John Richardson eased out of his dockers, wriggled his toes, and lounged back in his recliner. The streaming sunshine over his shoulder created a sense of holy aura on the pages of his new Bible. The glass of ice water cooled the palm of his hand as his fingers quietly beat the rhythm of his favorite worship song.
The roses purchased an hour ago sat in a halo of baby’s breath in their vase on the kitchen table. The anniversary card carefully chosen nestled up close at the base. A dazzling humming bird hovered at the feeder outside the giant bay window as if posing for the cover of a nature magazine. And that’s when John first felt it.
He’d been warned by Dr. Carly to hold back on those Caramel Apple suckers but his habits were now beyond redemption. There was only so much a preacher could do to set the example for his flock. Only last week he’d sacrificed his daily regimen of a half dozen cappuccinos. It had been three days since he’d stopped at a drive through and even then he’d only had a medium cola instead of his usual giant size. He could feel the surge of righteousness rearing up in his soul as he put thoughts of these temptations out of his mind.
Ten suckers a day was a reasonable limit to set when everything else was no longer conquering him. He shook off the nagging irritation in his jaw.
This week’s message held a powerful story of a mom who had never given up on her wayward daughter. He mulled over the wording for maximum effect and felt an inner glow of satisfaction as the right rhythm fell into place. He could already hear his wife Roxana caressing his ears with her affirmation at his ability to sway the congregation toward the point he was trying to make. A scene from a recent movie spliced into his thought stream and it prompted him to check his watch one more time.
Dinner reservations were still an hour away. His tongue began to work away at the caramel stuck between his teeth.
The photograph of his deceased daughter on the mantelpiece caught his attention. Angelica. Her graduation photo showing perfect pearly whites. His discomfort increased.
The newsmagazine abandoned in the church foyer earlier that afternoon hadn’t eased his mind at all. Some Pharisaical journalist fixated on stewardship of the body had given a detailed description of how even believers can destroy their temple through thoughtless consumption of junk foods. When the writer began to promote regular use of fluoride toothpastes as a way to protect enamel he was sure there must have been a product promotion included somewhere. He never worried about his teeth until then.
Five crowns and several root canals just came with age. The thought that his constant diet of sugars was somehow damaging his dental nerves never occurred to him. He’d heard that tooth enamel was the toughest material in the body. It seemed absurd that the things he enjoyed so much could be so destructive.
John sauntered over to the huge mirror over the fireplace and using the sunshine to his advantage examined his teeth. As his thumb pried back his lip he could see two suspicious stains. Just maybe some decay had eaten through the enamel into the dentin.
His associate had told him about an abscess he’d had from ignoring the build up of plaque, bacteria and food debris. It seemed funny that his dentist had never lectured before about the danger of candy.
Roxanna was due home in ten minutes and John began to wonder about changing his reservation. Maybe sushi would be a better option. The article outlining how the bacteria in his mouth also ate, every time he ate sugar, caused a queasiness in his stomach. How could something so good be so bad? Those bacteria apparently created acid as a waste product and this acid ate away at his teeth.
There were more bacteria in his mouth than there were people on the planet. If these bacteria got together in colonies or nations they formed plaque and then trouble was almost guaranteed. The saliva God gave us to neutralize the acids could only do so much to combat massive build ups of the plaque that shielded the acids.
This was not turning into an anniversary to remember. Beauty and rottenness lay so intermingled in life, in mouth and in soul.
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