• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 06
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A Trip to the Dentist

Russell was the brave one, charting their course through the wood. Ivan was the sensible one, who brought the rucksack. Sandwiches, compass, sticking plasters. Ready for anything.

They searched the undergrowth with Ivan’s magnifying glass, looking for minibeasts. What a carnival! The beetle, the centipede, the cricket, in a parade of wiggling legs and waving antennae. Out-of-proportion bodies and too-many-limbs, cavorting in a meaningless dance.

But they didn’t notice Bear, with his hungry eyes and lolloping tongue.

“At last!” Bear said, rubbing his paws.

Russell fell back into the thicket and stopped being the brave one.

“Please, don’t eat us!” Ivan protested. He was ready for anything. Including reasoning with hungry bears.

“Eat you?” Bear guffawed. “No chance!”

They listened as Bear explained: bears don’t eat children. That’s anti-bear propaganda, issued by people with serious misunderstandings.

“But I would like your help.”

Bear had an agonising toothache. It meant that enjoying a fish supper, or a dollop of honey before bed, was unbearable. A trip to the dentist was required.

Ivan and Russell agreed to help. They opened their surgery in a clearing, a gap in the canopy lending the perfect light. Bear made himself comfortable on a tree stump.

“Open wide!” said Ivan. Bear opened his jaw, and the boys exchanged a look. Russell decided: he was definitely not the brave one.


A Trip to the Dentist

Ivan climbed onto Bear’s belly, to get a look in his mouth. Even in the dark, slobbery pit, the tooth in question was hard to miss, jutting out the inflamed gum. He inspected it with the magnifying glass and decided on the best course of action.

In case you ever need to remove a tooth from a bear, the procedure is as follows:

1. Exchange pleasantries. Bears prefer how-do-you-dos to screams of terror.
2. Take a length of string (from your Emergency Supply Kit)
3. Loop string around the tooth.
4. Pull hard and remove the tooth.
5. Reward the bear with a sandwich. Honey, or tuna. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES offer the bear cheese and pickle. EVER.

Bear whelped, before breathing a long, fishy sigh of relief. Then, he pretended he hadn’t felt a thing, and gobbled one of Ivan’s sandwiches for good measure.

The boys’ work was so good that a queue formed. Fox, Rabbit, Stag, all the animals in the wood brought a range of tooth-related ailments. Ivan and Russell taught a wolf how to floss, and explained the importance of dental hygiene to a beaver. They performed two root canals and constructed a rudimentary set of braces.

Even the animals without teeth wanted the upright people to wave the glass eye in their face. It was a fascinating, meaningless ritual, after all. One of them waving, the other one passing threads and sticks. When the sun set, the upright people marched away, in a parade of not-enough-legs and nodding, bulbous heads.