My brother and I went everywhere with Fran. We met his friends for breakfast at least three mornings a week and watched him play softball almost every night. That doesn’t factor the countless judo classes, baseball practices and art classes. Wherever he went, we went. I don’t know why. No one else’s children were ever there. It wasn’t as if we enjoyed tagging along, necessarily. His friend’s plied us with hush money for candy, which was nice, and, pasting one of his prized judo acolytes was a particularly treasured little fuck you for Fran, but, those opportunities ran few and far between. In retrospect, I think he brought us as a way to suppress his anxiety, moral support out in the world, his own traveling cheering section. I don’t know how supportive we were or cheerful, but we went. If my brother was unavailable, Wally was a willing conformist and anything was better than his house, Fran’s dentist was no exception.
Dr. Harry was one of three local dentists. I’m sure there were more if you were looking but the three seemed to suffice. His office was conveniently located upstairs from Spark’s candy store. Having never been to a dentist before, I couldn’t confirm or deny that it was the same as the other two. It was dark and itchy in the way that wool covered chairs get from chronic smoke exposure. It smelled oddly familiar, like my grandparents house. Clean, kind of. Old smoke. Books.
Dr. Harry was a slight man with a nervous energy that tied my stomach in knots. I bit him once by accident. Hard. I could tell he stifled the urge to slap me, but barely.
Wally and I stayed in the acrid smelling, bleak waiting room, looking through Highlights magazines, older than we were, with puzzles done years prior, waiting for Fran, when we heard the commotion.
“The fucking Germans!”
Wally and I exchange a suspect glance. The “f” word? At the dentist? The sound of stainless steel crashing to the ground was followed by Fran’s authoritative “hit the deck!” Hit the deck? Germans? It was 1976? I watched M.A.S.H and Hogan’s Heroes. I knew my history. Fran’s only exposure to Germans was Colonial Klink too. He was in the National Guard, on weekends, on the Cape, hardly active duty, unless drinking and baseball counted.
The room held its breath. Sounds of snarling and tussling, like hungry dog’s wrestling for a pork chop, came from behind the exam room door. A disheveled Dr. Harry emerged.
“Nurse, the patient seems to be having a reaction to the sodium pentothal.”
Fran came staggering out from Dr. Harry’s office. My jaw went slack. I fought the urge to laugh, a mechanism I still default to under duress.
“I’m good. I’m fine. I’m much better now. I’m just going to go home and sleep it off.”
“You can’t go anywhere for a while. Especially if you are driving.”
Dr. Harry looked at me.
“Make sure your father stays put.”
I nodded. Still stunned from the spectacle. Dr. Harry returned to his office with his nurse in tow. We could hear them nervously chatter.
As soon as the door shut behind them, Fran put on his coat.
“Alright, let’s go.”
Fran seemed fine but that was relative. A little unstable but he had bad knees, barely noticeable. Luckily, we lived less than a mile from Dr. Harry. Wally and I stayed plastered to the backseat as Fran clipped every curb, narrowly averting several mailboxes, singing. “Sweet Caroline…whah, whah, whah…good times never seemed so good.”
We arrived home, not our worst ride with Fran, not even close.
“Whew. I feel much better. I don’t know what the hell happened! I thought I was fighting communists!”
Communists? Weren’t the German’s Nazis? Maybe not, in Cape Cod.