This is the beginning of the Sundial’s new feature: a serialized story. You can read the next portion in the Sundial on Feb. 8.
A man walks into the waiting room of a dentist’s office. The bell on the door rings out as it closes behind him. He walks over to the receptionist counter and waits for help from a slim, raven-haired woman, I’m guessing about 35 years of age, though her constant glare has added years to the lines in her face, the man thinks to himself. When she finally looks at him, she merely points to the clipboard in front of him.
“Sign in, please,” she says, promptly looking back to her work.
Under name he puts Shiloe Morrison. Age, 23. Reason for visit, gum work. Time of appointment, 1:00 p.m. Time in? Shiloe checks his cell phone, 12:58.
He puts down the cheap plastic pen and flips the clipboard around. He stands and watches the receptionist for a moment, waiting for her to direct him to do something. When Shiloe suddenly realizes she is actively ignoring him, he momentarily panics. What should I do? He quickly collects himself, No need to lose any more dignity than I already have, and walks over to the nearby chairs and sits down.
He settles back into his seat, getting comfortable for the wait.
He picks up a 6-month-old copy of The New Yorker. He flips through it for a few minutes, Why do I find this magazine so, I dunno, uppity? I want to like it, but, before tossing it back onto the coffee table in front of him. He leans back into the roughly upholstered chair reminiscent of one he saw in a discount furniture catalog and looks around the room, surveying the other people in the room.
To his left, on the far side of the room, is an old man, barely able to sit up in his chair, waiting between two middle-aged escorts, probably his daughter and son-in-law, Shiloe thinks.
I would hate to be that old. Not even able to function without two people helping me, he thinks. Really, at that point, aren’t you just waiting to die?
Shiloe scrunches up his face at the prospect. He turns to the right and watches a little girl, maybe eight years old, swing her legs back and forth under her chair, her father engrossed in a two-month-old issue of Golf.
I remember swinging my legs like that. One of the simple pleasures I really miss.
The bell on the door chimes, and everyone turns to see who the newcomer is. A young man wearing a fine black suit with dark gray pin stripes over a white shirt and black tie walks in. Seeing that it isn’t someone they know, everyone turns back to what they were doing. Everyone except Shiloe.
The man in the black suit walks over to the receptionist.
“I am Edward D’Galle, here for my 12:45 appointment,” he says, whispering loud enough for everyone to hear. Shiloe digs his cell phone out of his pocket, why should anyone carry a watch these days?, and sees the time is 1:02. He looks back up at D’Galle, who is quietly arguing with the receptionist. She says something in an inaudible whisper.
“Yes, I understand I’m late,” D’Galle says. The receptionist responds with a barely audible whisper that more than insinuates her contempt for this man.
“Yes, I know that after 15 minutes you cancelled my appointment,” says D’Galle, his audible whisper quickly becoming a loud growl, “but I had to cancel an appointment with Akira Amari, the Japanese minister of trade, just to be here at all!”
Why, don’t they understand that his, the great Edward D’Galle’s, time is far too valuable to be spend waiting in a dentist’s office, Shiloe thinks, glaring at D’Galle. It’s everyone else who should be waiting for him.
After a few more minutes of hushed arguing, D’Galle convinces the receptionist to put him back in the queue, though now with a time of 1:15. D’Galle thanks her, and marches to a chair two over from Shiloe, throwing himself down. He glances around the tables in front of him, grimacing at the choices presented. He picks up the New Yorker Shiloe had just been perusing and busies himself with one of the articles. He never gives Shiloe even a cursory glance, though they are mere feet away the whole time.
Shiloe glances at his phone again, 1:06, before staring at the wall across from him, trying to make out the writing on the sheets of paper stapled there. One has something to do with the costs of rescheduling within two days of an appointment, while another is about some type of cancer-causing filler … what doesn’t cause cancer. Shiloe squints at the wall, trying to read the small print at the bottom of the cancer one to find out what type of filling does cause cancer when they call his name.
“Shiloe Morrison,” a Latina with strong cheek bones, crimson lipstick, and glittery, cobalt blue eye shadow that contrasts with her raw umber-colored eyes calls out from a doorway connected to the waiting room. She stood, looking around the room for a response. Shiloe stands up and walks toward her, trying to draw her attention. Seeing someone has started toward her, she walks back through the doorway without waiting for Shiloe. He hurries to catch up.
“Right this way please,” she says from over her shoulder. Shiloe follows her through the door and down a small hallway with several doorless rooms.
“How are you today Mr. Morrison,” she asks.
“Just fine, thank you. And you?”
“Good, thank you,” she says, looking back to give Shiloe a smile of surprisingly straight and white teeth. I guess she’s not used to people actually being polite. She leads him to the room at the very end of the hall.
“If you’ll have a seat here the doctor will be with you in just a moment,” she says, giving him a slightly warmer smile than before.