1. The Dentist
Dr. David Edelstein, D.D.S., recent college graduate and current paid professional was sound asleep when his pager went off.
It had half rattled itself off his nightstand before he grabbed it, rubbing sleep out of his eyes and trying to focus on the dim green light. He already knew who it was: the answering service at the 24-hour emergency dental clinic where he worked. What Edelstein called “pager assisted dentistry.” It was the latest in urban medicine.
Someone chipped a tooth on a shot glass or lost one in a bar fight, he thought. It was never a simple cleaning at 3 a.m.
He turned on the bedside lamp and called them back immediately, as required. He would have preferred to go right back to sleep.
Let them worry about it tomorrow morning when they sobered up, he thought.
“This is Doctor Edelstein,” he croaked. He cleared his throat and said, “You paged me?”
“Doctor Edelstine--” he interrupted her.
“It’s Edelstein--with a long ‘e’ sound,” he said. “Not ‘stine‘ .”
“Sorry.” She was perturbed, but too bad. It was his name, say it correctly. “Doctor Edelstein, a patient is requesting a doctor meet him at the clinic. He said it was urgent.”
“Did you get his name? Did you run his credit card already? Did he say what the nature of his emergency was?” Now he was the one who was perturbed. He wasn’t going to get dressed and rush to the clinic to help some drunk idiot with no money. He might be low man on the totem pole, that’s why he worked the late shift, but he wasn’t an idiot.
“Yes, Doctor, the call is from a Mr. Derrik Kulu and his credit is excellent,” she said. “He was hard to understand due to his thick accent , but he left a cell phone number and is expecting a call back.”
“OK, give me a second,” he said with a sigh as he fumbled for the pen and paper on the nightstand. “Go ahead. Right. Got it. Thank you.”
He pressed down on the receiver, waited for a dial tone and called the cell phone number he had just been given. It rang twice before anyone answered.
“Hello, this is Derrick Kulu,” the voice obviously belonged to someone from out of town; It was heavy and thick with a not readily identifiable accent. Australian maybe? Definitely English of some sort.
“Mr. Kulu, this is Dr. Edelstein from the 24-hour clinic. Returning your call.”
There was a slight pause. Then, “Yes, Dr. Edelstein is it? Thank you so much for getting right back to me. I am sorry for the late hour, but it is an emergency.”
“Yes, I am aware you have an emergency. Would it be possible for you to tell me what that emergency is?” Edelstein was tired and losing patience.
“It seems I have a problem with my front tooth. It is causing me quite a bit of pain, you see,” Then a pause. “I work the late shift and I am unable to eat my dinner the pain is so terrible.” Another pause. “I need to see someone right away. Can you help me, please?”
Edelstein would have liked to have said no, but that wasn’t possible.
“Of course Mr. Kulu. No problem, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”
“Very good, Thank you so much Dr. Edelstein.”
He hung up the phone and contemplated falling back against his still warm pillow. He turned to stare at the impression his head had left in it, then stood and walked to the bathroom. It was a short walk. Nothing in his little studio apartment was very far from anything else. It was all he could afford. Student loans were eating him alive. He laughed every time he heard the phrase “rich Jewish dentist.” He was Jewish, yes, that much was true. But at the rate he was going it would be a long time, if ever, before he would be rich.
At least he had a roof over his head. That’s what his father would have said, if he were still alive.