Friday, May 07, 2010

touching heads

‘Wait a minute, now. Just a minute.’

Mrs Burrows fishes around in the pocket of her dressing gown, and eventually pulls out what looks like a massive pink plastic ashtray. She picks off the fluff with the tips of her fingers, then sets it in her lap.
‘Pass me down that tube, would you?’
There is a semi-circular glass shelf just above her head, covered with chintzy porcelain figurines; I find the tube at the feet of a startled shepherdess.
‘Thank you.’
She unscrews the top, and squeezes gunk all over the ashtray. Then she spreads her mouth wide and slowly inserts it – a dreadful sight, like watching a python swallow a snooker table. It’s impossible that she could fit that thing in there, but somehow she manages it. It must be some mistake. The dentures are so huge they seem to push the entire side of her face outwards; they must be the wrong teeth. But Mrs Burrow’s husband, the only other person whose teeth they could be, seems happy enough. He looks on sleepily, fumbling with his dressing gown cord.
‘Would you like some tea?’ he says.
‘Let’s get your wife up first. Now then. Have you hurt yourself?’
She smiles, and the teeth loom forwards through the opening.
‘Just a minute,’ she clacks. Then very methodically, item by item, she begins checking herself, turning each hand from side to side, extending her legs, nodding her head and wriggling from side to side. She looks up again.
‘I’m all right,’ she says.

We get her up and holding her hands, lead her through into the kitchen.

Mr Burrows is shuffling around the tatty kitchen, his dressing gown cord still trailing behind him, his hair sticking up in tufts like a duckling.

‘Sixty three years we’ve been married,’ he says. ‘That’s us in the picture.’

He swings the kettle dangerously in the direction of a large black and white wedding photo, a bustling crowd of people at the doors of a church, a young man in uniform leaning in and touching heads with a round faced young woman in an upturned veil, both of them laughing at the camera through a storm of confetti.

‘I drove steam engines after that,’ he says, setting the electric kettle on the hob.

Mrs Burrows taps me on the shoulder. When I turn to look at her she leans in and starts to whisper: dementia, but on the slippery third syllable her teeth seize their chance and try to leap out at me from her mouth.


Jean said...


Spence Kennedy said...

Ta! :) x

lulu's missives said...

Oh what a character....the teeth I mean.
Ha Ha
I love hearing about long marriages, they seem so rare these days.

Michael Morse said...

I never know what to expect when I visit here, and I'm never disappointed!

Thanks again Spence, another great read.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hey Jo
Those teeth... they'll be chasing me through nightmares for years to come :/ x

Hi Mike
Thanks for that. Great to hear from you. Hope everything's fine down in Prov RI.

Baglady said...

He hee. I like "slippery third syllable".

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Spence! Such a scene -- and the teeth had me chuckling. I wonder why the plate was so big?

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks BL! I suppose some words are more difficult than others when you've got a mouthful of teeth. :/

Thanks Wren
I've absolutely no idea why they were so over-sized. Maybe they were special industrial teeth, used by people who have to bite through planks or something. x

Carla Humphreys said...

Lol brilliant, I used to help an 92year old, I was taking him out for lunch one day, as he was getting ready, he said, "these teeth don't feel right" sounding like he got a gob ful of marbles! He'd only put his late wife's teeth in by mistake! Good job he had a soh....

Spence Kennedy said...

I've always been fascinated by teeth (did I really just type that?)

Gotta love that story about your man putting in his wife's teeth by mistake. Euch!

Carla Humphreys said...

Lol I used to wash my grandads teeth for him and then help put them in when I was a kid. A girl I work with has a phobia of dentures so I do the teeth and she washes the scrotums I have a phobia with...