donation giving the charity's name. The truck picks up your donation, leaves a Thank You on your front door. You can use the Thank You as a receipt for IRS reporting purposes.

(We don't leave the donation on the curb, because on garbage day, there's an old guy in a pick-up, white-haired, always with a plaid shirt and old dungarees, who is not affiliated with any charity at all, who drives through neighborhoods to see what people are throwing out. If it's anything that's remotely useful, like a twisted-sideways steel bookshelf that could be sold for its scrap metal, he hops out of his pick-up, throws it in the pick-up's bed. Which I have no problem with.)

(Incidentally, police say that a mistake homeowners make is to put shipping boxes out on the curb. Home burglars cruise neighborhoods on garbage day. If they see, for example, a bunch of big boxes with Dell on the side, they know that house just got a new computer. Same with shipping cartons for HD TV sets, DVDs, etc. You're letting every dishonest person know you've just added something of value within your home. Far better to cut up the shipping boxes, cram them into a thirty gallon black garbage bag.)

(Following the same thought, I remember watching a policeman talk once on what thieves steal. He said the biggest flaw citizens commit is that they assume something they don't value won't be valued by a thief. The cop said that's actually one hundred percent wrong. He gave the example of someone who's out shopping, and leaves a newly-purchased DVD player on the back seat. Everyone knows that's a bad idea. Cover it with a coat, or whatever. But he said thieves won't break into your car only if you have something of real value inside. Every day, the police get reports of people smashing side windows of unattended cars to steal less than a dollar's worth of change they see from outside the car, or a half-full pack of cigarettes. Thieves are thieves. They'll steal anything. They'll steal a single pepperoni off a pizza waiting to be carried over to a table if they think they can get away with it.)

Anyway, the over-sized postcard we got from this charity listed items WE DO accept, and items WE DON'T accept.

The We Do accept list was fairly rational. Clothing is our number one need! Accessories, jewelry, linens, housewares, kitchenware, small appliances, small furniture, books, music, sporting equipment, knick knacks, collectibles, etc.

Makes sense, right?

Okay, so here's what they Do Not accept:

Items that need repair or cleaning (I see the sense in that)

Loose items (To me, that's a wee bit obscure. What exactly are they talking about?)

Wet donations (What does that even mean?)

Hazardous waste (This is the one that got to me. Do they really need to spell out they don't accept hazardous waste? Like, have they really gotten a lot of hazardous waste donations in the past, to where they have to now clarify they're no longer accepting them? Is this really an issue? "Well, I have a lot of play clothes my children have grown out of, and some books that are still in pretty good condition that I probably won't read again…and a bucket of green-glowing radioactive sludge from a nuclear reactor.")

I mentioned the plumber who installed our garbage disposal, replacing the one that sprang a leak in its side, and it's true that we've tried to get a lot of repairs done in the past few weeks following all the breakdowns we weathered the past month or so (for which, see my previous Lately).

He did a great job, so after he was finished I asked if he had time to take a look at the outdoor faucet in our backyard, which continuously leaks. If you've been following my Latelys, you'll remember the problem from here.

So he went through the back kitchen door with me, out into the birds and heat and insect noise.

The faucet was dribbling water at a rapid rate.

"Sure, I can fix that. Not today, but we could set up an appointment."

"Ballpark, what price, labor and parts, are we looking at?"

He gave me a written quote of $125.

Now remember, when I tried to get the leak fixed a year or so ago, the shithead who I hired charged me $250, and didn't fix the leak.

This new guy came back a week later, gave us a new faucet, and actually fixed the leak. All for $125, half the cost of the shithead (excuse my bitterness) (but may he burn in Hell) (but no, I wouldn't want that to happen to him, just over a shoddy repair) (but may he stub his toe, really, really bad.)

I've changed the Fiction section of this site, in that I've added a lot of new stories, and removed some old stories. I believe this new selection gives a better sampling of me as a writer.

Before, I offered six stories online. Now I'm offering eleven stories.

I've removed two stories, Despair at McDonalds and When You Surfaced. I love them both, but I wanted to go in a different direction.

I've rearranged the story section into three different categories: stand alone stories, stories from The Sex Act cycle, and stories from the Recorded Occurrences cycle.

Stand alone stories are fairly self-explanatory. The Sex Act story cycle features stories dealing with sexual obsession, all featuring the same protagonist. The Recorded Occurrences story cycle features stories with unusual premises (even more unusual than my other stories.)

There are now five stand alone stories on this site: Big Inches, This Moment of Brilliance, When the Big One Thaws, Zombie Betrayal, and Strangers Wear Masks of your Face. This Moment of Brilliance and Strangers Wear Masks of Your Face are both included in my new short story collection, Remove the Eyes, so this is a good opportunity to sample the collection to see if you'd like to purchase it. All the stories, except for Zombie Betrayal, have been previously published in print.

The Sex Act section includes Truth Be Told (never before available online), Sex on Sheets, and the Rape. All the stories have been previously published in print.

The Recorded Occurrences section features Grappling with Urine (never before available online), Cat Head, and Rump-a-Thump. All the stories have been previously published in print.

I hope you enjoy them.